Hawaiʻi Wai Ola Citizen Science Program Launches

University of Hawaii Hilo students and alumni test water quality in Puako, Hawaii for the Department of Health

‘A`ohe hua o ka mai`a i ka lā ho’okaāhi — When a task is done together, no task is too big.”

University of Hawaii Hilo students and alumni test water quality in Puako, Hawaii for the Department of Health
University of Hawaiʻi – Hilo (UHH) students and alumni test water quality in Puakō, Hawaiʻi for the Department of Health

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and partners are excited to announce the launch of the Hawaiʻi Wai Ola citizen science program. Hawaiʻi Wai Ola is a collaborative group (called a Hui in Hawaiian) comprised of ten organizations, which aims to improve Hawaiʻi Island’s coastal water quality through science, communication and collaboration to accelerate positive change. Hawaiʻi Wai Ola’s diverse set of members includes:

  • Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
  • Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR)
  • Kahalu’u Bay Education Center
  • Natural Energy Lab of Hawaiʻi Authority (NELHA)
  • South Kohala Coastal Partnership
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • The Kohala Center- Kahalu’u Bay Education Center
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • University of Hawaiʻi Hilo (UHH) Analytical Lab
  • Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands

Hawaiʻi Wai Ola is harnessing the power of citizen science to provide a more comprehensive and timely understanding of Hawaii’s water quality, and thus, quality of life.

Citizen science groups are becoming increasingly prevalent across Hawaiʻi, as government and community groups recognize their many benefits. Citizen scientists provide a cost-effective solution for increasing the amount of high-quality rigorous data that researchers are able to collect. Citizen science also increases public awareness and empowers people to make a difference for their island community.

Water quality testing in Puako, Hawaii
Researchers collect samples to test water quality.

CORAL has been proudly leading its own citizen science program on Hawaiʻi Island. In 2017, CORAL began training citizen scientists in Puakō to conduct monthly water quality sampling of six sites along the South Kohala shore, as part of a broader plan to monitor the Puakō reef before, during, and after the transition away from cesspools to cleaner alternatives (learn more about our Clean Water for Reefs Puakō project here). Our citizen science group collects data on metrics like temperature, bacteria (e.g. Enterococcus) and nutrients; information which is critical to understanding ocean health for the benefit of Hawaiʻi’s residents, visitors and ecosystems.

Now, thanks to the establishment of the Hawaiʻi Wai Ola, much-needed water quality monitoring is now expanding across Hawaiʻi Island. Data collected will be provided to the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH), filling critical gaps in their database. Data will also be made publicly available on the Hawaiʻi Wai Ola website, which we encourage you to explore.

If you’re based in Hawaiʻi, please consider joining the new citizen science team on Hawaiʻi Island or our monthly volunteer program in Maui!

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