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Approved by the Manoa Faculty Senate on September 21, 2011

34 in favor; 11 against


Assessment of Marine Facilities at the University of Hawaii at Manoa: A Report by the Manoa Faculty Senate Committee on Research and Committee on Administration and Budget

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) is recognized as the flagship research institution of higher education in the Pacific, with defined strengths and responsibilities in the areas of education, research and service. It is a Sea Grant, Land Grant and Space Grant institution, with a defined mission training undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, serving the research needs of state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and the broader community of stakeholders in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific Islands.

Hawaii is the ‘Ocean State’ and has a strong economic, cultural and ecological dependence on its surrounding waters and associated resources. The University must therefore take full advantage of opportunities in the marine sciences and be well-positioned and forward-thinking in its strategic planning to be a leader in research and training in this key area of endeavor. This report is a brief overview of existing facilities and programs, with suggestions for future consideration and development that are offered as a stimulus for discussion as the University moves to take advantage of its unique location in the central Pacific Ocean.

The Committee on Research and Committee on Administration and Budget recommend a meeting be organized for faculty involved in marine science to address long-term planning, facility needs and cooperative efforts aimed at integrating the research, teaching and service components of UH endeavors in this field.

Marine science educational and research programs and facilities are distributed among a number of units within the University, including the College of Natural Sciences (Departments of Botany and Zoology), the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), as follows.



Botany: Undergraduate (BA, BS) and graduate (MS, PhD) degrees: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/
Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology: Graduate specialization (MS, PhD): http://www.hawaii.edu/eecb/
Geology and Geophysics: Undergraduate (BA. BS) and graduate (MS, PhD) degrees: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/academics/gg_academics.html
Marine and Environmental Geology: Graduate degrees (MS, PhD): http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/research/gg_meg.html

Marine Biology: Undergraduate (BS) degree: http://www.hawaii.edu/marine_biology/default.htm
Graduate specialization (MS, PhD): Http://www.hawaii.edu/graduatestudies/fields/html/departments/mno/mb/mb.htm
Marine Option Program: Interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate program involving all 10 University of Hawaii campuses: http://www.hawaii.edu/mop/site/
Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering: Undergraduate and (BS) and graduate degrees (MS, PhD) : http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/mbbe/
Natural Resources and Environmental Management: Undergraduate and (BS) and graduate degrees (MS, PhD): http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/nrem/
Ocean and Resources Engineering: Graduate degrees (MS, PhD): http://www.ore.hawaii.edu/
Oceanography: Undergraduate (BS) degree in Global Environmental Science: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/oceanography/GES/index.html
Graduate degrees (MS, PhD) in Oceanography: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/oceanography/gradstudies.html
Zoology: Undergraduate (BA, BS) and graduate degrees (MS, PhD): http://www.hawaii.edu/zoology/education.htm



Marine Laboratories

The State of Hawaii has only two fully equipped marine laboratories that are members of the National Association of Marine Laboratories: the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island and the Kewalo Marine Laboratory; both have running seawater systems. Hawaii Pacific University also maintains the Oceanic Institute, which is part of its marine biology program. In comparison, other states with long coastlines have many more facilities: e.g., Florida, with 20, and California, with 12. Closing one of the UH facilities will put Hawaii (750 miles of coastline) below Georgia (100 miles of coastline) and in a tie with Illinois (zero coastline) for numbers of marine laboratories.

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB)

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (http://www.hawaii.edu/himb/) is located at Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay, where HIMB researchers have year-round access to the Bay and its tropical marine waters. Protected by an extensive barrier reef system, the bay’s estuarine and coral reef ecosystems support a rich and diverse biota. Outside the barrier reef, pelagic species and open ocean waters 1000 m deep are within 6 km of Coconut Island. HIMB has an especially strong research focus in ecology and animal behavior, and supports the following facilities and resources:


HIMB has 21 faculty, several postdoctoral research associates and supports graduate students primarily from the Departments of Oceanography and Zoology. It is an excellent facility adjacent to a marine reserve. Coconut Island is located inside a reef, providing access to samples from a living reef environment. However, it also provides access to the oceanic areas that lie beyond the reef.

A selection of the numerous major research projects ongoing at HIMB, most but not all of which focus on coral reef issues, includes:

  • Coral reef assessment and monitoring including assessment of coral disease and bleaching in relation to global climate change
  • Coral reef biogeochemistry and remote sensing
  • Northwestern Hawaiian Island coral reef research to support ecosystem based management of this unique natural heritage
  • Sea turtle and coral reef fish molecular genetics and conservation
  • Reef shark behavior utilizing the unique shark-holding pens at Coconut Island
  • Installation of GPS devices on Tiger Sharks to monitor their movements
  • Diversity, evolutionary history, ecology, and physiology of microorganisms of coral reefs
  • Whale and dolphin behavior


Because of its offshore island setting, there are logistical challenges associated with getting to HIMB, which unfortunately affect community access, collaborations and educational opportunities.


Pacific Biosciences Research Center - Kewalo Marine Laboratory (KML)

The Kewalo Marine Laboratory http://www.kewalo.hawaii.edu/ is administered by the Pacific Biosciences Research Center and has been operating at Point Panic in Kakaako since 1972. It supports 45 faculty, postdoctoral researchers, staff and students (15 doctoral level researchers). It is one of very few ‘urban’ marine laboratories, and, in downtown Honolulu within a short drive from the Manoa campus, provides easy access to UH students and the broader community of UH stakeholders. It has a superb open seawater access system (contrasting with HIMB’s within-reef system), as well as state of the art equipment and facilities. KML is the center for two NSF minority training grants. Key resources available include:

  • Flow-through seawater system with ocean intake 300 m offshore
  • Quarantine facility for non-native marine species and transplants
  • Two confocal microscopes
  • Ecotoxicology laboratory with robotic/automated workstation for high throughput enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays
  • Fluorescent microscopy facilities with micro-injection equipment
  • 17 ft Boston whaler, trailer and vehicle
  • Dedicated cold rooms for experimental manipulations and assays
  • Flume for biomechanical and larval retention studies
  • Genomics facilities
  • Marine larval cultivation facilities
  • Coral cultivation facilities


KML is a world-class research facility specializing in the study of biodiversity and the effects of human activity on our precious local marine environment. KML has key research foci in the evolution of development, larval biology and ecotoxicology. A selection of the numerous cutting edge research areas addressed at KML includes:

  • Settlement and metamorphosis of marine invertebrate larvae
  • Control of marine biofouling
  • Cellular, molecular, and evolutionary basis of biological pattern formation in marine invertebrates
  • Mechanisms facilitating invasion by marine organisms
  • Marine conservation and ecotoxicology
  • Marine worms as a model system for the study of evolution and development
  • Evolutionary origins of complexity in marine brachiopods


KML is close to the Manoa campus and is a central location for meetings with state, federal and local groups and partners, with ample and accessible free parking.

Waikiki Aquarium
The Waikiki Aquarium (http://www.waquarium.org/) is an award winning educational facility that also supports limited research primarily in the area of marine cultivation. It is located in an urban area, with flowing nearshore seawater and exhibit facilities. However, it provides no dedicated laboratory space for advanced research.




UH Marine Center

The UH Marine Center (http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/UMC/) provides docking space for the three largest research vessels operated by UH that support both blue water and coastal shipboard research: the R/V Kilo Moana, R/V Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa and R/V Klaus Wyrtki.

Research facilities on board the R/V Kilo Moana

Berths for 17 crew and 31 scientists, 3000 sq. ft. of laboratory space, 20,000 lb. hydraulic U-frame structure for deploying oceanographic equipment, traction and stowage winches, heavy lift and towing cranes, 12 kW of uninterruptible power, ship-wide computer network (SIS). Simrad EM120, EM1002, EA500 echo sounders, Simrad HPR 418 acoustic positioning system, Sontek 125 acoustic doppler current profiler, depth finding system.


UH faculty chief scientists on the R/V Kilo Moana (last 4 years)

Paul Lethaby, Matthew Church, Susan Curless, David Karl, Brian Taylor, Patricia Fryer, Eric Grabowski, Tara Clemente, Michael Ondrusek, Fernando Santiago-Mandujano, , Fernando Martinez, Michael Garcia, Roy Wilkens, Christopher Kelley, Daniel Sadler.


Research facilities on board the R/V Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa

Laboratories: rock (303 sq. ft.), wet (300 sq. ft.), clean (150 sq. ft.), dry (300 sq.ft.). Conference room (256 sq. ft). Hanger (1,332 sq. ft). Two deep-diving (2000 m) submersibles Pisces V and Pisces IV and a remotely operated vehicle RCV-150. A SeaBeam 210 multibeam sonar bathymetric mapping system, Northern Line coring winch (model 3355-EHAOW), 24.7 mm double armored electro-optical cable (ROV umbilical), Markey DUSH-6 hydrographic winch with capacity of 7,000 m of 0.322 three conductor cable, Stern A-frame, moveable (15 ton capacity). Cranes: Pitman Crane (capacity 10,000 lb), Aurora 45F folding crane, Model 45KTNC 10,000 (capacity 40,000 lb at 15 ft, 16,200 lb at 25 ft, 10,000 lb at 45 ft.


Educational contributions of UH research vessels

Data obtained by UH research vessels have resulted in frequent national exposure on television stations such as PBS, Nationial Geographic and Discovery Channel. Recently, the SOEST Dean, Dr. Brian Taylor, was chief scientist on two student cruises on the Kilo Moana.


Uniqueness of the UH Research Vessel Fleet

In terms of home-port location alone, our research fleet is unique in that it is positioned close to the geographic center of the largest body of water on the planet. Locations in the Western Pacific can be reached in less than half the time it would take from ports on the U.S. West coast.

The HAWAII MR1 sonar mapping instrument deployed on the R/V Kilo Moana is a portable side-scanning seafloor imaging system that was developed by the Hawaii Mapping Research Group in 1991. It simultaneously acquires digital bathymetry with a swath width of 3.4 times the water depth and side-scan sonar imagery with a swath width of 7.5 times water depth. The system’s sonar transducers are housed in a 5-metre-long vehicle that is towed beneath the surface mixed layer (60 to 100 m) at ship speeds of 8 to 10 knots. The MR1 tow-fish is extremely stable due to its multi-body towing configuration and large righting moment. As a result, MR1 has successfully operated in rough sea conditions (up to sea state 6) that typically cause performance degradation in hull-mounted systems due to bubble masking and violent ship motion. The Kilo Moana is unique within the US academic research fleet in having a 38-kHz Acoustic Doppler Profiler capable of profiling to 1500 m depth, twice the range of the 75-kHz instruments installed on most other research ships.

The two submersibles on the R/V Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa makes HURL (described in the next section) the only submersible group in the US capable of putting two submersibles on the bottom together operating simultaneously. This capability is very useful in making films as well as collecting acoustic data.


Hawaii Underseas Research Laboratory (HURL)

The Hawaii Underseas Research Laboratory (http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/HURL/) is administered by SOEST and funded by NOAA. It has a staff of 19 and operates two deep diving submersibles, an ROV and a mothership, the 2,590 ton R/V Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa (see above). This is a highly unique research operation that supports researchers from UH as well as other universities through a competitive proposal process. The mothership is located at the UH Marine Center, while the submersibles are maintained in Waimanalo at the Makai Pier.



Because of Hawaii’s unique location as the most isolated archipelago in the world, abundant marine resources, high level of marine biodiversity and cultural attributes, coastal and marine research, education and service are areas of focus, with clear strengths, and opportunities for additional growth and expansion. There are opportunities in Hawaii that simply do not exist anywhere else, and it is always wise to deal from strengths in areas that distinguish UH from other universities on the U.S. mainland and internationally. With pressing issues related to fisheries, climate change (sea level rise, mass coral bleaching events, ocean acidification), and coastal marine resource degradation, UH should be investing more resources into marine research, education and facilities. Marine biotechnology is also an area of growth and innovation, and UH facilities including the new CMORE Hale provide additional opportunities for our students and stakeholders.

Both HIMB and the KML are at capacity and in need of additional space. Yet the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has proposed closing KML. Given the opportunities outlined above, however, there is no defensible reason to consider closing either of these two marine laboratories, which have different foci, strengths and facilities that serve the UH mission of research, education and service, and support complementary and collaborative efforts. Numerous opportunities exist to secure additional funds, and to develop additional strategic partnerships with state and federal agencies, mainland universities, educational institutions and the private sector. The marine sciences is clearly an area of strength and strategic growth of great importance to the state, nation and international community where UH can expand its leadership, and further investment in supporting facilities, faculty and staff is warranted.

In the light of these needs and the potential for UH to advance as a world class institution in diverse fields within marine science, the following courses, programs and centers are at various stages of development. However, in order to fulfill the potential these initiatives offer, the various UH marine facilities need to be maintained and expanded.


Professional degree in Marine Resource Management and Conservation

Job growth and opportunities in marine resource management and conservation are increasing, but with few programs designed to provide appropriate training and develop curricula. Federal and state regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations require skills that cannot be found in present programs. Ideal employees would have a broader perspective that integrated science, management, policy, economics and communications. Very few programs combine the biophysical/natural sciences with the social sciences, yet this is particularly important in Hawaii, the Pacific Islands and the Pacific Rim, where marine resource issues are of great economic, cultural and ecological value. Documented decreases in marine resource quality and quantity mandate effective actions be taken to reverse this trend for the benefit of present and future generations. Managers and policy makers require data in a different format and with a different degree of statistical certainty than is typical within the biophysical sciences, and natural scientists often neglect to translate their findings into critically needed policy development and implementation strategies. Agencies are often forced to fill positions either with scientists who understand the biology of organisms but have absolutely no familiarity with regulatory and policy issues, or with individuals with legal and social science backgrounds but who lack the scientific training necessary to understand the organisms, ecosystem functions and stressors with which they are charged to deal.

The proposed professional graduate degree program, which is currently at the ‘authorization to plan’ stage, will be an interdepartmental/interdisciplinary effort targeted at individuals wishing to pursue careers in marine resource management and conservation. A similar degree program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California at San Diego has been financially viable and successful. This 2 year UH MS/MA program would also allow undergraduates to enroll in their Junior year and obtain a Masters degree within 5 years.


K-12 Programs

The U.S. is falling behind in the STEM disciplines in comparison to other Asian and European countries, and Hawaii in particular is among the states with the lowest student achievement in STEM. The marine environment is a natural tool for engaging students in an enjoyable and relevant manner to expand their knowledge and skills, and train a cohort of local students to enter appropriate fields. UH has several programs that address this need (notably the recent NSF K-12 program run by PBRC through the Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology graduate specialization program). Accessible marine research facilities with running seawater can be of great value to such programs that target both Hawaii DOE and private schools.



Pacific Institute for Marine Research, Education, Management and Conservation

Mission: To integrate and bridge cutting edge research to management, conservation and sustainable economic development, and provide transdisciplinary, experiential educational opportunities for students (K-12, undergraduate and graduate), policy makers and the broader community to address pressing needs in global environmental stewardship, workforce preparation, scientifically-based policy development and policy implementation.

Problems that need to be addressed include:

  • There is a lack of local workforce preparation in the STEM disciplines, including the expanding field of biology and biotechnology; 92% of the approximately 3,000 biology and related STEM positions in the state are filled by mainlanders and other non-locals/non-Native Hawaiians.
  • The U.S. Flag and Freely Associated Pacific Islands, to which Hawaii serves as a gateway and partner, possess some of the world’s most diverse and intact coral reefs, fisheries resources and effective management systems based on traditional knowledge, but there needs to be better indigenous human resource capacity developed to bridge modern science with traditional practices. This is critical to the future of these islands as well as U.S. interests in the region.
  • There are no hands-on programs for marine resource management; Hawaii is an ocean state and UH is the ‘flagship’ institution of higher education in the Pacific islands, yet students must go elsewhere (University of the South Pacific, James Cook University, University of Queensland, University of Rhode Island, Duke University) to get marine management and conservation training.
  • Hawaii is surrounded by an incredible natural laboratory that is virtually untapped in terms of engaging, inspiring and educating our future generations of researchers, teachers, leaders and business entrepreneurs. There is no access for Hawaii’s K-12 students and very limited access for UH undergraduate and graduate students to seawater tables and wet labs to gain hands-on experience in their courses and to open their eyes to the magnificence of Hawaii’s marine resources.
  • There are no modern research facilities that bring together scientists, managers, policy-makers, educators and community members to address the pressing needs in marine resources sustainability, yet the future of ocean resources depends on integrating expertise across and among disciplines including biology, oceanography, policy, law, education, economics and public health.

The proposed integrated center would not only service the needs of Hawaii, but serve as a gathering place for Pacific Island and Pacific Rim researchers, leaders, students, managers, educators and policy makers to share knowledge and experience and tackle problems of common concern. The facility would also serve as a gateway for individuals to access the Pacific Islands for global climate change research, policy development, education and service to the region.

Elements of the proposed center include:

  • Kewalo Marine Laboratory, a dedicated research facility with a flowing seawater system, state-of- the-art equipment and world-class faculty.
  • Educational wing with wet labs, microscopy and lecture facilities, including dedicated space for UH undergraduates (Marine Biology, Environmental Sciences, Zoology and Oceanography), Graduate students, K-12 students (e.g. Kamehameha Schools, DOE) and community outreach.
  • Management/policy/conservation wing, with participants including NOAA/NMFS, Hawaii State DAR, USFWS, UH faculty in law and policy, and local, regional, national and international NGOs and Foundations (e.g. The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Marine Conservation Biology Institute and Pew Environmental Group), with chain-of-custody facilities for supporting local litigation and enforcement actions.
  • Community/visitor wing, exhibits, sales, coffee shop, brown-bag seminars (possibly in collaboration with Bishop Museum, Waikiki Aquarium), highlighting Hawaiian and Pacific cultural practices.

The center’s thematic areas of research would focus on the following:

  • Biodiversity - from ecosystems to molecules.
  • Land-sea connections (Ahupua’a approaches to integrated watershed management; especially relevant to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands).
  • Biotic responses (human and environmental/ecosystem health) to the synergistic effects of human induced impacts over natural cycles of disturbance, including global climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise, fisheries exploitation and pollution.
  • The development of tools in genomics and proteomics for advancing basic knowledge and for management applications.
  • Integration of traditional conservation and management practices with modern “western” science.
  • Biotechnology.

Users and potential partners include:

  • Researchers, postdocs, visiting scientists, graduate students, ‘scholars-in-residence’ program (including policy makers, social scientists and traditional practitioners)
  • JABSOM and the Hawaii Center for Cancer Research (natural products chemistry, environmental health-human health linkages)
  • UH undergraduate students from the Marine Biology, Zoology, Oceanography, Environmental Studies, Environmental Law, Hawaiian Studies, Marine Policy and Pacific Islands Studies programs
  • Possible site for proposed professional degree in Marine Resource Management and Conservation (see above)
  • Kamehameha Schools
  • Department of Education – ‘science center’
  • Community meetings, lectures
  • Tourists
  • Mainland/international colleges and universities
  • NGOs (e.g. The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Sierra Club, KAHEA, Malama Hawaii, Malama Maunalua)
  • Hawaii Government (Division of Aquatic Resources, Dept. of Health, Attorney General for technical support on ocean/coastal litigation and management)
  • Federal Agencies (NOAA, EPA, US Fish and Wildlife).  Note: this would complement the planned Ford Island NOAA facility, as a satellite with representative offices (e.g. Pacific Islands Regional Office, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center), highly accessible to the public, students, policy-makers and collaborators.
  • The private sector through entrepreneurial partnerships with UH faculty.

A schematic of the proposed center is provided on the following page.



UHM, the only doctoral level research university in the University of Hawaii System, has a diversity of marine facilities, both land based institutes, laboratories and so on, as well as a number of ships that provide key opportunities for off-shore research. Nonetheless, given that Hawaii is the ‘Ocean State’, the overall extent and number of facilities, and therefore the opportunities for research and training they provide, is limited compared to other, albeit larger, states.

In the previous few pages this report has outlined the strengths (and in some cases weaknesses) of these facilities, and identified a number of examples of possible future initiatives to take advantage of all that Hawaii’s location in the central Pacific has to offer to marine science.

There is a clear need to bring the marine sciences faculty and administration together to chart a future course that builds on the clear strengths in research and opportunities identified in this brief review of marine facilities and activities currently ongoing at UHM. During the fact-finding undertaken to generate this report, it became clear that considerable cutting edge research is being undertaken in marine sciences at UHM but that it is dispersed across departments, colleges and schools, with little coordination or even knowledge among participants of what is going on across campus in other units and other disciplines.

As stated briefly at the outset of this report, the Committee on Research and Committee on Administration and Budget recommend a meeting (or series of meetings) be organized for faculty and administration involved in marine science to address long-term planning, facility needs and cooperative efforts aimed at integrating the research, teaching and service components of UH endeavors in this field. UHM stands at a crossroads at which it can either maintain the status quo or even reduce the availability of facilities to undertake marine science, or grasp the opportunity to expand and become a true world leader in this increasingly important (with global climate change) area of research, training and service to our diverse local, national and international communities.

Schematic of the Pacific Institute for Marine Research, Education, Management and Conservation

Text Box: Water tables - limited access