Two new Fellows have been selected for a program designed to produce the next wave of marine conservation leaders in Hawai‘i.
Bradley Wong and Nahaku Kalei will spend the next two years undergoing training in the Marine Conservation Fellowship Program, a joint project between The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Services Center.
Designed to increase the state’s pool of qualified local marine resource managers, the program blends training in traditional and western science-based resource management with real-life community-based conservation.
“By the end of their fellowships, Brad and Nahaku will have the necessary skills to be highly competitive in Hawaii’s conservation job market,” said Kim Hum, the Conservancy’s director of Marine Conservation. “We also expect that they will someday sit in positions of influence and be the local decision-makers who promote the sustainable management, conservation and wise use of Hawaii’s natural resources."
Kalei and Wong were among 67 applicants for the two fellowship positions. They follow in the footsteps of inaugural fellows Russell Amimoto and Marion Ano, who graduate this April.
“What separated Nakahu and Brad from the other candidates was that they had a clear idea of what their future professional goals were and how they would use their fellowships to achieve those goals,” said Sean Marrs, the Fellowship Program coordinator.
Wong is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and California State University at Long Beach, where he earned a B.S. in Marine Biology and traveled to Belize to study reef ecosystems. “Seeing the abundance of marine life in Belize made me want to return to Hawai‘i and help bring back the marine life here,” he said. “I strongly believe that community involvement is the way to bring about that change.”
In addition to being a surfer, fisherman, diver and canoe paddling coach, Wong serves as community coordinator for a wetlands restoration project at He‘eia in windward O‘ahu.
Called Māhuahua ‘Ai o Hoi, the project is using traditional Hawaiian wetland techniques, taro patches and fishponds, to minimize flooding and sedimentation of stream outflow to improve coral habitat and growth in Kāne‘ohe Bay.
“My long-term career goal is to help establish Māhuahua ‘Ai o Hoi as a modern-day ahupua‘a management project,” he said.
Kalei graduated from Waiākea High School in Hilo and earned a B.S. in Biological Engineering from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. In 2007, she sailed through the Caribbean aboard a state-of-the-art scientific vessel, conducting research on ocean sedimentation with the Sea Education Association. Returning to Hawai‘i in 2008, she studied navigation with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and in 2009 was selected as a crewmember for Hōkūle‘a’s voyage to Palmyra.
“A major part of my growth and development has centered on the ocean, and I’ve continued to keep that connection through SCUBA diving, surfing, paddling and traditional Hawaiian voyaging,” she said. “I am always most at home in the ocean.”
Like Wong, Kalei is interested in community-based conservation and wants to focus her fellowship on restoring terrestrial wetlands. “I yearn to find practical solutions to uplift my community at home,” she said. “I want to aid in managing resources in these islands through the creation and implementation of good stewardship practices and increased community awareness and education.”
By the end of the two-year training program, Wong and Kalei will be able to identify Hawaiian species of fish, coral and limu; understand human impacts on marine ecosystems; be familiar with traditional Hawaiian stewardship practices and values; and be proficient in biological survey methods, data management and analysis of coastal ecosystem health.
In addition, they will be schooled in Hawaii’s marine regulatory framework and policies; have experience in organizing and managing community–based conservation efforts; know how to communicate scientific survey results to communities, decision-makers and the media; and be certified in SCUBA diving and emergency safety protocols.
The Marine Conservation Fellowship Program is made possible by generous taxpayer support through a cooperative agreement between NOAA PSC and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.