Sarah Jenkins checking on artificial floaters for nesting Hawaiian Coots.

Sarah Jenkins checking on artificial floaters for nesting Hawaiian Coots.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering and its Hawaiʻi Center for Advanced Communications (HCAC) are supporting a Molokaʻi High School student in her efforts to protect Hawaiian wildlife.

Sarah Jenkins, a junior at Molokaʻi High, has already received recognition for her strong commitment to protecting Hawaiian endangered birds. She placed second overall at the 54th annual Maui Science and Engineering Fair and later won first place for best senior research project in the animal science category from the Hawaiʻi Academy of Science. Her successful work is focused on improving the reproduction environment of the Hawaiian Coot and involves creating artificial floating nesting structures in Pipiʻo Pond in the Mapulehu area. Jenkins did not slow after these successes, and continued to work hard to improve the environment for endangered birds on her island and throughout Hawaiʻi.

Jenkins began exploring the use of thermal imaging for noninvasive monitoring of the Hawaiian Coot population and perhaps for counting eggs, to better track their population and to correlate growth rates with environmental conditions such as the impacts of encroaching mangrove forests on ponds, nesting areas and food sources. She had reached a point, though, where she was limited by available resources, so she reached out for assistance. Jenkins contacted several universities and other agencies looking for support for her project. Peter Crouch, dean of the College of Engineering at UH Mānoa, in turn informed Professor Magdy Iskander, director of HCAC, to discuss the high school student’s request and importance of supporting her project.

During her visit to the UH Mānoa campus, Jenkins saw demonstration of HCAC’s thermal imaging system, where she observed the ranges and effects of thermal camera parameters. Professor Iskander and his team of faculty and graduate students helped her to determine specific requirements for thermal imaging of wildlife in the field.

Crouch and Iskander were impressed with the high school student’s passion, knowledge and professional approach to her project, and committed to purchasing a thermal imaging system, suitable for wildlife observations in the field, to support her project. HCAC also donated two sets of water quality measurement equipment to assist with the monitoring and data collection of the environmental conditions in and around the nesting areas. This equipment included wireless sensors for monitoring water pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen and salinity, along with an additional sensor for measuring water flow rates and an iPod Touch for wireless data collection.

Jenkins is already using some of the equipment in support of her project and also to help mentor a Molokaʻi Middle School student with her science fair project.

A UH Mānoa news release

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