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March 4, 2013

Science Fair Magic on Mauna Kea 

Discussions about Mauna Kea are often couched in either pro- or anti-astronomy terms. Sometimes it takes a fresh young person like Waiakea Intermediate 7th grader Anne Nakamoto to remind us that the mountain means so much more to our community than that.


The key tenet of the 2000 Mauna Kea Master Plan was to encourage community involvement in the management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. The Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM), Mauna Kea Management Board (MKMB) and Kahu Ku Mauna were specifically charged to fulfill that role.


So, when former MKMB member Ron Terry was asked by Anne and her parents, Joel & Cindy Nakamoto, for advice on Anne's science project, he took it to heart. Ron asked OMKM's Environment Committee for suggestions. OMKM Natural Resources Program Manager Fritz Klasner and UH Manoa research entomologist Dr. Jesse Eiben stepped up and offered their help. Dr. Eiben had obtained his PhD studying the life history of Mauna Kea's wekiu bug and continues to conduct OMKM-sponsored research on Mauna Kea.


Anne Nakamoto and her winning entry

With their help, Anne crafted her project, which she titled, "Two Bees or Not Two Bees... (Pollinating Invasive Fireweed?), That is the Question." Her project compared the difference between the number of native and non-native bees visiting native mamane trees and the number of native and non-native bees visiting introduced fireweed plants on Mauna Kea. Among her conclusions were that both native hylaeus bees and non-native honey bees visit mamane more than fireweed. Anne also identified concerns over the impact of human activity on native bees, drought and bee activity on plant pollination.


On her first day working on Mauna Kea with Dr. Eiben in September 2012, Anne and her father joined the volunteer effort coordinated by Klasner to remove invasive fireweed. Serendipitously, it happened that Dr. Doug Simons, Director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, had also signed up to pull weeds that day. Moreover, Dr. Simons was also the featured speaker at the weed pull event, and began his talk by describing how his interest in science was kindled by a high school science fair project. Dr. Simons went on to describe how his project involving telescopes advanced to the Westinghouse National Science Talent Search, now the Intel Science Talent Search.

Simons High School Science Fair
Doug Simons at his high school science fair 


As it turned out, Dr. Simons' talk was wonderful motivation for a budding science fair participant. Anne's project was entered in the 2013 Hawaii District Science & Engineering Fair at 'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, where it won district awards for best in Animal Sciences Junior Research category, first place overall for the Junior Research Division, Charlie Chong Future Conservationist Award, 2nd place Outstanding Entomology/Zoology Award, and the "American Association of University Women 'Into the World of Tomorrow' Certificate of Merit." Her project advances to the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair at the Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu, April 7-9.  


Congratulations Anne!




The Office of Mauna Kea Management is charged with day-to-day management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve as prescribed in the Master Plan. The adoption of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents in June 2000 marked a critical milestone in the management of Mauna Kea.


Meetings and public hearings spanning a period of nearly two years went into the formulation of the Master Plan, which established management guidelines for the next 20 years. The Master Plan reflected the community's deeply rooted concerns over the use of Mauna Kea, including respect for Hawaiian cultural beliefs, protection of environmentally sensitive habitat, recreational use of the mountain, and astronomy research.  

It places the focus of responsibility with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH). The UH-Hilo Chancellor established the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the Board of Regents established the Mauna Kea Management Board in the fall of 2000. The Mauna Kea Management Board in turn formed Kahu Ku Mauna, a council comprised of Hawaiian cultural resource persons to serve as advisors.

mauna kea OMKM Mission

To achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of Mauna Kea Science Reserve through community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Mauna Kea while providing a world-class center dedicated to education, research and astronomy.