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Volunteers at Waikīkī reef clean up, photo from the Waikīkī Aquarium Facebook

In honor of what would have been Professor Emerita Isabella Abbott’s 97th birthday, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Celia Smith, professor of botany, led an invasive algae clean up at the Waikīkī Aquarium on June 20. This year’s clean up gathered about 45 volunteers including UH students and community members to learn about invasive seaweeds and remove them from the reef in Waikīkī.

Isabella Abbott

“Our efforts to honor Dr. Abbott are guided by the need to return balance to reefs for the resilience and sustainability we need, as our oceans change profoundly,” said Smith.

Several species of alien algae have become established on Hawaiʻi’s reefs, and have contributed towards the decline of some reef areas. One such area is the reef fronting the Waikīkī Aquarium, and efforts have been underway since 2002 to remove these alien species. Driven by Smith and her botany students, this aquarium collaboration removes the alien algae by hand while taking care to return any native algae to the ocean. The alien algae are weighed, to assess both the scale of the challenge and the effectiveness of the removal efforts, and transported to Honolulu Zoo. There the algae are added to the zoo’s compost pile, which is used to fertilize the plants on the zoo grounds and available for public use.

For the last six years, the month of June was selected for algae education and community service in honor of the late Isabella Abbott, who passed away in 2010. The “First Lady of Limu,” was a world-renowned algae taxonomist and ethnobotony professor emeritus at UH Mānoa.

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