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Shannon Murphy studied four plots in Hanauma Bay bimonthly for nine months.

The visitor impact on Hanauma Bay’s coral reef and how geographic locations affected students’ college experience were two of the nearly 100 undergraduate research and creative work projects on display at the virtual 2022 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Spring Undergraduate Showcase on April 29.

Hanauma Bay visitor impact

person in scuba gear above water in a bay
Shannon Murphy

Shannon Murphy, a senior global environmental science major in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, chose to study the impact of visitors on the coral reef at Hanauma Bay because she has visited the bay her entire life, and volunteered with the Friends of Hanauma Bay.

“I have also found a passion for studying coral reef ecology, and this project was the perfect combination of studying my favorite organisms and providing science to my community,” Murphy said.

Under the guidance of Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology Researcher Kuʻulei Rodgers, Murphy monitored four plots in the bay, bimonthly for nine months. She recorded the number of snorkelers entering each plot and their interactions with the reef. Results showed a direct relationship between snorkeling density and the number of disturbances, however, those disturbances did not translate into coral health impairment, which means there was no coral breakage or abrasions from snorkelers.

Murphy said this could be explained possibly by low coral cover across the bay and/or coral species with high skeletal strength due to history of high water motion and extensive visitors. Murphy said future management actions could limit the number of visitors and occurrences of reef disturbances to potentially reduce tissue loss and promote coral recruitment.

“Hanauma Bay is a place of cultural and ecological significance, not just a place for tourists to enjoy,” Murphy said. “As it is a Marine Life Conservation District, residents and visitors should take responsibility to preserve and protect this area. Ultimately, if corals are not gaining surface area nor reproducing, it is a matter of time before more corals disappear. I hope this project can encourage additional research in the bay on coral health as well as initiate stricter preservation strategies so the people of Hawaiʻi can enjoy the bay for years to come.”

Role of geography in students’ college experience

person headshot
Manu Moreira

Manu Moreira, a senior psychology major in the College of Social Sciences, focused on how geography played a role in students’ college experience (self-efficacy, well-being, stress and self-esteem). Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Emily Daubert, Moreira surveyed more than 300 UH Mānoa students, gauging their college experience through different variables.

“I grew up in the rural county of Kaʻu and when I moved up to Oʻahu my experiences as a rural student felt unique in comparison to my peers from urban and suburban backgrounds,” Moreira said. “Furthermore my peers from rural backgrounds held similarities yet differences in perception of college experience or how they navigated through these experiences were different to my own.”

According to Moreira, results found no significant differences between geographic locale on the college experience, controlling for income and gender. However, Moreira said there were significant differences of stress between males and females. While results for this study did not show statistically significant differences in college experience, future studies with a larger sample size would create a more diverse understanding of the student college experience. Moreira said geographic locale is not a commonly used variable, therefore its inclusion lessens the gap of literature into geographic based studies.

More about the undergraduate showcase

Hosted by the Honors Program and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Undergraduate Showcase is held at the end of every semester. It is a public event open to visitors on- and off-campus. All UH Mānoa undergraduate students in all fields of study conducting a faculty-mentored research or creative work project are encouraged to submit an abstract to present. Visit the Undergraduate Showcase website for more information.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

—By Marc Arakaki

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