Community volunteers have helped advance science from their own backyards.
Whether it was sent did you feel it? Reporting earthquakes, helping with ocean water quality sampling, cultivating native species or sending photos of hawksbill sea turtles or manta rays, Maui volunteers are “Important part” for conservation projects and being a source of new findings for a variety of topics.
“I think it’s a great way for people to get involved,” said John Starmer, chief scientist for the Maui Nui Marine Resources Council and volunteer coordinator for the City Nature Challenge, a Maui chapter.
“You can help scientists understand how earthquakes work, how climate change occurs, and where endangered species appear or not.”
Citizen science dates back to the nineteenth century, engaging people in learning about the environment in which they live, improving scientific knowledge, providing opportunities to play a meaningful role in scientific research, allowing scientists themselves to interact with society and helping scientists ask questions and discover insight into the metrics that It wouldn’t be feasible without community participation, Starmer said Wednesday.
Starmer is coordinating the City Nature Challenge, where Maui residents can participate by downloading the app, observing wildlife and researching biodiversity, and presenting their findings.
He said the challenge began in 2016 as a competition between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but has since evolved into an international event, motivating people around the world to seek out and document wildlife in their cities.
From April 29 to May 2, participants take pictures of wild plants and animals and from May 3 to May 8, participants mark what they found, with winners announced on May 9.
In 2021 during the four-day competition, more than 52,000 people took part in the challenge, over a million observations were made, about 45,000 species were found and more than 1,300 rare, endangered or endangered species were documented.
“The primary goal has really become what we can do to help grow and understand our knowledge of biodiversity wherever we are,” He said.
The nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resources Council, which hosted the Know Your Ocean Speaker Series Wednesday night, relies on citizen volunteers for the Hui O Ka Wai Ola ocean water quality monitoring program at 29 locations along Maui’s beaches.
Likewise, the Pacific Whale Foundation’s “Adopt the Beach Program” program is made possible by volunteers who choose to look after a beach for one year and perform 12 cleanups over the course of that year in order to keep the area free of debris.
The annual Great Whale Count is another volunteer program that is part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii.
Mark Decos, founder and chief scientist at the Hawaii Society for Marine Education and Research, discussed Wednesday his image identification catalog of more than 600 manta rays — these creatures that frequent the waters of Maui Nui are distinctly different from those off the island of Hawaii.
About 25 years ago, there wasn’t much information about the Mantas Maui. Some of Deakos’ work has since led to the cataloging of the largest known group of manta ray fish in the United States, which resides off Maui.
In 2016, more and more photos were taken of residents, specifically in southern Maui “Fill in a missing population” By adding new individuals to the database, he said.
“Scientists cannot be everywhere at all times,” Deakos said, noting that volunteers interested in marine wildlife and the environment have been invaluable for research behind manta rays’ behavior, size, genetics, age and more.
Over time, Deakos said, avid citizen scientists became more familiar with Mantas and were able to report on other noteworthy and sex-determining behaviors.
“We really appreciate the contribution of these citizen scientists to that,” He said. “It was a huge boost to better understanding the phrases.”
However, very little is known about the populations on Oahu and Kwai, which is why citizen scientists have been sought out as the research center is building a catalog of those islands. There are currently 65 known manta in the waters of Oahu and 19 recorded on the beaches of Kauai.
Sheryl King said citizen science has also been useful for her two projects: The Shark, which includes marine debris research and cleanup, and the Hawaiian Hawksbill Conservation, a statewide in-water photo identification catalog of 309 endangered Hawaiian sea turtles, which she has been on since 1998.
A conservation group and volunteers removed 9,434 pounds of trash from Maui’s reefs from 2017 to 2021. More than 2,000 pounds of debris collected includes fishing line and rope, the two biggest threats to turtles, King said.
Through sharks, 27.6 tons of marine debris have been removed since July 2012 and more than 560,000 pieces have been counted.
She added that removing trash, from microplastics to ghost nets, and learning the effects of contaminated coral reefs requires an army of volunteers.
Beach cleanups take place every fourth Sunday of the month, and the next is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon on April 24 at Kaho Beach.
There are many ways to get involved, such as sending photo IDs of hawksbill turtles, taken from 10 feet away; Remove trash from the beach. Report animals in trouble; cultivation of native species or removal of invasive species; Volunteer for habitat restoration and more.
King is also a seabird biologist with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project, which offers volunteer opportunities with seabirds and colony restoration.
In order to capture, compile and record data about the native Hawaiian petrels on Maui Noi, as well as count colonies to understand their stability, they needed volunteers, project manager Jay Penniman said.
“We’ve trained community members, adults and children alike, to grab birds to carry for the gang tool and we’ve trained people how to record data on tablets,” Penniman said. “Some of the long-term citizens have even been trained on the ranges.”
He added that funding and dedicated volunteers have helped remove weeds and predators that pose threats to ua’u kani colonies.
“We really depend on our community partners to help us,” said Jennifer Vander Feuer, senior program director of the Maui Coral Reef Alliance. “All of our implementations are done with volunteers from the local community.”
In addition to county, state, and federal stakeholders, the program works with local schools and local volunteers to help grow native plants at key sites near coastal streams, which act as natural barriers and trap sediment runoff before it reaches the ocean and reefs. Citizen scientists also help record data and maintain greenhouse for outdoor cultivation.
“Our work on Maui is focused on trying to discover ways we can reduce sediment or dirt inundation on reefs and the adverse effects that it has on,” She added.
During the COVID-19 pandemic when mass restoration projects came to a halt, the organization set up home planting groups and asked volunteers to track and record growth.
“Together we can make a difference, not just for our reefs but for our community,” She said.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]