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Data Science to Help Revitalize Fishponds

Purple Mai’a News Release 

Three local organizations — Purple Maiʻa Foundation, Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo, and Hohonu, Inc. — are launching the Loko Iʻa and Coastal Monitoring Project that will kokua up to 30 Hawaiian Fishpond restoration groups across the state. The project engages local communities in the design process and will work with them to gather insights on the biggest barriers to fishpond restoration for food production.

Hawaii’s fishpond practitioners, coastal communities and local government will have access to real-time environmental data that will support biocultural restoration, climate change monitoring, resilience planning and mitigation. In addition to providing operational support, the sensor and data tools deployed can serve a broad audience for educational outreach and workforce development activities. The initiative will initially focus efforts across Honolulu and Maui counties on the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Oahu.

 “We are pleased to play a role in helping to empower kiaʻi loko and coastal communities with technology that can help in their work. With prior federal support, we created an educational curriculum for our keiki that teaches the importance of our fishpond practices and the role that technology plays in that; this project is an extension of that earlier work,” said Donavan Kealoha, CEO and co-founder of Purple Maiʻa.

 “Weʻre building upon an ecosystem of exciting research projects at UH Manoa, the establishment of the He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve, and local nonprofits hosting international conferences that bring together practitioners, technologists, academics, and innovators” said Brian Glazer, CEO and co-founder of Hohonu, Inc. and Associate Professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Thanks to the leadership of indigenous groups whose traditional practices have always included coastal observation and management, Hawaii is emerging as a global leader in harnessing contemporary technologies for better coastal restoration practices.” 

 With the help of modern data science tools, such as quantifying and tracking impacts of biocultural restoration activities, fishpond practitioners will further their knowledge of coastal systems and be better able to monitor accelerating effects of climate change.

 The initiative’s activities will include engaging fishponds groups and community-service organizations through an indigenous design framework to understand sensor deployment and data visualization needs; designing, developing, and deploying environmental sensors; and building a kiaʻi data dashboard with the help of Maui-based consulting firm, Natural Resource Data Solutions. 

Project funding was made possible by Congressionally directed spending championed by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz in Fiscal Year 2022, as well as support from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.


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