Friday, January 13, 2017

Marine Debris

To bring in the New Year on a positive note, staff from the Community Education Program removed a 200 lb ghost net from the Coconut Island shoreline. A ghost net  is defined as fishing gear that has been lost or discarded at sea, and can often lead to entanglement problems with marine organisms and is a form a marine pollution.  In Hawaii, there have been incidents involving entanglement of humpback whales, monk seals, sea turtles, and other marine species.

Ghost net removed from Coconut Island shoreline 
Modern fishing nets are made out of a synthetic fiber, meanings that it never breaks down, rendering it a type of persistent marine pollution, similar to plastics which are often found on Hawaii's shorelines. In order to reduce the amount of marine debris that reaches our oceans, it is important to make an effort to recycle as much as possible. It is also crucial that we reduce the amount of waste we produce.  It can be as simple as bringing reusable bags to the market, using reusable containers during lunch, or drinking from a reusable water bottle.  When visiting a beach, make sure to not leave garbage behind. You can also participate in beach clean-ups in your area!
floating buoys keep the nets at the surface of the water column, often resulting in animal entanglement

Friday, November 4, 2016

HIMB Shark Research


We are looking forward to our shark dissection tomorrow, led by scientist Mark Royer. The purpose of this dissection is to educate our volunteers about shark anatomy.  We also encourage our readers and volunteers to stay informed about the current research being conducted here at Coconut Island.  The links provided below are a great place to start. Visit each site to learn about the innovative techniques and technologies being used by the Holland research lab. 

Current Shark and Reef Fish Research

NWHI Predator Tracking. Photo by Luiz Rocha
The Holland Lab utilizes innovative tracking techniques to analyze the movements of sharks and fish.  Data from these studies can help with Marine Protected Area design as well as a host of other shark-human interactions.  Most of the research takes advantages of the laboratory's unique setting on Coconut Island, blending laboratory work with field-experiments to investigate the behavior, physiology, and ecology of sharks,

Click here to read more about the current projects being conducted through the lab, including NWHI Predator Tracking, Shark Ecotourism, Tiger Shark Swimming Behavior, and much more.

Meet the Shark Research Team

Click here to learn more about the research team.  Learn about research interests from lead scientist Kim Holland and Assistant Researcher Carl Meyer as well as the PhD candidates.

Shark Research Team Updates

Visit this page to keep updated on new research publications produced by the Holland Shark Lab.
Researchers tag more tiger sharks to track movement patterns off Maui


Videos From the Shark Lab

Video of  a sixgill shark equipped with an accelerometer and camera swims
back down to it's deep water habitat. (credit: Mark Royer, University of Hawaii)

HIMB shark study helps explain higher incidence of encounters off Maui

Shark Lab Publications

Click here to view a list of research published by the Holland Shark Lab.  
Black tip reef shark swimming at Coconut Island

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hawaiian Swimming Clam (Limaria keohea)

File clam collected during our invasive algae lab. Image by HIMB.

The Hawaiian swimming clam Limaria keohea, is one of the most unique invertebrates found in Hawaiian waters.  It can swim, it can drop its sticky tentacles like a lizard loosing its tail, and it lives in a tidy hidden nest it has made out of byssal threads.   

During our invasive algae lab, students are asked to replicate some of the methods used by DNLR's Supersucker.  This includes sorting through the algae for any animals or native algae, and separating them from the invasive gorilla ogo seaweed Gracilaria salicornia.  One of the most spectacular species found in this lab is this Hawaiian swimming clam. A type of file clam, once pulled from the water it appears as an orange gooey blob, but when it is submerged back into the water, it gets lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" as it expands and starts swimming in rhythmic, mesmerizing motions.

The swimming is achieved by opening and forcefully closing the shell valves, ejecting jet-like streams of water from the hinge area to move forward. The tentacles may assist in the swimming and certainly assist the clam as it explores its world. Take a look at the video below.

L. keohea swimming.      Video  L.Tanabe/HIMB

File clam on byssal threads among gorilla ogo seaweed. Image by HIMB
The pink/orange tentacles are also used for defense. They are sticky and can be released to attach to a predator or other threat. A study of a related Limaria clam published by the Journal of Marine Biological Association of the UK found that the mucus responsible for the sticky tentacles is also distasteful to predatory fish. Nothing like having sticky distasteful tentacles stuck to your face and mouth. We don't know for sure if our Hawaiian clams tentacles are distastful to fish, but they are certainly sticky.

The prevalence of the Hawaiian swimming clam living in the alga around Coconut Island is very peculiar. These clams didn't start appearing in our alga labs on Coconut Island until around 2010. Apparently, it was a very good recruitment (settlement) of juvenile clams that year and they have been common ever since. Published literature suggests that this species are more commonly found in old coral blocks or under rocks, which makes their occurrence in an invasive alien alga all the more interesting. They have moved into a new habitat.

In the nest.  Photo by L.Tanabe/HIMB.

As students are pulling apart the clumps of alga, they rarely notice that they are pulling apart the clam's nests. The clams make the nests from loosely spun byssal threads. These are very similar to the threads that mussels use to attach themselves to the rocks, but in this case, the keohea clams use them to reinforce the sides of a burrow or nest in which they live. One study of a related Limaria clam, indicated that the clam creates thousands of nests in and around rocks and sediment on the bottom, suggesting the clams are actually creating biogenic clam reefs! The threads are a silky strong proteinaceous material.

Life in the alga - Limaria keohea embedded in the alien invasive alga Gracilaria salicornia. Video L. Tanabe/HIMB

Like other bivalves, file clams are filter feeders.  They use a siphon to intake water as they filter out food.  This water is also used to obtain oxygen for respiration. Perhaps the invasive alien alga, in a slightly murky food filled lagoon, is proving to be an excellent habitat for at least one Hawaiian endemic animal.

Written by Lyndsey Tanabe, M. Heckman and HIMB CEP Interns.

Donovan, Deborah A., John P. Elias, and John Baldwin. "Swimming Behavior and Morphometry of the File Shell Limaria Fragilis." Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 37.1 (2004): 7-16. Web.
Eldridge, Jan. "Aquatic Invertebrate Important for Waterfowl Production." Invertebrate Natural History (1990). Web.
Gilmour,  T.H. J. "The defensive adaptations of Lima hians (Molluca, Bivalva). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 47, 209-221 (1967)
Kay, E. Alison. Hawaiian Marine Shells. Honolulu, HI: Bishop Museum, 1979. Print.
Morton, Brian. "Bivalve." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Monday, May 2, 2016

CEP: Community Education Program Interview with Casey Ching

Name: Casey Ching
Title: Kupu Americorps Intern/CEP Program Lead

What is the Community Education Program?
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology’s Community Education Program on Moku o Lo’e (Coconut Island). Its purpose is to bridge the gap between the science at HIMB and what it means for the community. The program allows the community insight and access to the facility through tours, outreach, overnight programs, labs, school programs and homeschool programs. Hands on labs and activities allow the community to get a marine biologist experience while spreading awareness about how it benefits the community.

“We really appreciate learning about the ocean. We gained a new respect for Marine Life! Mahalo!” – 7th grade class, Hawaii

“Thank you for giving us your time. In addition to marine life, I learned that you also study how humans affect the ocean. I was excited to learn about fish, animal behavior and the marine environment; I am thinking of becoming a Marine Biologist myself now!” – Alisha, Hawaii

Why should the community be excited about the Community Education Program?
The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology is an amazing place. It is the only tropical research institute  in the world where researchers are right on a coral reef. They can collect samples from the reef and run the entire genetic sequence in our state of the art facility immediately after. These are some of the best scientists and marine science on the planet. And the Community Education Program reflects this. These programs gives students and the public the opportunity to participate and understand the science our research institute. The program has an activity for everyone. Whether you are interested in learning the history of the island, seeing animals or learning how to do science.  

“Thank you so much for our incredible trip to Coconut Island. All six of us, grandparents, parents and kids – will remember the tour, the shuttle boat, sharks, sunshine and your friendliness for years to come!” – Mike, Oregon

How can a tour or activity be requested?
Through an email or phone call, inquiries about services offered can be requested.
Email:, Phone: 808 235 9302

“Wow! Yesterday at Coconut Island will definitely be high on our Oahu list of favorite memories. We were educated and highly entertained throughout the day!” - Linda

What is HIMB’s end goal with the Community Education Program?
We want to create a training pathway for our local students so that the become the next generation of marine scientists, managers and conservationists. We want the public to support them. Our Community Education Program strives to protect and maintain the surrounding eco systems, making them pristine for research while increasing interaction with the community.

“It was great seeing the children so excited and engaged outside the classroom, they loved every minute. It was perhaps the best field trip ever!” – Beth and Students, Hawaii

What is a favorite memory for you?
It is every time I see a face light up when a connection between local eco systems and the science behind it is made. The excitement that comes from the experiments during plankton labs, where students see the microscopic creatures close up is very rewarding. Also, being so close the eco systems provides opportunity to learn something new each day.

“A wish can be very powerful for a child who is facing a life threatening medical condition. It is a positive, uplifting experience and its benefits extend far beyond the wish itself. Thanks to your support, we were able to provide Annie and her family with memories that will last a life time. We truly appreciate your support to grant the wishes of as many eligible children in Hawaii as possible. Mahalo!” – Stephanie  

Interviewed by Miranda Chilelli

Thursday, April 21, 2016


I know folks don’t always to the HIMB Website ( ), but when you do, check out the “News at HIMB” section. Recently our own Dr. Mary Hagedorn was featured. See the article at: on freezing corals for the future. 


Interveiw with Adam! Graduate Researcher & Student Resident on Coconut Island

Meet Adam, he is a graduate researcher and student resident here on Coconut Island with the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology. His main area of focus is marine mammal’s use of sound, their hearing capabilities and bio sonar. 

Adam | Graduate Researcher & Student Resident

According to Adam, “Bio Sonar is the emission of an acoustic signal and the reception of the signal echoing off an object in the environment. The animals use that echo to visualize their surroundings; kind of like seeing with sound.” 
He focuses on the Risso’s Dolphin; they can be found all over the world in tropical oceans, including Hawai'i.  The Risso’s dolphin is unique because it has a crease on its forehead. It’s the only species that has this feature; Adam strives to research how this crease could affect its acoustics. Often, when characteristics evolve on the head of a marine mammal, it relates to some unique feature or ability specific to the creature

Why should the community be excited about your research?
Adam’s research will aid conservation and technology! 

“The noise we create affects the ocean mammals. Humans don’t understand if too much noise negatively affects creatures in the ocean.” Through Adam's research we will better understand our environmental impacts

He is interested in testing untrained mammals.

“Measuring the hearing of a beached animal is a great way to get an understanding if noise could have impacted the animal’s stranding.” For example, Adam was able to travel to Philippines to measure the hearing of stranded animals. It was found that they were completely deaf; something that could have been caused by dynamite fishing. It gave locals insight into a growing problem.

His research can also aid military technology through the use of sonar. 

“Humans are nowhere near replicating the amazing capabilities these animals have, they are unmatched to anything we have today. The natural sonar of a dolphin is significantly greater than man made technology. Understanding these animals would open up a magnitude of opportunities for technology.” 

What is your end goal?
“Understanding why and how the crease evolved on the dolphin’s head would provide great insight to research. We don’t know why marine mammals evolved bio sonar. There are different reasons why certain animals have bio sonar, like bats for example, but humans have yet to fully understand marine mammal’s capabilities.”

What is your most memorable experience at Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology? 
Dolphins can see with sound essentially, and viewing their behaviors is amazing to Adam. 

“Watching the animals each day has proven how incredible these mammals’ capabilities are; and how much we still have to learn!”

Interviewed By: Miranda Chilelli