Independent Research

Linking Behavioral Ecology in the Nerita Picea and the Science of Ancient Hawaiians
Patricia Cockett (Dr. Wendy A. Kuntz), STEM program, Math and Science Department, Kapi‘olani Community College, Honolulu, HI
Brief Abstract: Ancient Hawaiians studied the behavior of animals in their environment and with no written language to formally document their findings, knowledge was passed on through ‘olelo no‘eau (Hawaiian Proverbs) and ‘oli (chanting). “Kokolo no o pipipi, o kalamoe, me ‘alealea a ke alo o Kuhaimoana.” is an ‘olelo no‘eau which means pipipi, kalamoe, and alealea crept in the presence of Kuhaimoana. Pipipi, kalamoe, and ‘alealea are all shellfish and Kuhaimoana is the name of an important shark god. From the perspective of an evolutionary biologist, this Hawaiian proverb could be describing how pipipi (Nerita picea) evolved patterns of movement with the tide. Pipipi is an endemic mollusk commonly found on the rocky shores of Hawaii, and they have been observed to move with tidal flux. These movement patterns may be genetic and linked to patterns of lunar cycles, or they may be in response to changing water levels. I hypothesized that pipipi move themselves according to water level, with the lunar cycle having no effect on their relocation. To carry out these experiments a tidal tank was built to mimic the rising a falling of the tides, and pipipi were placed in an environment similar to their natural environment. The tidal tank was scheduled to rise and fall at times that opposed the natural tidal cycle they were used to. Understanding the patterns of movement in pipipi will provide insight into how this movement behavior might have evolved and the important connection between cultural observations and modern biology.

Impact of Historical Reforestation Efforts on Contemporary Forest Composition
Patra B. Foulk (Dr. Wendy Kuntz), Math an Sciences Department, Kapiolani Community College, Honolulu, HI
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Brief Abstract:
Effective watershed forest management should include thought about the impact of choices on the trajectory of native ecosystems. Trees constitute a major component of any forest habitat, and the absence of native species to fill this role can affect the composition of the understory. A century ago, Oahu was heavily deforested, and restoration efforts at the time used a variety of non-native species. This project explores the impact of the historical use of non-native trees in watershed reforestation efforts on the proportion of native to introduced plant species in the understory. To address this question, we are examining forested locations along ridgelines in the southern Ko`olau Range, including locations in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve. The model will also include data on topography, temperature, precipitation, and past reforestation efforts in those areas. Conservation implications include use of this data as a reference point for future restoration efforts in Hawaii, and for the integration of conservation ecology into watershed management planning and action on a broader scale.

Virulence of Hawaiian Campylobacter Strains
Thomas Jessie Aldan and Hoang-Yen X. Nguyen (Dr. John M. Berestecky), Math and Science Department, Kapi‘olani Community College, Honolulu, HI
Brief Abstract: Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. Within the United States, Hawaii has the highest rate of infection in the nation at 81 cases per 100,000. The exact mechanism of how Campylobacter causes diarrheal disease is unknown, although the prevailing hypothesis is that the organisms invade the intestinal epithelial cells as part of the disease process and that the intestinal environment somehow activates bacterial virulence. We used HeLa cells in tissue culture as a model system to investigate the interaction between these bacteria and human cells. We studied the attachment and invasion of a number of Campylobacter strains that were isolated from local disease cases in which disease severity was documented and we compared these to ‘wild’ strains isolated from chicken carcasses, the most common source of Campylobacter infection.

Behavior of the Hawaiian Coot (Fulica Alai)
Jason P. Alstad (Dr. Wendy A. Kuntz), STEM program, Math and Science Department, Kapi‘olani Community College, Honolulu, HI
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Brief Abstract:
While Hawaii has the highest endemism in the United States, it also has the most extinct and endangered species. The wetland ecosystems in Hawaii are particularly vulnerable and have experienced a 30% loss in habitat due to urbanization and invasive species. The endemic Hawaiian Coot (Fulica alai), has survived these threats and occupies the reduced and altered coastal wetland ecosystem on all seven of the main islands. This endangered waterbird is one of only four extant native wetland bird species. While this species is conspicuous, its behavior remains understudied, with basic territorial displays and parental behavior yet to be fully described. This study focuses on how individuals allocate time and energy to various behaviors including foraging, incubation, parental care, territorial behavior and mate selection. The Hawaiian Coot is known to be a highly territorial species with breeding pairs aggressively defending territories. Methods include a comparative time budget analysis using focal and scan sampling at various wetland habitats. Conservation implications include an improved understanding of how habitat condition affects how Hawaiian Coots allocate their time to various behaviors necessary for survival.

The Life Sustaining Parameters of an Ancient Hawaiian Fish Pond
John Reilly and Youngsu Kwon (Dr. Kathleen Ogata) Department of Math and Sciences, Kapiolani Community College, Honolulu, HI
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Brief Abstract:
An ancient fishpond, Waikalua Loko, was built by ancient Hawaiians, who are recognized as being the first to ever farm fish and aquatic vegetation in the known history of the world. Approximately 400 years ago the Hawaiians planned for this pond to be fed from two fresh water streams and open into the ocean bay for a manmade marsh, providing a habitat in which fish from two environments may be farmed and harvested. Modern times and needs of the community had diverted these streams into the bay, decimating this source life that had once provided for the ancient peoples of this same land. The purpose of the research was to collect data and determine the quality of the water’s life-sustaining properties and compare our data with data that was collected ten years ago.