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Empowering Science with Hawaiian Knowledge: Reflections on the 2018 Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference

I had the privilege of participating in a transformative session at the 25th annual Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference. This session, titled "Aʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau ho ʻokahi: Advancing modern science with Hawaiian knowledge," was a remarkable journey into the fusion of modern science and ancient Hawaiian wisdom.


Conceived and organized by passionate ʻIke Wai students and post-docs, this session aimed to bridge the gap between traditional Hawaiian knowledge and contemporary science, with a focus on water sustainability—a core mission of the ʻIke Wai project. ʻIke Wai, meaning "knowledge" and "water," is a National Science Foundation-funded project dedicated to Hawaiʻi's water future. Comprising a diverse team of researchers, students, and educators, ʻIke Wai emphasizes culturally relevant problem-solving and community engagement.


Our session showcased the positive impact of professional development on students' growth, collaboration, and sense of responsibility. I joined fellow speakers who emphasized the significance of traditional Hawaiian knowledge and place-based learning in shaping modern science and public policy.


In my talk, I shared the fascinating story of Meheanu, illustrating the microbial nitrogen cycle in Heʻeia fishpond and using dance videos to engage the public in scientific wonders. It was a powerful demonstration of how storytelling can bridge science and culture seamlessly. Graduate assistants Uʻilani Au, Paige Miki Okamura, and Kilika Bennett discussed the untapped knowledge within Hawaiian language newspapers, shedding light on historical weather events, climate patterns, water science, and sustainable stewardship. Okamura's revelation of detailed information about a previously unknown 1871 hurricane and its impact on hurricane policy underscored the foresight of our kupuna in preserving traditional knowledge.This session highlighted the transformative power of these newspapers as repositories of traditional knowledge.


This session celebrated our journey to protect and preserve our land, culture, and knowledge and is a testament to the enduring power of knowledge, culture, and collaboration in advancing science for a sustainable future.

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