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Kapiʻolani CC STEM student Melanie Keliʻipuleole, right, and her advisor MacKenzie Manning

Melanie Keliʻipuleole of Kapiʻolani Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program has been invited by the Council on Undergraduate Research to participate in the 19th Annual Posters on the Hill event on April 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Keliʻipuleole’s undergraduate research project was only one of 60 projects selected from approximately 500 applications. She is the first student from the University of Hawaiʻi System to participate in this prestigious event.

Keliʻipuleole’s project focused on population genetics, the study of allele and genotype frequencies in a given population. Her research examines the population structure of the marine invertebrate species of Colobocentrotus atratus, also known as the shingle or helmet sea urchin or Haʻukeʻuke in Hawaiian. The Haʻukeʻuke is found throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago where it is harvested for the consumption of its gonadal tissues, also known as uni. As part of her research, Keliʻipuleole collected tissues from multiple individuals along four different shorelines (north, east, west, south) from four different main Hawaiian islands to determine the level of genetic connectivity within and between populations using a fragment of the Cytochrome Oxidase I mitochondrial gene.

Preserving a cultural resource

“Previous research on taxonomically and ecologically diverse species shows genetic barriers between islands,” said Keliʻipuleole. “Therefore, due to a relatively short larval duration (typically one month), we hypothesized that C. atratus would show low or absent gene flow between the different island populations.”

By investigating the population structure of the Haʻukeʻuke throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Keliʻipuleole hopes to formulate better management practices for this important cultural resource.

More on Posters on the Hill

The purpose of Posters on the Hill is to help raise awareness of the significant value that undergraduate research has on our future on our nation. Keliʻipuleole will be traveling with her advisor and mentor Kapiʻolani CC Instructor MacKenzie Manning. While in Washington, D.C., they will have an opportunity to meet Hawaiʻi’s Congressional delegation and share the level of scholarship being done in undergraduate research here in Hawaiʻi.

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