Alumna is a community catalyst

May 28th, 2009  |  by  |  Published in UHAA News

Alyssa Miller working with community members

Alyssa Miller, MURP ʻ97, PhD in geography ’03 Mānoa

Career: Coordinator for Mālama Maunalua
Roots: ʻOhana from Pacific Northwest, now firmly rooted in Hawaiʻi
Hobbies: Propagating native plants, dog training
Favorite outdoor spot: Anywhere in the ocean
First experience organizing: Ran an appropriate technology demonstration home and outreach programs at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.
Philosophy: “Community capacity building needs to be viewed as a central element in the political ecology of environmental protection, along with culture and structure.”

Communities in Hawaiʻi have enormous potential to effect positive change to restore the health of their environments, Alyssa Miller believes.

She should know. As coordinator for a community-based stewardship organization dedicated to conserving and restoring Maunalua Bay, she has watched 5,000 people participate in projects to restore reef and sea grass marine ecosystems, remove invasive alien algae, reduce land based pollution and foster pono (responsible) fishing and harvesting practices.

Mālama Maunalua was founded in 2005 by residents of the southeast Oʻahu area stretching from Koko Head to Black Point and inland to the Koʻolau ridgeline. It thrives by engaging and empowering community and forming strong partnerships with scientists, government, business and community organizations.

Partners include Hui Nalu Canoe Club, the Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi, NOAA, Mālama Hawaiʻi, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaiʻi Coral Reef Initiative and the University of Hawaiʻi’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Sea Grant Program and Department of Botany.

A 2006 strategic plan identifies focused actions the community can undertake to address the high priority threats affecting clearly defined marine and watershed resource targets.

“Hawaiʻi is truly special,” Miller says. “People recognize the value of taking care of their place and community, that it is their kuleana (responsibility and privilege) to do so. Nowhere else do you get that kind of recognition and connection. I hope we can educate future generations and pass on these values of kuleana and mālama.”

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