Hawaiʻi Wai Ola Citizen Science Program Launches

Hawaiʻi Wai Ola Citizen Science Program Launches


‘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 Hawaii Hilo students and alumni test water quality in Puako, Hawaii 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 management group (called a Hui in Hawaiian) comprised of eight 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 include: 

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

CORAL’s citizen science program on Hawaiʻi island was formed as part of the Clean Water for Reefs Puakō project, to monitor the Puakō reef during the transition away from cesspools to cleaner alternatives. In 2016, CORAL expanded the program by partnering with TNC to create a monitoring plan that would track metrics like water quality and coral reef health.

Since 2018, CORAL has trained citizen scientists in Puakō to conduct monthly water quality sampling of six sites along the South Kohala shore. Research has shown that data collected by citizen scientists can be as high-quality as if collected by scientists. Our citizen science group collects data on metrics like temperature, bacteria (Enterococcus) and nutrients; information which is critical to understanding ocean health for the benefit of Hawaiʻi’s residents, visitors and ecosystems.

Water quality testing in Puako, Hawaii

Researchers collect samples to test water quality.

Now, thanks to the establishment of the Hawaiʻi Wai Ola, monthly water quality monitoring is now expanding across Hawaiʻi Island, with ten new sites being monitored across Kona and Hilo. This expanded dataset will be provided to the State Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH) database and made publicly available on the Hawaiʻi Wai Ola website. Producing high quality, open-source data that is collected through rigorous science and observation empowers people to make a difference for their island community.

We encourage you to explore Hawaiʻi Wai Ola’s new website. If you’re based in Hawaiʻi, please consider joining our citizen science team on Hawaiʻi Island or our monthly volunteer program in Maui!


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