Mackenzie Jahnke and Wendy Kuntz
Mackenzie Jahnke (left) and Wendy Kuntz (right) at Maunalua Bay

Kapiʻolani Community College student Mackenzie Jahnke was selected to represent Hawaiʻi at the 24th annual Posters on the Hill this month. Through the prestigious event, students are given the opportunity to present their work and meet with members of Congress and their staff to discuss the importance of undergraduate research. Jahnke was selected by the Council on Undergraduate Research.

Poster on the Hill is generally held in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. where students and their research mentors have an opportunity to meet with Hawaiʻi’s Congressional delegation. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, however, the Council on Undergraduate Research invited selected students to participate in a virtual poster session via Twitter. Students’ works can be viewed under the #POH2020 and #POHGoesVirtual tags.

Jahnke, mentored by Associate Professor of Biology and Ecology Wendy Kuntz, presented her research, “Student Scientists Provide Evidence of Successful Community-Led Restoration of Hawaiian Bay.”

“I am very honored to represent Hawaiʻi at the virtual Posters on the Hill,” Jahnke said. “I am excited to bring up environmental issues to these important senators and representatives, to highlight the work that the students at Kapiʻolani CC and Professor Kuntz have done for the past ten years, and to highlight the Mālama Maunalua organization and their success in restoring the bay.”

Jahnke’s research

Jahnke’s project examined long-term trends in algae composition at Paiko Bay, Oʻahu, including the positive impacts from community-led efforts facilitated by local non-profit Mālama Maunalua to manually rid the bay of invasive algae species.

“Mack is one of the top undergraduate researchers whom I have worked with at Kapiʻolani CC,” said Kuntz. “Her research affirms the importance of prolonged community involvement in ecological restoration.”

For her research, Jahnke analyzed 10 years of data on algae composition and removal efforts collected by 20 ecology lab classes of Kapiʻolani CC students taught by Kuntz. Jahnke’s results show a dramatic reduction of the invasive algae Avrainvillea Amadelpha in the bay, with coverage decreasing from 85 to 23 percent and native populations showing an increase of 25 percent. Jahnke’s findings also show that the community-led project has been an overwhelming success, resulting in a transformation of the bay.

“Through this project, I have discovered that I want to work professionally on the rehabilitation of environments through community involvement,” stated Jahnke. “I am interested in the capacity of communities to work together and generate data to support professional scientists.”

Jahnke, who has a degree in theatre, is currently pursuing an associate’s degree through STEM so she can eventually work in wildlife rehabilitation.

View a summary of Jahnke’s research on her Twitter.

—By Louise Yamamoto