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The Ala Wai Canal in Waikīkī is part of the 19-square-mile Ala Wai watershed.

The eight research projects of the inaugural University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Strategic Investment Initiative have been selected. Each project capitalizes on the strengths of the university and focuses on a challenge facing Hawaiʻi such as resource management and revitalizing the Ala Wai watershed, the solutions of which can be exported to the world.

The projects, announced by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, are all multi-disciplinary, and include faculty and students from across the university to address complex problems such as improving community sustainability and resilience, understanding the microbiomes of natural watersheds in order to restore our environment, and developing more effective, experiential learning opportunities for our students.

Many of the proposals include plans to share knowledge and research with high school and college students across the state to stimulate interest and learning within the varied disciplines while other proposals plan to extend the projects into the community at large.

“These multi-disciplinary projects are extraordinary in their potential to advance knowledge and understanding, and in their responsiveness to the challenges and opportunities afforded to us by our home, Hawaiʻi,” said Michael Bruno, UH Mānoa vice chancellor for research and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The Strategic Investment Initiative was an outgrowth of campus-wide discussions about the need to foster the development of multidisciplinary, integrated research and education programs. Since such programs are slow to emerge via conventional academic processes, the university decided that a rapid-response competition leading to a group of short-term (12 to 18 months) projects would be the most effective path to produce transformational change across the university.

A total of $2.2 million was made available for the competition. The eight projects were selected from a total of 43 proposals and the awards vary in amount from $50,000 to $700,000.

Engaging Sustainability and Resilience of Island Ecosystems, Stewardship and Indigenous Sciences
Supports the development of sustainability programming at UH Mānoa. It will institutionalize sustainability-themed teaching, research and outreach by integrating sustainability and civic engagement into the curriculum; building faculty capacity through workshops on the island of Kahoʻolawe; providing undergraduate student research grants; and expanding the reach of sustainability courses via distance learning. Learn more.

Kūʻokoʻa: Sustaining Abundant ʻĀina and Resilient Leadership
Positions UH to extend its reach to enhance the resilience of communities across the pae ʻāina, while enhancing sustainable decision-making regarding land and resources in the islands through a place-based and culturally-grounded collaborative cohort model for graduate and professional education. Learn more.

Center for Microbiome Analysis through Island Knowledge and Investigation (C-MĀIKI)
The goal is to provide the first detailed microbiome databases of the Waikīkī ahupuaʻa, with the aim of understanding the composition and activities of microbial communities associated with water, soil, insects, plants and air as a biological characteristic of this environment. Learn more.

Multilingual Multicultural Strategic Initiative
This initiative aims to capitalize on Hawaiʻi’s unique cultural and language diversity and demonstrate that a multilingual and multicultural perspective is essential in the pursuit of social development, disaster preparedness, sustainability and social harmony. Learn more.

Pikoʻokoʻo Initiative
Assembles an interdisciplinary group of Native Hawaiian faculty to plan and implement a conference and produce a publication that will showcase how UH Mānoa is a Hawaiian Place of Learning (HPL). The initiative will also identify best practices for those wanting to make their classrooms or departments more of a HPL. The publication will also serve as a resource for courses pertaining to sustainability and resilience. Learn more.

Brings together faculty and students from across multiple units to establish a comprehensive monitoring and sampling network and data dissemination and outreach plan for the Ala Wai watershed. The effort will help inform restoration and resilience efforts in the ahupuaʻa while providing first-hand undergraduate and graduate education and research experiences with meaningful, applied outcomes relevant to the local community. Learn more.

Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds
Using both science and music, this project will educate the community, including thousands of young students, about Hawaiian birds and the ongoing extinction crisis faced bynative forest bird species. The project will culminate in a final orchestral concert with the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra. Learn more.

Creation of the UH Materials Science Consortium for Research and Education (CoRE)
To develop new multi-department academic programs and research-based learning opportunities for undergraduate students in the critically important and rapidly-evolving area of advanced materials science and engineering. Learn more.

The expectation is that these projects will result in ongoing research programs supported by external funding, as well as permanent academic programs and experiential learning opportunities that will enrich the education of Mānoa’s undergraduate and graduate students for years to come.

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