MCC Approach

“Information, in itself, is not knowledge, nor do we become any more knowledgeable through its accumulation. Our knowledgeability consists, rather, in the capacity to situate such information, and understand its meaning within the context of direct perceptual engagements with our environments” (Ingold 2011: 21).

“Rooting the process of adaptation in communities allows important communal practices… to be identified and used to facilitate change from within, rather than attempting to force change from without” (Ensor and Berger 2009: 231).

“Social inclusion will result in more socially sustainable processes, yielding collectively higher levels of societal well-being” (Dujon et al. 2013: 2).

The Socio-Ecological Setting of Hawaiʻi Island

Maunakea from Hilo Bay with layer of cloud in the middle showing the peak popping through the cloud layer at sunset.
Sunset at Waiʻuli. Photo Credit: Scott Laursen

From mauka to makai (mountain summit to the sea) Hawaiʻi Island features diverse climates that drive an equally rare diversity of ecosystems. It is, therefore, host to many complex shifts resulting from climate change. Yet after centuries of socio-ecological change, this island has remained resilient due to human adaptation and cultural innovation. This makes Hawaiʻi Island a revealing place to build upon our understanding of contemporary climate shifts while strengthening long standing adaptation capacities to change.

Hawaiʻi Island encompasses 4,024 square miles in the Central Pacific and rises from sea level to nearly 14,000 ft in elevation with five volcanic mountains (see map below). Tradewinds alongside rainfall and clouds generated by the mountainous topography

Fishpond with lava rock in forefront and coastal forest in background.
Honuʻapo, Kaʻū. Loko iʻa (traditional Hawaiian fishponds) have been essentiall for Hawaiian cultural perpetuation and community sustenance for centuries.. To adapt to climate change, loko iʻa managers seek to understand future changes in ground water flow, nutrient delivery, and salinity. Photo credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS

interact with a temperature inversion layer to form an island resembling a miniature continent (Juvik and Juvik 1998).

The island contains a wide-array of landscapes from barren new lava fields to lush wet forests and alpine tundra. Isolation and unique habitat diversity in close proximity fostered the evolution of the island’s remarkable biodiversity. This globally unique setting is, however, at risk to a wide array of climate change impacts.

Mirroring the ecological diversity, human communities on this rural island are highly place-based, experiencing a wide range of ecosystems and climates, embodying distinct histories of Native Hawaiian and immigrant cultures and home to a diversity of landowners and political arenas (McMillen et al. 2017). Prior to contemporary resource management systems, Native Hawaiians maintained an abundance of biological and cultural resources through the Moku System, which required a deep understanding of the structure and function of the land and seascapes. The Moku System created a mosaic  of socio-ecological systems by dividing the islands vertically to address resource management needs and horizontally to manage human population dynamics (Winter et al. 2018). This socio-ecological assemblage (human and “more-than-human” communities) elevates the island as a representative site for other locations globally that are working to be resilient and adaptive under a changing climate (Abram 1997).

Dive Deeper: Climate in the Pacific

Map of Hawaiʻi Island with parcels of land use types.
County of Hawaiʻi General Plan Land Use Pattern Allocation Guide (current as of 2012) with centroids of land managed by interviewees, site (squares) and watershed (circles) scales, by manager type on Hawaiʻi Island, Hawaiʻi. Inset showing area (63% of island acreage) managed by interviewed site- and watershed-scale managers. Data courtesy of interviewees, County of Hawaiʻi, State of Hawaiʻi Planning Office, and NOAA


As knowledge co-production becomes increasingly familiar, definitions are helpful to determine what it is and what it is not. MCC also offers these more detailed definitions to the scientific dialogue: 

Knowledge Co-production: “the process of producing usable, or actionable, science through collaboration between scientists and resource managers who use the science to make policy and management decisions” (Meadow et al. 2015:179). A more recent definition of knowledge co-production directly accounts for multiple knowledge forms and the related ideas of situated or embodied knowledge (Ingold 2011:21): “iterative and collaborative processes involving diverse types of expertise, knowledge and actors to produce context-specific knowledge and pathways towards a sustainable future” (Norström et al. 2020:183).

Knowledge Network: the collective group of natural resource managers, policy professionals, cultural practitioners, and scientists that employ the knowledge co-production process (Laursen et al. 2018).

Our Approach: Adaptation through Local Networks and Collaborative Science

The Psychology of Shifting Human Behavior

Identity and worldview is comprised of complex components that define and influence our human experience.

Research in psychology and cognitive science has made clear that humans do not always make decisions according to reasonable logic. Rather, human behavior is more profoundly based upon deeply-rooted affect emotion and experiential capacities that are driven by person-to-person and person-to-nature interactions, group norms and values, individual values, perceptions, instincts, intuitions, and related visceral factors that collectively define one’s identity or worldview (Ingold 2011; Jones et al. 2011; Kahan et al. 2012; van der Linden et al. 2015; Jones et al. 2016, Amel et al. 2017, Laursen et al. 2018).

To move beyond simply “actionable science” (the possibility of action) and engage action through science, our program is designed to build upon existing in-person professional networks locally through the process of knowledge co-production. We feel that regularly supporting person-to-person and person-to-nature relationships (i.e., situated or embodied knowledge) within local networks harnesses multiple knowledge forms and provides a platform for recognizing and supporting a wide range of participants and place-based experiences (Ingold 2011). In doing so, we can account for and directly engage the full breadth of influences that drive human behavior in our effort to build adaptive capacity through major socio-ecological shifts to develop increasingly sustainable lifestyles.

Several canoes and teams racing in ocean with support boats and helicopter surrounding.
The start of the 63rd annual Molokaʻi Hoe outrigger canoe race, October 2015. The collaborative networks and in-person experience that define the Molokaʻi Hoe are also fundamental guiding principles of our MCC program. To excel in this 40+ mile outrigger canoe race, crews must have extensive experience paddling together, instinctive awareness of one another's abilities, and collective resilience to unforgiving and ever-changing ocean conditions. Photo credit: www.808photo.me

In-Person Collaboration: research products that influence human behavior and build capacity

Participants gathered on the rim of Hāʻao spring where there is a deep rocky crevasse.
Camp attendees track freshwater flow, long utilized by human cultures in Kaʻū, from its mauka source at Hāʻao Spring (2,300 ft) to its entrance into the ocean. Photo credit: McClymont, USGS

The MCC seeks to empower cultural adaptation amid contemporary climate change impacts by building upon existing, in-person relationships and rooting research efforts within strong local manager networks that manifest trust (Winter et al. 2020). Employing knowledge co-production within our growing professional networks, shifts applied research pathways toward the creation of valuable research products that are readily utilized by managers and policy professionals on the ground. This is due to the direct involvement of resource stewards throughout the scientific process and the resulting vested interest in the collaborative products. In this manner, the MCC unites manager and researcher networks through highly collaborative research pathways and embeds the scientific process within specific biocultural land and seascapes.

Dive Deeper: 2018 publication in Environmental Management
Read More: 2019 MCC poster, 2020 case study

Abram D (1996) The spell of the sensuous: language and perception in a more than human world. Random House, Toronto

Amel E, Manning C, Scott B, Koger S (2017) Beyond the roots of human inaction: fostering collective effort toward ecosystem conservation. Science, 356(6335), 275-279.

Anderson TR, Fletcher CH, Barbee MM, Frazer LN, Romine BM (2015) Doubling of coastal erosion under rising sea level by mid-century in Hawaiʻi. Natural Hazards 78(1):75-103

Anthony KR, Kline DI, Diaz-Pulido G, Dove S, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2008) Ocean acidification causes bleaching and productivity loss in coral reef builders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(45):17442-17446

Atkinson CT, Utzurrum RB, Lapointe DA, Camp RJ, Crampton LH, Foster JT, Giambelluca TW (2014) Changing climate and the altitudinal range of avian malaria in the Hawaiian Islands–an ongoing conservation crisis on the island of Kauaʻi. Global Change Biology 20(8):2426-2436.

Camp RJ, Berkowitz SP, Brinck KW, Jacobi JD, Price J, Fortini LB (In Press) Potential impacts of projected climate change on vegetation management strategies in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. USGS Scientific Investigations Report.

Chen YR, Chu P (2014) Trends in precipitation extremes and return levels in the Hawaiian Islands under a changing climate. International Journal of Climatology 34(15):3913-3925.

Chu P-S, Chen H (2005) Interannual and interdecadal rainfall variations in the Hawaiian Islands. Journal of Climate 18:4796–4813

Fletcher CH (2013) Climate change: what the science tells us. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Fletcher CH, Romine BM, Genz AS, Barbee MM, Dyer M, Anderson TR, Lim SC, Vitousek S, Bochicchio C, Richmond BM (2012) National assessment of shoreline change: Historical shoreline change in the Hawaiian Islands. US Geological Survey Open-File Report 1051:55.

Frazier AG, Giambelluca TW (2016) Spatial trend analysis of Hawaiian rainfall from 1920 to 2012. International Journal of Climatology. DOI: 10.1002/joc.4862

Ingold T (2011) The Perception of the Environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill, 2nd edn. Routledge, London.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014) Climate Change 2014–Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Regional Aspects. Cambridge University Press, New York, New York, USA.

Jones N, Ross H, Lynam T, Perez P, Leitch A (2011) Mental models: an interdisciplinary synthesis of theory and methods. Ecology and Society 16:46. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss1/art46

Jones N, Shaw S, Ross H, Witt K, Pinner B (2016) The study of human values in understanding and managing social-ecological systems. Ecology and Society 21(1):15. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07977-210115

Juvik, S. and J. Juvik. (1998) Atlas of Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaiʻi Press, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

Kahan DM, Peters E, Wittlin M, Slovic P, Ouellette LL, Braman D, Mandel G (2012) The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nat Climate Change 2:732-735

Laursen S, Puniwai N, Genz AS, Nash SAB, Canale LK, and Ziegler-Chong S (2018) Collaboration across worldviews: managers and scientists on Hawaiʻi Island utilize knowledge coproduction to facilitate climate change adaptation. Environmental Management 62(4): 619-630

Liao W, Timm OE, Zhang C, Atkinson CT, LaPointe DA, Samuel MD (2015) Will a warmer and wetter future cause extinction of native Hawaiian forest birds? Global Change Biology 21(12):4342-4352

Marrack L, O’Grady P (2014) Predicting impacts of sea level rise for cultural and natural resources in five national park units on the island of Hawaiʻi. Technical Report No. 188. Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawaiʻi, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, USA. 40 pp.

McMillen H, Ticktin T, Springer HK (2017) The future is behind us: traditional ecological knowledge and resilience over time on Hawai ‘i Island. Regional Environmental Change 17(2): 579-592. DOI 10.1007/s10113-016-1032-1

Paxton EH, Camp RJ, Gorresen PM, Crampton LH, Leonard DL, VanderWerf EA (2016) Collapsing avian community on a Hawaiian island. Science Advances 2(9):e1600029

Reynolds MH, Courtot KN, Berkowitz P, Storlazzi CD, Moore J, Flint E (2015) Will the effects of sea-level rise create ecological traps for pacific island seabirds? PloS one 10(9):e0136773.

Rotzoll K, Fletcher CH (2012) Assessment of groundwater inundation as a consequence of sea-level rise. Nature Climate Change 3(5):477-481

Strauch AM, Mackenzie RA, Bruland GL, Tingley R, Giardina CP (2014) Climate change and land use drivers of fecal bacteria in tropical Hawaiian rivers. Journal of Environmental Quality 43(4):1475-1483

Trauernicht C, Pickett E, Giardina CP, Litton CM, Cordell S, Beavers A (2015) The contemporary scale and context of wildfire in Hawaiʻi. Pacific Science 69(4):427-444

Union of Concerned Scientists Web Page (2017) http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming (accessed January 10, 2017)

van der Linden S, Maibach E, Leiserowitz A (2015) Improving public engagement with climate change: five “best practice” insights from psychological science. Perspect Psychol Sci 10:758-763. doi: 10.1177/1745691615598516

Vitousek S, Barbee M, Fletcher C, Genz A (2010) Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Big Island of Hawai’i: coastal hazard analysis. Geologic Resources Division Report. Denver, Colorado: National Park Service, USA 66p.

Vorsino AE, Fortini LB, Amidon FA, Miller SE, Jacobi JD, Price JP, Koob GA (2014) Modeling Hawaiian ecosystem degradation due to invasive plants under current and future climates. PloS one 9(5):e95427.

Winter KB, Rii YM, Reppun FAWL, Hintzen KD, Alegado RA, Bowen BW, Bremer LL, Coffman M, Deenik JL, Donahue MJ, Falinski KA, Frank K, Franklin EC, Kurashima N, Kekuewa Lincoln N, Madin EMP, McManus MA, Nelson CE, Okano R, Olegario A, Pascua P, Oleson KLL, Price MR, Rivera MJ, Rodgers KS, Ticktin T, Sabine CL, Smith CM, Hewett A, Kaluhiwa R, Cypher M, Thomas B, Leong J-A, Kekuewa K, Tanimoto J, Kukea-Shultz K, Kawelo A, Kotubetey K, Neilson BJ, Lee TS, Toonen RJ (2020) Collaborative research to inform adaptive comanagement: a framework for the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve. Ecology and Society 25(4):15. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-11895-250415



Scott Laursen, Climate Adaptation Extension Specialist

Dr. Jim Beets, University Consortium Lead
(808) 932-7506