Hats off to the Hawai’i Conservation Alliance and Foundation, the sponsors, and endless volunteers that made this year’s conference a huge success. It was so fun to see conservation professionals, biocultural resource managers, scientists, students, and interested community members come together over three days and share their work. The conference was held July 18-20 at the Hawai’i Convention Center in Honolulu, but each session, forum, workshop, or poster presentation was filled with island stories of lessons learned, successes, and all sorts of collaborative projects that span both the natural landscape and the people tied to those places.
I am relatively new to this community, but I felt more at home here than I ever have before. I was blown away with the dynamic personalities of those introducing the plenary speakers and hosting the awards. Loved the inspiration & urgency spilling out of Nainoa Thompson & Ruud Kleinpaste had me in stitches giggling. Their passion, love for this planet, and ability to engage communities in new ways were near & dear to my heart. The effortless use of technology at the Poster Session and Opening Reception was like a song, but the interactive responses in forums using Slido was by far my favorite. Not only could we engage, but the data was displayed in a word cloud which validated that many of us in the room were thinking about the topics in slightly different ways. Powerful way to show that we all bring something slightly different to our work.
However, I want to take this time to acknowledge the hard work of our staff & the partners that support our work at PICCC. Our team had five sessions total, but Miss Lauren Kaiser presented two times once on a Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death panel and in a session on Biosecurity, Ka Pale Ola Pae ‘
There was also a panel of speakers talking about Climate Change specifically & Lucas Fortini spoke about one of his projects using a dendrometer and plantcam to create a real-time connection with Hawai’i’s unique and endangered plant species. This PlantCam has two goals: creating science for rare species management under changing conditions and raising public awareness. Recent analyses show many native species in Hawaii can be highly vulnerable to climatic shifts, in some cases effectively running out of suitable habitat under likely future climate scenarios. This PlantCam offers a glimpse of a Hawaii most rarely see, and that without massive conservation efforts, would continue to vanish. Listening to Lucas speak about this work so passionately was a breath of fresh air. His optimism is contagious & so great to hear him share about some of the projects he is working on. Kudos to Lucas and his team of partners for all that you do to advance our understanding!
Next, I want to highlight a future leader that stole my heart & inspired so many conservation professional over 3 days! I was approached by Robbie Bond who had asked me if I would sign his petition to protect Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. I inquisitively replied, “Can you tell me why?” Without hesitation, this bright eyed, articulate young man responded ‘because I want to help protect our parks’ and continued to relay to me the value it would bring to a variety of people. What a great spokesperson, he made a ‘monumental’ impression not just on our table, but many of the adults who attended this conference. Communication and outreach is critical on many aspects of biocultural resource management & great to see that the next generation is just as passionate about our island home!
Last, but surely not least, I wanted to highlight our Environmental Storytelling in the 21st Century: Communicating in a changing social, ecological, and technological landscape session. This session was special in many ways due to the guidance and vision of Kauwila Hanchett and Aunty Ehulani Kane from Molokai and Ka Honoa Momona, Jeff Orig with Orig Media who is helping the PICCC with 6 short Adaptation films, and Wendy Miles & myself, Peggy Foreman. We pushed the tables aside & created a circle of seats and invited everyone to come sit side by side as community. Kauwila shared an Oli filling the room with aloha and reminding us what aloha aina really means. We all shared who we were bringing into the circle with us, a reminder that our ike comes from many sources such as our ancestors or loved ones. We had the privilege to seeing Molokai Landscape Change, stories of some of the kupuna from Molokai sharing what changes they have seen over their lifetime on their island home. Afterwards people asked questions and spoke of why this film is so important to their community. We transitioned to one of Climate Adaptation films produced by Jeff Orig and his staff with Orig Media on Haha in the Waianae Mts. Kapua Kawello of the O’ahu Army Natural Resource Program speaks in this film about all of the efforts to save the seed and outplants these palms. To their surprise when they partnered with The Nature Conservancy by giving them a handful of young haha to be planted higher in elevation, in slightly cooler and wetter conditions these young plants grew. Two different stories, but with the careful collaboration and expertise of all involved we invited our participants to ask questions about any aspect of the process. To hear people engage & feel comfortable asking questions was truly what we wanted. With the guidance of Kauwila again we went around the circle a second time to share how we were feeling. Unanimously people spoke of gratitude, peace, community, aloha, inspiration and for me a deeper understanding of aloha aina. Mahalo nui loa to everyone involved and Wendy Miles for helping facilitate in a new way. It was my highlight for sure!