Monday, November 9, 2015

Bye Bye Big Mama

By Darla White

I just wanted to share some observations about the bleaching event at Olowalu, especially one colony that we have been calling 'big mama'. This colony is 8.3 meters in total diameter (27' edge to edge).  It has lost more than 90% of its live tissue in the last two months due to the bleaching event. What polyps that are still there are still bleached and sickly looking.  

'Big Mama,' a large colony of Porites lobata (lobe coral) found at Olowalu in West Maui, that has suffered significant mortality (death of the living coral tissue) due to the ongoing global coral bleaching event. Photo by Darla White.
Olowalu was hit very hard. The sediment in most areas we observed is settling thickly in the algae that has newly overgrown parts or all of colonies, with little hope for recovery in the near term. One Scripps Institution of Oceanography mosaic site did not appear to have a sedimentation issue and had plenty of Crustose Coralline Algae (CCA), so time will tell but it likely has a better chance for resilience. Both the NOAA bleaching survey folks and the XL Catlin Seaview Survey team commented on Olowalu and how bad it was this past week, with some areas still exhibiting 50% bleaching. The newly dead colonies have a thick covering of limu (algae), but you can still feel and even see the newly dead corals underneath the fuzz mats. I wish we had been able to finish the baseline survey in the shallows at Olowalu before the bleaching event. Alas, all we have is the aftermath. The Porites spp. were hit the hardest.

There is still active bleaching, but definitely active recovery, too. Corals are regaining their color in part, many from the base upward or on the sides, with the worst affected areas mostly on the upward facing surfaces. New algal growth by-in-large dominated on the upward facing surfaces of most colonies observed, especially Pocillopora.  

Some color morphs did really well and were mostly resistant to the bleaching, including the rust-colored Montipora patula, and both the mustard and taupe color morphs of Porites lobata, and the taupe P. compressa.

Darla J White
Special Projects Coordinator
Hawai'i DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, Maui
130 Mahalani Street, Wailuku HI 96793

Eyes of the Reef
Island Coordinator, Maui


Darla White on a recent survey of coral bleaching at Molokini crater, Maui. Photo by Liz Foote.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Speed-Date-a-Scientist event to kick off the 2015 Ridge to Reef Rendezvous!

Join an array of researchers and science fans this Friday the 24th at Maui Brewing Co.'s Kahana Brewpub for the "Speed Date a Scientist" pau hana, co-sponsored by partners in the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative and the Hawai'i Environmental Education Alliance. For more on the event, check out this article in the Lahaina News by Alana Yurkanin.

Want to get to know our lineup in advance? Their profiles are below. Many of them will also be onhand the next day for the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport Beach in North Ka'anapali), where they'll be participating in our "Stump (and Soak) a Scientist" game - you'll have a chance to ask them questions, and possibly pelt them with a wet sponge depending on their answer. Thanks for being so good-natured about all this, gang!!

Speed-Date-a-Scientist lineup:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Professional Profile: Craig Downs

1. Name: Craig Downs
2. Job Title: Executive Director, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory
3. Degree(s) held and from where:
         BA: Hiram College
         MSc: Syracuse University
         Ph.D.: University of Hawaii – Manoa
5. Briefly describe the project(s) you are currently working on:
         In Maui, we are working on two projects:
(1)  The Kapalua Bay Restoration Initiative – Kapalua Bay’s coral reef “collapsed” beginning in 2006.  We have spent the last 5 years conducting scientific investigations into the stressors impacting the Bay and the relative contribution of these different stressors to ecological degradation.  Our goal is to mitigate these stressors and return the Bay back to health.

(2)  Impacts of sunscreen on coral reefs – our organization has partnered with about a dozen other organizations around the world to examine the ecological impacts of different chemicals in sunscreen lotions. It is estimated that coral reefs the world over can be exposed to at least 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion a year.  We have demonstrated that some ingredients in some sunscreen formulation can be a significant threat to coral reefs, and that it is possible to formulate sunscreen lotions that could be relatively safe for coral reefs.

6. Explain how/why your job is important to society:
 Very few organizations conduct research on environmental degradation or on anthropogenic factors that pose (e.g., sunscreen use, pesticide use) a risk to ecological integrity.  Our organization partners with government agencies, academic institutions (high schools to universities), large international NGOs and small, grassroots community coalitions to understand the factors that threaten wild environments through scientific/forensic investigations.  Once we understand these causes, we develop or facilitate the development of solutions that mitigate these destructive processes.  This can range from advocating the use of better tertiary sewage treatment systems for island communities to ecologically safe sunscreen formulations used near coral reefs.

13. What do you like to do on your days off?   
What days off?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Student Art Contest and Exhibition will be part of this summer’s Ridge to Reef Celebration and 5th Birthday Bash for the KHFMA!

As part of this year’s big annual community event at Kahekili Beach Park on Saturday July 26th, we are holding an art contest and exhibition for Maui students of all ages! There will be a prize awarded to the entry that best communicates one of the key themes and associated conservation messages surrounding the “ridge to reef,” “mauka to makai” region of West Maui and particularly the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA). Everyone who attends will have a chance to vote for the winner, as all entries will be on display as part of the event. 

Guidelines for Entering:
• Artwork should be in the form of posters on plain paper, with a maximum length/width of 12 inches.
• Themes to choose from (see below for guidance on exploring these themes):
1)    Coral Reefs
2)    Pono Fishing
3)    “Herbivores Help Keep Reefs Healthy”
4)    What is the KHFMA?
5)    Watershed Stewardship: What You Can Do
• Write the student’s name and contact information (phone, email) on the back.
• Turn in artwork no later than July 14th to be entered.  Artwork can be mailed to Liz Foote, or arrangements can be made to drop it off or get it picked up by coordinating with Liz at or (808) 669-9062.

Exploring the Themes:
Under each theme below are some links to places where you can find more information about each theme. Check it out, and decide which theme you’d like to highlight in your artwork!

1)    Coral Reefs
CORAL’s Coral Reefs 101:

2)    Pono Fishing
Ma Ka hana Ka ‘Ike project by Pelika Bertelmann:
Hui Malama o Mo’omomi’s  Pono Fishing Calendar (2011):
Hawaii Living Reef Ethical Fishing Guidelines:

3)   “Herbivores Help Keep Reefs Healthy”
KHFMA educational sign:

4)    What is the KHFMA?
TNC Reef Resilience Program Case Study on the KHFMA:
Blog posts by Scripps Institution of Oceanography PhD student Emily Kelly:
NOAA Fisheries Blogs on KHFMA research:

5)   Watershed Stewardship: What You Can Do
From the West Maui Kumuwai website:
Learn more about watersheds and conservation efforts in West Maui:
EPA’s “What is a Watershed”
EPA’s Watershed Stewardship Toolkit:
Watershed Stewardship efforts of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative:
West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Announcing this year's Ridge to Reef Celebration and 5th Birthday Bash for the KHFMA! Join us on Saturday, July 26th!

Our annual celebration of Ridge to Reef stewardship and the KHFMA is ON!

Join us at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport beach in North Kāʻanapali) on Saturday, July 26th for all sorts of fun for the whole family.

We had a blast last year, and it's promising to be even bigger and better this year!

The official event listing is here on Facebook, where you'll find an up to date game plan of all the activities, as well as the prizes generously donated by local businesses.

See you at the beach!