On the beach with Rabbit Island in the background
Marilyn and DB Dunlap in front of a Hawaiian monk seal.
Two weaned pups at French Frigate Shoals. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Mark Sullivan.

Marilyn Dunlap, associate director of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa‘s Pacific Biosciences Research Center and director of the Biological Electron Microscope Facility, donated $45,000 to the UH Foundation to create a new fund supporting Hawaiian monk seal research at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). The fund was established in honor of Dunlap’s late husband, Danny Brooks (DB), and his tireless work researching and protecting Hawaiian monk seals on Oʻahu.

The DB and Marilyn Dunlap Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Fund will support monk seal research at the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) at SOEST, particularly in its collaborative monk seal work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A valuable partner in monk seal conservation

DB Dunlap saw his first monk seal on Sandy Beach in 2001. Soon he was spending every day searching Oʻahu‘s coastlines or peering through binoculars at Rabbit Island from UH‘s Makai Research Pier, gathering voluminous details of Hawaiian monk seal behavior that now form a core of knowledge about local monk seal ethology.

DB was able to identify individual animals, all of whom were affectionately named, by both sight and the particular ways they moved. He also responded to monk seal sightings and beachings all over the island, to both observe and protect the seals.

From 2003–2017, he recorded almost 20,000 monk seal sightings on Oʻahu, sending daily reports and data to NOAA.

Honoring DB‘s life and dream

Marilyn Dunlap has been with UH Mānoa for almost 50 years, starting as a graduate student in zoology in 1968. Knowing the unique challenges of funding in the sciences, she wanted her gift to be broadly flexible to allow JIMAR to use the funds according to the specific needs and opportunities of monk seal efforts each year.

“I want to support efforts to protect and preserve the species, and to honor DB and support the university,” she said. “I’m hopeful the gift will allow JIMAR and NOAA to do the work not supported by federal funding, and to continue to educate people about the seals and their value to the environment.”

For the full story, see the UH Foundation website.

—By Marcie Grabowski