TOPICS: COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS

A comprehensive approach to value Waikīkī Beach

PI: Nori Tarui
Waikiki Beach is a huge economic driver for Hawaiʻi, but with increased erosion from sea-level rise, the optimal strategy for its upkeep is still debated. This study endeavors to estimate the value of Waikiki’s benefits to tourists, residents, and businesses, and evaluate the costs of different beach improvement options.

About the Center

"Smart Building" is the process of designing and constructing a structure while considering how it will interact with its inhabitants and its environment. Is it a nice place to work? Is it an efficient place to work? Does it take ...

Building Science Experiments

In this episode, we’re designing, building, and conducting underwater experiments to learn about macro algae, fish, and the reef’s interdependencies. Watch the trailer for Season 3, Episode 12 on Vimeo or Youtube. FULL EPISODE Or watch this episode on YouTube Curriculum Connections: Grades 6-12: ...

Building Super Corals

In this episode, we're at the Gump Research Station, on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, checking out the molecular lab. They're studying corals, fresh from the reef for long-term studies that will teach us about the future of ...

Climate Change Impacts in Hawaii

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program  prepared this climate change impacts report to provide Hawai‘i communities with a foundational understanding of the effects of global climate change on Hawai‘i’s resources and ecosystems. The report presents a summary of ...

Coastal Ocean Hawaiʻi Acidification Monitoring Network (COHAMN) and carbonate mineral dissolution study

PI: Eric DeCarlo
This project is part of a long-term, ongoing effort to record carbon dioxide concentrations in multiple coral reef settings, producing the longest continuous CO2 record in the world from a coral reef environment, and has illustrated that time series data are critical to understanding and quantifying reef contributions to global carbon cycling. Results so far show that, currently, Hawaiian coastal waters largely release CO2 to the atmosphere, but with elevated carbon dioxide that is absorbed, models show that tropical reefs will be net dissolving by the mid-21st century.

Collaborative investigation of hydraulic and geochemical connectivity between wastewater and land-use and the oceanic waters of Kāneʻohe Bay, Oʻahu

PI: Craig Glenn
This project examined the environmental and health risks of wastewater leakage from on-site sewage disposal systems, by assessing the hydraulic and geochemical connectivity between wastewaters and ocean waters of Kāneʻohe Bay using field studies and pioneering thermal infrared imaging mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The remote sensing enabled the team to produce high-resolution maps of groundwater and wastewater leakage from local septic systems into waters of the Kahaluʻu watershed and Kānaʻohe Bay. A local-scale model was developed from sixteen months of data that will help inform remediation strategies to address wastewater leakage problems in the area.

Collaborative investigation of hydraulic and geochemical connectivity between wastewaters and other land-uses and the ocean waters of Waialua Bay, Oʻahu

PI: Craig Glenn
This project assesses the hydraulic and geochemical connectivity between on-site sewage disposal system wastewaters and the oceanic waters around the greater Waialua Bay area, Oʻahu, to help develop a more complete understanding of the environmental and health risks of wastewater leakage.

Collaborative Study of Groundwater Transport Paths and Discharge Loads of Wastewaters and Other Land-Uses that Impact the Ewa Coastal Zones of West Oahu

PI: Craig Glenn
On-site sewage disposal systems threaten groundwater quality via the release of untreated sewage effluent to the environment. This work plans to use remote sensing techniques with field studies to establish groundwater flow paths and contaminant transport around Ewa Beach, Oʻahu, to aid in future remediation strategizing.

Coral reef CO2 variations at the Coastal Ocean Hawaiʻi Acidification Network (COHAMN): Impact of basin scale oceanographic forcing

PI: Eric DeCarlo
This project continues the decade-old MAPCO2 buoy program at four coral reef sites around Oʻahu, measuring CO2 in the atmosphere and dissolved in seawater as well as other parameters relevant to CO2 biogeochemistry, as part of an ongoing global CO2 monitoring program.

Coral Reseach on Moorea

In this episode, we learn about the importance of long-term marine research in a changing environment. Researchers from UC Santa Barbara have been studying the reefs in French Polynesia, on the island of Moorea, for over two decades. Their research ...

Corals in a Changing World

In this episode, scientist Ruth Gates talks about why corals are dying at alarming rates across the world. She explains the effects that coral reefs have on the food chain as well as the role science can play in trying ...

Defining Ecosystem-based Management Boundaries Using Genetics and Fisheries Data

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: ROBERT TOONEN Graduate Student: Johanna Wren The exchange of individuals among populations, termed connectivity, is a central element of population persistence and maintenance of genetic diversity, and influences most ecological and evolutionary phenomena. To date, field studies of ...

Differentiating treated and untreated wastewater contamination in a tropical coastal community using microbial community genomics

PI: Craig Nelson
There is growing concern that coastal ecosystems are threatened by sewage contamination of groundwaters. Using genomic methods, this project will examine the bacterial populations in the Keaukaha area of Hawaiʻi Island, to differentiate sources of contamination, and aid in management efforts to ameliorate sewage leakage.

Effects of watershed restoration to traditional Hawaiian land use practices on health of nearshore coral reef ecosystems

PI: Robert Toonen
Reimplementation of traditional practices in the Heʻeia ahupuaʻa, in addition to invasive mangrove removal, has been predicted to support improvements to the coastal ecosystems of Kānoʻohe Bay. This study will examine effects on water quality and changes to coral reef health, in response to restoration efforts.

Enabling real-time predictive modeling of microbial pathogen risk along the Honolulu shoreline

PI: Craig Nelson
This project generates a real-time predictive model of microbial pathogen risk for the south shore of Oʻahu, an area with some of the highest instances of recreational waterborne disease in the U.S. Ideally, the model will be easily applied and interpreted by health agencies for the benefit of the general public.

Enhancing social-ecological resilience and ecosystem services through restoration of coastal agroforestry systems

PI: Leah Bremer
Using ongoing restoration efforts at Heʻeia, Oʻahu, this research examines the ecological, economic, and cultural benefits of coastal agroforestry restoration in order to produce state-wide recommendations for prime locations to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services of high interest to agencies, funding sources, and communities.

Envisioning In Situ Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategies for a Densely Developed Coastal Community, Waikiki

PI: Wendy Meguro
Waikiki, an economic hub for Hawaiʻi, is already subject to regularly flooding and faces an uncertain future with sea-level rise. This project will offer conceptual design renderings towards an “in-place” adaptation strategy, to help motivate large-scale planning for an adaptive environment in this densely developed coastal community.

External Websites

Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management Home The Environmental Protection Agency site on Green Infrastructure. This site contains information to help you build and learn about national partnerships.The National Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Network is a collection of outreach ...

Fish Flow: Filling the gap between spawning and settlement

PI: Brian Bowen
This project aimed to track reef fish, using their genetic data, from where they spawned as larvae to where they settle on the reef, as a direct measure of population connectivity. Engaging student volunteers, the research team collected over 1500 samples of three target species across the Hawaiian islands. Using advanced genetic technology and computer-aided population connectivity texts, the team generated maps that illustrate that most adult reef fish in Kāneʻohe Bay originate from neighboring East Oʻahu reefs rather than from inside the bay, useful information for appropriate managers.

Green Infrastructure Practices

Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management Home Green infrastructures have a lot of benefits and can be implemented during construction or as retrofits. On this page you can browse summaries on green infrastructures practices. Rain Garden/Bioretention Area Bioswale Permeable Pavements Flow-Through ...

Harnessing environmental DNA for healthy reefs

PI: Brian Bowen
This study monitors the health of coral reefs by using environmental DNA collected from waters around the reefs to identify which species are present, including cryptic and hidden ones, and to track the overall biodiversity on reefs in response to environmental stressors.

Hawaiian Reef Plants

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program is pleased to present Hawaiian Reef Plants. The book is written by John M. Huisman, Isabella A. Abbott and Celia M. Smith, three of the world’s leading botanists, and is in full ...

How Fish help Corals Grow

In this episode, scientist Andy Brooks shows off his research in the beautiful waters of French Polynesia. Andy and his colleagues have mapped changes in the reefs of Moorea for over 15 years and are studying the effects of fish ...

Identifying hot spots of sewage pollution in Hilo, Hawaiʻi

PI: Tracy Wiegner
Hawaiʻi banned new cesspools in 2015, but groundwater contamination from the remaining 8700 cesspools in the Hilo area is a continuing concern. This work will use dye tracer studies to track cesspool outflows and use sewage indicators to establish contaminant sources to coastal groundwaters to inform future management decisions.

Intertidal Algae and Invertebrates

We’re learning about different types of algae and invertebrates with researchers from the OPIHI project, who are working with teachers and students around the state of Hawai’i to monitor the health of the intertidal environment Watch the trailer for Season ...

Investigating the origin and impact of sedimentation on the health of Hawaiian mesophotic reefs for sustainable coastal development

PI: Robert Toonen
This project continues collecting data from mesophotic zones (30-180 m depths) around Oʻahu and West Maui to update models and develop predictive maps of coral and invasive algae distribution, in order to help managers and policymakers choose best strategies for coastal development and runoff control to protect these vulnerable low-light ecosystems.

Ka Pili Kai Fall 2016

Center of Excellence: Coastal and Climate Science and Resilience Center of Excellence: Marine Science Education Center of Excellence: Smart Building and Community Design Center of Excellence: Sustainable Coastal Tourism Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation To address the needs, ...

Ka Pili Kai Ho‘oilo 2018

Click on the cover image to view the full issue. Welcome to our inaugural issue of the new Ka Pili Kai! Embracing knowledge from generations past and present: For our dedicated readers who have been receiving and reading our quarterly ...

Ka Pili Kai Spring 2016

Humpback Whale Vocal Communications Between Mothers and Calves Wastewater’s Influence on Coastal Groundwater Quality and the Health of Coral Reefs in Maunalua Bay, O‘ahu Attack of the Drones: Characterizing Groundwater Discharge on Maui Using the Latest Research Tools Simulating Sea-Level ...

Ka Pili Kai Summer 2016

Hawai‘i ’s Water Resources Submarine Groundwater Discharge Water Resources Research Center Highlight: Dr. Aly El-Kadi UH Water Resources Research Center and Sea Grant Partner on $20 M Water Sustainability Project Increasing Access to Safe Drinking Water on Hawai‘i Island The ...

Ka Pili Kai Winter 2016

50 Years of Putting Science to Work for Coastal Communities O‘ahu Maui Hawai‘i Island Kaua‘i Pacific Region 50 Years of Putting Science to Work for Coastal Communities In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed The National Sea Grant College and Program ...

Land-based pollutants in herbivorous reef fishes on Hawaiian reefs

PI: Megan Donahue
This work compares concentrations of metal pollutants in reef fish muscle tissue collected at several sites suffering, to different degrees, from contamination due to urban runoff into watersheds and coastal waters. The researchers aim to identify species and locations most impacted and aid communities to minimize the effects of land-based pollutants on coral reefs.

Land-based pollutants on Hawaiian reefs

PI: Megan Donahue
Increased military, agricultural, and residential development contaminates surrounding watersheds that feed into critical coastal ecosystems. This work examines land-based pollutants, such as metals and persistant organics, in coastal ecosystems and reef fish to understand how the pollutants are distributed and transported, with an eye toward better land management decisions.

Longitudinal assessment: Our Project in Hawaiʻi’s Intertidal (OPIHI)

PI: Kanesa Seraphin
This project revisited the Hawaiian intertidal zone, last studied over a decade ago, to document, monitor, and assess changes in species compositions due to factors like climate change, coastal development, and the spread of invasive species. The project trained and mentored undergraduate students as interns, for college credit, gaining important, required hands-on research experience. By engaging these students as well as community members in this place-based research, 48 comprehensive surveys were completed across the state, with preliminary results suggesting the spread of invasive algae and changes to water quality.

Macroalgae Attack!

In this episode, we're in Cook's Bay, on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, checking out the reef study of PhD student Samantha Davis. Sammy is looking at the relationship between macroalgae and herbivores as macroalgae threatens to overwhelm ...

Microbial biogeochemical cycling across a chronosequence of mangrove introductions across Hawaiʻi

PI: Rosanna Alegado
Invasive mangroves harm Hawaiian coastal ecosystems, choking native plants, providing footholds for invasives, and generating leaf litter mounds inedible to Hawaiian species. This study investigates whether microbial communities can evolve to tackle the detritus and examines the resilience of our coastal ecosystems to mangrove invasion.

Mutualism on the Reef

In this episode, we're in French Polynesia, on the island of Moorea at the Gump Research Station. Scientists are discovering exciting new examples of mutualism on the reef. Watch the trailer for Season 3, Episode 10 on Vimeo or Youtube. FULL EPISODE Or watch ...

Ocean Acidification and Snail Overpopulation

In this episode, we learn about competition on the reef and how large populations of snails are affecting coral growth in French Polynesia. Watch the trailer for Season 3, Episode 8 on Vimeo or Youtube. FULL EPISODE Or watch this episode on YouTube Curriculum ...

Ongoing Projects

Campus Spatial Survey and Integrated Planning Light Pollution in Hawaiʻi Delamping Initiative Forest City Military Community Energy Efficiency Monitoring Kuykendall Hall Water Resources Working Group ...

Our Project In Hawaiʻi’s Intertidal (OPIHI): Examining change over time

PI: Joanna Philippoff
OPIHI, Our Project in Hawaiʻi’s Intertidal, continues a long-term effort to expand knowledge of the vulnerable intertidal zone across Hawaiʻi, engaging students and communities in collecting meaningful data used to characterize whether and how intertidal organisms’ abundance and diversity is changing over time.

Our Tiny Worlds

In this episode, we’re creating tiny ocean replicas to better understand how climate change will affect coral reefs—and to see what reefs may look like in the next century. Watch the trailer for Season 3, Episode 9 on Vimeo or Youtube. FULL EPISODE Or ...

Podcast #1: Fish Flow

Meet Dr. Brian Bowen and Michael Hoban and learn about their project tracking important aquaculture fish species from egg production to the reefs where they settle and grow. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #1: Waterworks

Dr. Peter Fuleky and Sisi Zhang are conducting an innovative study to identify the relationship between economic conditions in different sectors (tourism, health, agriculture, etc.) and the state’s limited water resources. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #10: Metallic Phish

Dr. Megan Donahue and Eileen Nalley look for traces of land-based, metallic pollutants in tissues of commonly eaten reef fishes and the mechanisms involved in their transport from land to fishes. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #11: DNA Detection

Dr. Brian Bowen, Cassie Lyons, and Mykle Hoban capitalize on a new technique of using free-floating environmental DNA sampled from above coral reefs to monitor their health based on the species present. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #13: Waialua Wastewater

Jordan Mason and Lucas Ellison work with Dr. Craig Glenn using drones to explore possible pollution of Waialua Bay from local on-site sewage disposal systems leaking into groundwater that flows to the bay. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #3: Pathogen Investigation

Dr. Craig Nelson and Jessica Bullington tackle the issue of bacterial pathogens in the Ala Wai Canal, developing a model to determine the risks of infection along the canal and offshore. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #4: Is it freshwater or saltwater?

Meet Dr. Henrietta Dulai and Trista McKenzie and learn about their efforts to map submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) into Kāneʻohe Bay to measure the nutrient flow from groundwater compared with streams. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #5: The two-to-three-day rule

Meet Dr. Craig Nelson and Krissy Remple and hear about their attempts to develop a new rapid, cost-effective tool to determine water quality where groundwater contamination might occur. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #6: Filter feeders

Meet Dr. Brian Popp and Leilei Shih as they describe their project to evaluate the role of a recent invasive sponge population in Kāneʻohe Bay--for bad or good. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #6: Intertidal Changes

Dr. Joanna Philippoff and Patrick Nichols are leading a longterm project that enlists the help of students to characterize the algae and invertebrate species of Hawaiʻi’s intertidal zone. Read more about their project here ...

Podcast #9: Mesophotic Mapping

Dr. Rob Toonen and Evan Barba explore sediment distribution across the sensitive ecosystems of the mesophotic zone and its connection to land use management decisions. Read more about their project here ...

Predicting and mapping Hawaiian mesophotic coral ecosystems for sustainable coastal development

PI: Robert Toonen
This study sought to address our fundamental lack of knowledge regarding vulnerable low-light, mesophotic coral ecosystems (at depths of 30-180 m) in order to better manage impacts from invasive species, coastal development, and exploration. By using statistical modeling, combined with machine learning, researchers created predictive maps to illustrate the distribution of mesophotic reefs and invasive algae across the main Hawaiian Islands. They found that all islands had some stretches of coastline identified as highly susceptible to invasion of the green alga Avrainvillea amadelpha, in both shallow and mesophotic depths.

Quality and Quanitity

Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management Home Strategically placed Green Infrastructure (GI) Best Management Practices (BMP) can go a long way towards managing stormwater runoff from a water quality and flood mitigation perspective. As the development of urban and residential areas ...

Rapid Response: Application of a qPCR-based test for Enterococci as a rapid beach management tool in Hawaiʻi

PI: Marek Kirs
The goal of this project was to design a rapid, simple, molecular-based water quality test that authorities can easily apply on Hawaiian beaches to increase hazard resilience of coastal communities. Standard coastal water quality testing techniques require 24-48 hours of culturing Enterococci bacteria, which often gives falsely high readings in Hawaiʻi from environmental sources. This newly developed method uses a specifically human-sewage-borne pathogen, Bacteroides, detected by rapid molecular tests, and is proving to give efficient and accurate detection of contamination to provide more timely notice and better protect public health.

Sammy’s Reef

In this episode, we're back in Cook's Bay with graduate student Samantha Davis studying how Moorea's reefs recover from massive die-offs while other reefs around the world are not recovering. Perhaps the Moorea reefs will offer insights for maintaining reef ...

Sea Urchin Disaster

In this episode, we look at the dramatic decline in the sea urchin population along Moorea's eastern reefs. Researcher Stella Swanson takes us out in the field as we look for evidence of what caused an entire species to be ...

Source tracking coastal groundwater and runoff contamination with microbial genomics and dissolved organic fluorometry

PI: Craig Nelson
This project focused on using new techniques of microbial genomics and fluorescent characterization of organic matter to track sources of groundwater contamination in several important Hawaiian watersheds, in order to provide tools to protect streams, groundwater, and coastal ecosystems. The high density of cesspools in Hawaiʻi is a potentially significant source of contamination to streams and coral reefs, but it is currently prohibitive to identify contamination sources. For this project, hundreds of water samples from Oʻahu, Maui, and Hawaiʻi have been collected and are being characterized to develop microbial source tracking and better testing techniques.

Stella’s Sea Urchins

In this episode, we meet researcher Stella Swanson's and learn about her sea urchin study in French Polynesia. Stella and her colleague snorkel the reefs of Temae, on the island of Moorea, gathering corals for analysis and setting up fish ...

Super corals in Kāneʻohe Bay provide hope for survival of coral reefs around the globe

May 16, 2019 (Honolulu, HI) – A journal article published this week by researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology concluded that naturally occurring super corals in Kāne‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu are ...

Teaching Science as Inquiry (TSI)

Teaching science as inquiry means teaching science as it is practiced. In this form of learning, content is both an end goal as well as a framework for knowledge construction. By testing principles and connections through the generation and interpretation ...

The role of sponges in nitrogen cycling in Kāneʻohe Bay, Oʻahu

PI: Brian Popp
This study focused on quantifying respiration, pumping rates, and chemical reactions of an invasive sponge, Mycale grandis, to understand the species’ impacts on nitrogen cycling in the coastal environment of Kāne‘ohe Bay, whether adding or subtracting usable nitrogen from the system. Researchers found that the M. grandis sponge can pump 83 times its own volume of water per day, giving its associated microbial communities abundant opportunity to perform nitrification, converting ammonia to forms of nitrogen oxides unusable to algae. The rapid nitrogen transformations with the high pumping rates of these sponges means this invasive species may play a significant role in nitrogen concentrations in the bay.

The role of surface and groundwater inputs in driving water quality in Kāneʻohe Bay, Oʻahu

PI: Henrietta Dulai
The goal of this project was to identify submarine groundwater discharge locations and quantify groundwater and its derived nutrient flow into Kāneʻohe Bay, particularly as it varies with wet and dry seasonal cycles. The researchers found that most freshwater in nearby coral reefs derives from streams during the wet season, but during the dry season, input from groundwater increases 150%. These results have led to maps with quantification of groundwater discharge, and measurements of nutrient fluxes have identified several watershed hotspots of wastewater contamination.

Tools and Resources

Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management Home The Hawaiʻi LID Atlas is a collection of alternative stormwater management practices currently installed across the state. The Atlas is hosted by the National Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Network and the University ...

Tracking groundwater nutrients using novel tracers to inform coastal watershed management in South Kohala, Hawaiʻi

PI: Henrietta Dulai
Using a combination of nitrogen isotopes and microcontaminants as source tracers, this project aims to identify pathways of groundwater flow to the coastline along South Kohala, Hawaiʻi, tracing sources of groundwater contaminants and excess nutrients. Managers can use results to improve wastewater management and improve coral reef resilience.

Vulnerability of Coastal Ecosystems to Increased Salinity from Climate Change

PI: Kasey Barton
Critical Hawaiian coastal habitats are at risk from climate change impacts, particularly sea-level rise, which threaten protective coastal plant species. This work examines the salinity tolerance of native, and invasive, coastal plants to identify those in need of greater management and conservation action.

What can seascape-scale vegetation patterns on coral reefs tell us about reef health?

PI: Elizabeth Madin
Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by changing conditions yet are often remote and hard to monitor. This project will use drone-based imagery to explore how coral “halos” are linked to reef ecosystem health, and whether that health may change over time where protective measures are instituted.

Zooplankton in The Deep Sea

In this episode, we take a look at zooplankton—tiny ocean animals—with researcher Cecelia Hannides and learn how she studies zooplankton samples. — Season 3, Episode 18.  FULL EPISODE Or watch this episode on YouTube Additional Resources: Schmidt Ocean Institute profile ...