Thursday, August 30, 2018

See you soon!

Aloha Everyone! 💥

Today is my last day here at HIMB for my internship this summer, as I will make my way back to Massachusetts and Smith College. I have had a fantastic time here over the past few months, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of our CEP team. Over my time here, I have met many wonderful people who have always been so caring, friendly and inviting to someone far from home like me! I have had the opportunity to run and help with many tours, labs, and an overnight, as well as work on a few different projects, such as creating new signage for our touch tanks and new cue cards for our walking tours. Just the other day I created a worksheet for our labs and classes that will be put into use soon. I have been out almost every day cleaning the touch tanks, one of my favorite activities here since I get to spend time with some of our lovely creatures. Overall, this has been a wonderful experience that I will look back on and cherish. But I won't be gone too long, as I plan on coming to visit this winter, and perhaps running some more tours then!

See you soon,

Ginny Svec 😄
CEP Intern

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War

Aloha everyone!

On a three-day-program with students from Beijing this past month, much of the Community Education Program team was snorkeling on the sand bar, when I had to bring one cold student back to our boat. On my way back to the other snorkelers, I got caught in the long tentacle of a Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia utriculus /pa'imalau)!

A Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War swimming in Hawaiian waters.
Its float and some of its medusae are visible,
with the longer fishing tentacle drifting further below the picture.
Photo by
Pacific Portuguese Men-of-War, otherwise known as bluebottles, belong to the phylum Cnidaria, meaning that they have a stomach and mouth, radially symmetric curved bodies which open at one end, and tentacles covered in stingers or nematocysts. These nematocysts help cnidarians to be able to eat and protect themselves. A cnidarian can either be in the form of a polyp or a medusa, where the polyp is attached to a surface with its mouth pointing upwards (i.e. an anemone or a coral) and the medusa form faces down and is free-swimming (i.e. a jellyfish). A Man-of-War is in the medusa form of a cnidarian since it faces downwards as shown on the right.

Though many people refer to these gelatinous creatures as jellyfish, they actually belong to the class Hydrozoa, unlike true jellyfishes which are as scyphozoans and cubozoans. Hydrozoa create their medusae through budding, or asexual reproduction through the creation and cleavage of a clone on the hydrozoan. Syphozoa on the other hand, use strobillation, or the spontaneous segmentation of  their bodies to be able to create their medusae, while Cubozoa polyps metamorphose to become medusae.

The Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War belongs to the order Siphonophora within the class Hydrozoa. Typically, these open-water or pelagic animals use their floats (the puffy-looking polyp above the tentacles and medusae) in order to rise and sink in the water column. They can do this by altering the amount of gas or oil within their floats, or by swimming. Unlike other hydrozoans, the Man-of-War stays at the surface, using its carbon monoxide-filled float to keep it above the water, with a crest to help it move with the wind. Though cnidarians can be either solitary or colonial, and the Man-of-War may look like one solitary animal such as a jellyfish, they are actually made up of many medusae and polyps, which bud from the original polyp (the float) as mentioned above, and attach to it to form a colony. The medusae hanging below the float can also help with propulsion through the water, and each perform specialized tasks such as digestion, fishing, and sexual reproduction via eggs and sperm. A single tentacle extends down into the water column, paralyzing or killing its prey before contracting to feed itself. Check out how these animals move in the videos linked below:

An image of a Man-of-War's float with its
long tentacles trailing behind it.
Photo by Arina Habich.
A picture of me after I got stung. You may be able to
see the red mark from the right side of my mouth across 
my upper lip, and up to where I am pointing on my cheek.
The tentacle got caught around my snorkeling mask!
Photo by me.

Since these creatures are a dark blue or even purple color, they are difficult to spot in the water, until it is too late. Your best chance of seeing one before it stings you is by looking for its float above the surface of the water. If you do happen to get stung, however, recent research by UH suggests that vinegar works well at stopping cnidae discharge which causes the stinging. Other methods of stopping stinging such as alcohols, urine, shaving cream and baking soda actually caused cnidae discharge and did not stop it from happening. This means that these methods which were previously thought to be a better method for stopping Man-of-War stings do not seem to help at all, and may actually harm you more!

After being stung, the burning for me personally lasted about an hour until it was completely gone. However, I had been touching it before I knew not to do that, and instead to rinse with salt water and vinegar. Some people and sources seem to suggest that this feeling will only last for about 20 minutes, while others say that they had pain and red marks in those areas for about a week! I suppose that everyone's pain tolerance is different, and some people may have sensitive skin or allergies as well. For me, though, the pain just felt like a very bad razor burn.

An image showing the relative size of a Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War compared to a person's foot. That thin tentacle is what wrapped around my snorkeling goggles, stinging me across the face. Even though these creatures are fairly small compared to us, their sting sure packs a punch!
Photo by

Fortunately I got stung by the Pacific Portuguese Man-of-War, which can have a float of about 1 to 2 inches in length and a long tentacle below, instead of the Atlantic version which can have a float up to a foot long, with many fishing tentacles up to 30 feet long! Though I was the only person to get stung out of our snorkeling group, some of our other staff members noticed a cloud of Men-of-War floating towards the school group on their way back to the boat after I had been stung, since it was such a windy day. It looks like this intern took one for the team!

Mahalo nui,

Ginny Svec
Our group of students snorkeling with one of our CEP staff members, Kyla. A short distance away was where all of the Men-of-War were swimming.
Photo by Leon Weaver.

Bouillon, Jean, et al. An Introduction to Hydrozoa. Publications Scientifiques Du Muséum, 2006.

Hoover, John P. Hawai'i's Sea Creatures: a Guide to Hawai'i's Marine Invertebrates. Mutual Pub., 1999.

Wilcox, Christie L., et al. “Assessing the Efficacy of First-Aid Measures in Physalia Sp. Envenomation, Using Solution- and Blood Agarose-Based Models.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 26 Apr. 2017.

Friday, July 13, 2018

New Website


A new website has recently been created for HIMB. There, you can find resources needed to learn more about us, such as our contact information, the various visiting programs that we offer as well as their costs, and more. This site is still being updated and more from the old website will be available soon, so make sure to be on the lookout for updates. This blog will still be maintained, and there is even a link for it on the new website! Click here to visit our new site.

Moku o Lo'e from a bird's-eye view. Images from HIMB blog.
Mahalo nui!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

New intern in the HIMB Community Education Program: Ginny

Aloha everyone!

Me in our office at HIMB
In Leverett, Massachusetts
with the Mt. Toby mudslide rock
formation behind me
My name is Ginny Svec and I'm a new intern here in the HIMB Community Education Program until the end of August. I'm from Westfield, Massachusetts near Springfield, and I'm going to be a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts this upcoming fall. At Smith, I'm majoring in environmental geology, minoring in marine science and policy, and considering a concentration in climate change. I have always had a love of the ocean and beaches, and in the future, I would like to pursue a career in oceanography of some sort. Since I've mainly been focusing on the geological side of things for the past few years at school, I think that this internship will be a great opportunity for me to learn more about the biology of the marine world. I'm also excited to be orienting myself a bit better with the interesting geological and anthropological histories of Moku o Lo'e, O'ahu and the Hawaiian Islands as a whole.

 I'm so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be a part of  this state-of-the-art research institute. Over the past few days of being here, I realize just how much I'm going to be learning from this experience, and I am ready and excited to do just that. I'm currently learning about the layout and history of the island, as well as the biota present in Hawai'i, and the research being performed at HIMB. Soon I will be giving tours to convey all of the interesting information that I've learned here to the public. I can't wait to start giving tours and learning as much as I can during my internship here on Moku o Lo'e!



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

SOEST Open House at UH Mānoa


Another successful Open House here in beautiful Hawai’i Nei.

 This year the Community Education Program had a very popular interactive booth with a splash pool with the theme – “Cool the Oceans!” Our table focused on how climate change is warming the oceans, how HIMB research is helping find solutions, and how the students have 5 simple ways they can help make a difference in the coming years. Once a group went through our questions and answers one brave volunteer would get to sit the SPLASH SEAT while others pulled a cord and poured cold water on their head, draining down to cool the blue ocean pool!

The 5 R’s!
1. Refuse
2. Reduce
3. Reuse
4. Recycle
     and our newly added category for HIMB

It is estimated that we are able to reach over 600 students over the two days. One student was so excited, he brought his mom back on Saturday to visit us again. Thanks to Leon, Mike C., Brenda, Joyce, Sherine, as well as our newest member Kyla for helping out!


Mahalo Nui,


Newest Member to HIMB's Community Education Program


I'm Kyla Herrmann, the new Kupu intern under the AmeriCorps organization. I have just completed my first month working here at Moku o Lo'e and am humbled and excited to have this opportunity to be at this world class research and education facility for the next year. 

Born and raised on O’ahu I wandered off to Olympia, Washington for my bachelor’s degree. After graduating from The Evergreen State College with a B.S. in Field Ecology and Biology, I returned to Oahu to pursue marine education. I spent several years as a Marine Mammal Naturalist on boats, did a stint as a Marine Microplastic Educator for Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i, and was recently the Lead Educator/Manager of the summer programs at the Honolulu Zoo. Now I have landed here at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology with open eyes and helping hands to absorb everything possible and help wherever I can. 

In the past 30 days I’ve assisted with the annual NOAA Ocean Explorer Educators Workshop, where I helped teach a NOAA Multibeam Lesson Plan, staffed the SOEST Open House, collected night plankton with a Boy Scout Troop getting their Oceanography Merit Badge on an overnight, as well as a joining the HIMB CEP volunteers for a special private behind the scenes tour of the Waikiki Aquarium. In addition, I became boat and lifeguard certified! Given this start, I can’t wait to see what the next nine months brings!

I'm stoked to see how this internship unwinds! I'm truly grateful to the HIMB Community Education Program for giving me the chance to work with all of the HIMB volunteers, staff and faculty.  

Mahalo Nui,

Friday, May 5, 2017

Marine Biologist for a day with Make-a-Wish

This week, the Community Education Program helped grant a wish for 17-year-old Destiny.  Destiny and her family traveled from Florida to visit Hawaii to fulfill her wish of being a marine biologist. Make-a-Wish Hawaii has been granting wishes to more than 12,000 children in the past three decades.

Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator
Destiny had the opportunity to visit the Holland Lab and participate in a shark feeding to some hungry hammerhead and sandbar sharks.  View the exciting video below, filmed by Mark Royer.


She enjoyed learning about different shark jaws and tracking methods used by the marine biologists at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology.

Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator

Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator

Destiny and her brother also conducted a plankton tow around Kane'ohe Bay.  The sample of plankton collected was brought to the lab where they met with our volunteer, Mike, who shared his passion for plankton and explained the importance of plankton in the food web and carbon cycle.  Next, the family was asked to draw and identify individual plankton that they saw under the microscope.  We saw a variety of species, such as copepods, fish eggs, worm larvae, zoea, and ascidians. 
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator

Destiny's visit ended with a walking tour around Moku o Lo'e, with stops at the black-tipped reef shark lagoon, educational touch tank, coral research labs, and more. 
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator
Photo by Abe McAulton, Wish Coordinator

We really enjoyed Destiny and her family's visit to Moku o Lo'e, and hope to help grant wishes to more Make-a-Wish children in the future.