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From left, Alyssa Veneri, Lani Musselman and Aston Ramos.

Three graduate students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) were selected to receive Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation fellowships. The overall goal of these graduate assistantships is to develop the next generation of natural resource management leaders in Hawaiʻi.

The students were chosen because of their strong academic records as undergraduates, their connections to and integration with the local conservation community, their passion for the ʻāina and keen interest in preserving and protecting shared and limited natural resources, and their commitment to career and future efforts to preserve and sustain their local environment. The two-year fellowships for Hawaiʻi high school graduates, which include tuition exemption, regular stipend and funds for professional development, will help increase the number of qualified Hawaiʻi students and professionals pursuing environmental resource management careers.

Lani Musselman

Musselman, an oceanography graduate student advised by SOEST faculty Rosie Alegado and Shimi Rii, is investigating the base of the aquatic food web in the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve. She investigates microscopic phytoplankton in order to understand how environmental drivers within and outside of the fishpond impact their diversity and resulting fish health and abundance.

“Data generated from this project will be used to provide a deeper understanding of the biological and ecological impacts of incredible restoration efforts done to Heʻeia Fishpond by the community organization Paepae o Heʻeia,” said Musselman. “I am honored to receive this fellowship, and it will allow me to continue to follow my passions for place-based conservation and pursue a career in ocean conservation and protection of marine ecosystems across the Hawaiian Islands.”

Aston Ramos

Ramos, currently finishing a bachelor’s degree at UH Hilo, will be an Earth sciences graduate student in fall 2022. His work with professor Henrietta Dulai will entail examining groundwater flows into coastal environments. In his past research, he determined the amount of groundwater and its quality being delivered to coastal zones with various tools that collected radium/radon isotopes, stable isotopes of nitrogen, and the presence of pharmaceuticals.

“Monitoring water resources in Hawaiʻi and the contaminants that leach from wastewater sources like septic systems and other anthropogenic sources provides important information to our communities,” said Ramos. “I have tremendous appreciation for the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation for their support and for my mentors and peers who have cultivated my growth in research.”

Alyssa Veneri

Veneri, who is currently completing her degree at the University of San Diego, will be joining UH as a graduate student in marine biology. Working with Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology assistant research professor Elizabeth Madin, Veneri will examine the distribution of native coral and invasive algae species and determine how human-induced runoff will affect the spatial distribution of the competing species.

“Preserving native ecosystems through conservation research and restoration has always been the most important part of pursuing my degree,” said Veneri. “Attending the Marine Biology Graduate Program with the help of the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation Graduate Assistantship will allow me to combine my undergraduate environmental and ocean sciences degree with my love and responsibility for Hawaiʻi ecosystems.”

This program is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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