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The welfare of the monk seals is always our top priority and no scientific study is ever undertaken without careful planning and appropriate oversight. You can learn more about the assessment process behind this study in our Research Blog Entry.
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A picture is worth a thousand words...but video

can transform perceptions.

This is the goal of the Hōʻike ā Maka Project: to understand and share images of the feeding and underwater behavior of Hawaiian monk seals, and lay to rest many of the myths and misconceptions regarding monk seals and their impact on the local marine environment and its resources.  By working with local researchers, ocean users (fishers, divers, surfers and others), students, and NGO’s, NOAA and it’s partners plan to deploy seal-borne video cameras to study how monk seals feed and use their marine habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands.  The discoveries will be critical to understanding the seals’ ecology, ensuring their continued existence, and building a culture of coexistence between man and seal.  Please be a part of this historic partnership and vital work.


We tend to value and conserve what we know and understand.  Without a doubt, the National Geographic Crittercam was one of the most valuable scientific tool to bring to light the plight of Hawaii's unique and iconic monk seal.  The stunning footage from the seals perspective reshaped scientists’ understanding and captured the imagination of millions of people around the world.   Now, cameras will be used to help with a host of new conservation and management issues that stem from the return of monk seals to the main Hawaiian Islands. This young and growing seal population is a hopeful turn in the struggle to recover but some people worry that monk seals are devouring marine resources at an unsustainable rate or are damaging fragile coral reefs when they eat.  These perceptions, are understandable as residents of Hawaii have little experience with these recently returned seals.  Clarifying the real interactions between seals and their environment is vital to developing a shared future for humans and seals in Hawaii. Scientists hope to use footage collected from these cameras to gain insight into the ecology and behavior of these Main Hawaiian Island seals and help educate and inspire people of Hawaii and the world at large. 

This three-year project will deploy a variety of video systems for short periods of time (several days) to monitor the underwater behavior of Hawaiian monk seals. Specifically we will try to answer:

How do seals get their food in the MHI?  What habitats are important to seals?

Do young animals feed differently than adults?  Males differently than females?

What do seals eat? How often do they eat?

Do monk seals compete with fish and sharks for prey?

And many more!!

Our project will have at least two key stakeholder groups participate in the fieldwork: fishermen and Hawaii high school students. We hope to partner with fishermen to help build bridges of trust and understanding between us. By participating in the research and seeing the results firsthand, fishers can become monk seals most effective advocates. By forging a partnership with fishers, we can work to find solutions to monk seal – fisheries interactions. We also intend to include two student travel scholarships for local high school students to participate in the fieldwork and research. We hope the students will conduct analyses to participate in the 2013 Hawaii State Science Fair and future scientific publications. Through this partnership we can support the future of conservation scientists in Hawaii. Please help us build these bridges!

This project also represents an opportunity for everyone who cares about the Hawaiian monk seal to feel involved in the important scientific research. You may not be able to get out with the research teams to study these animals up close. You may not be one of the many volunteers that watch over the seals every day. But you can make a difference!! This is the first time that individuals around Hawaii, the United States, and the world can step up and say "These seals are special and this research is important" and then actually make it happen. Wherever you are in the world, become part of the Hawaiian monk seal research and conservation family by being a part of this inaugural community research project.

The Hō’ike ā Maka project wants to encourage and help develop the next generation of Hawaii’s research and conservation biologists to help understand, protect and manage Hawaii’s natural resources into the future. The team will be selecting two Hawaii high school students to come into the field and actually participate in the research and collaborate with video analysis. This is a rare opportunity for students to witness Hawaii marine mammal research and conservation firsthand.

Researchers are looking for students that have a strong interest in science and/or conservation as a future career. We hope to find students who will help analyze the video and present aspects of it for the Hawaii State Science Fair as well as co-author publications on resulting data. This is great and rare opportunity to launch an early career in science.

The Hō’ike ā Maka project is asking parents and teachers to let students know about this opportunity and encourage them to apply. Students will need to write a short essay demonstrating their interest in the project, their knowledge of monk seals, and an explanation of why this work is important. All essays must be submitted by July 22, 2012. Details are below!

Essay Requirements:

1. Length: No more than 3 double spaced pages using times new roman 12 pt font (or similar)
2. Content: There is some flexibility in the style of the essay but remember this is intended to be a scientific research project. At a minimum, the essays should touch on all of the following points:
   a. Current status of monk seals
   b. Threats to recovery
   c. Issues with seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands
   d. Importance of this project
   e. Students interest in the work and how it might benefit them in the future

Student Qualification Criteria

1. Enrolled in Hawaii High School.
2. Junior or Senior in 2012-2013 academic year.
3. Have a chaperone that can travel with them to do field work (travel costs for chaperone will be covered).
4. Interested in biology or other related science

Essays should be submitted to: Monk Seal Foundation P.O. Box 10042 Lahaina, HI 96761

Congratulations to Taylor Heckman and Gina McGuire who were selected to become student researchers on this project. Their winning essays can be found on the Research Blog!!

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