The Environmental Center of the University of Hawaii
at Manoa is dedicated to the advancement of environmental management through
education, research and service. Established in 1970, we facilitate access
to interdisciplinary expertise within the university to enhance understanding
of environmental problems and to identify effective solutions. A unit of
the university’s Water
Resources Research Center (WRRC) the EC provides a unique
and crucial source of objective information to contribute to balanced, rational
environmental management in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific.
The University of Hawaii was founded in 1907 and is a fully accredited research university of international standing. With 10 campuses located across the state, the school offers a comprehensive array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Areas of particular strength in the sciences include such departments as tropical agriculture, oceanography, astronomy, vulcanology and evolutionary biology. In the humanities, the University offers a wide range of excellent programs, including instruction in more languages than any U.S. institution outside of the Department of State, a reflection of the diverse ethnic backgrounds of our students. Along with the Water Resources Research Center, the Environmental Center contributes to a growing excellence in the field of environmental management.
The majority of environmental issues confronting Hawaii are long-standing and derive principally from the increasing pressures of human population concentrated on a limited island land mass. Our problems are not unique, but they are intensified by the natural limits imposed by our oceanic island topography and our isolation from other land masses. Concerns over energy development, wastewater management, watershed stewardship, solid waste disposal, land use changes, and species and habitats, are particularly acute in an environment renowned as a showcase of evolution. Following centuries of habitat loss due to human impacts, successful environmental management must reflect a harmony between development, maintenance of natural resources, and protection of the quality of life.
The Functions of the Center
The Center’s three areas of focus are Education, Research and Service. Our central purpose is to facilitate and coordinate the transfer of environmentally pertinent, interdisciplinary information from the university system to federal, state and county agencies and other organizations.
The education function of the Center includes both formal, academic training in Environmental Studies at UH Manoa and the informal but significant training that students receive as research assistants on programs developed under extramural funding contracts. Students working as review interns are directly involved in hands-on environmental management, receiving practical experience uniquely suited to preparation for employment at all levels of government and throughout industry. The “formal” education focus is reflected by the Environmental Center serving as the coordinator and advisor of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program, one of many specialized undergraduate offerings available under the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.
The Center fulfils its Research function by identifying environmentally related research needs, particularly those pertinent to the State of Hawaii, and implementing studies to address those needs. In its research role, the Center formulates proposals, secures funding, and organizes and coordinates the required multidisciplinary teams to carry out the research. Many of the research needs initially are identified through issues which emerge from the Center’s Service activities. We particularly stress cooperative research that bridges different academic areas of specialization. We also emphasize research and development of new methods to facilitate environmental management, particularly through the design and application of computer-based environmental information systems. Our affiliation with WRRC, the State’s premier research organization for development of information applicable to stewardship of Hawaii’s water resources, strengthens and consolidates the University’s environmental research excellence.
The Service function is perhaps the most unique aspect of the Environmental Center’s operations. Our service role is designed to ensure that decision makers are fully informed about environmental issues prior to taking action. To facilitate coordination, we have developed a university-based, system-wide, interdisciplinary “network” of professional and technical experts, and we routinely access this resource through a structured procedure specifically designed to collect and evaluate their advice. Thus, our extended review “network” provides the Center with detailed technical or academic information on specific environmental issues of concern. The information is assembled by the Center into a written analysis of the problem or issue and then transmitted to the agency or organization in need of the information for policy or decision making. As a result, administrative, regulatory, or legislative decisions affecting the environment can be based on a full understanding of the consequences of those decisions. The Center routinely reviews a broad range of permit applications for land use decisions, as well as all Hawaii-related environmental impact statements, selected environmental impact assessments, and environmentally related legislative bills and resolutions.
The coordination role played by the Center provides a means by which
information is developed and synthesized from multiple disciplines
to achieve a more balanced and objective approach to addressing
environmental issues. The Center remains committed to the principle
that better environmental information leads to better decision
making, resulting ultimately in enhanced public benefits.