Impacts of climate change in loko i‘a (traditional Hawaiian fishponds) management I

A student sits in a canoe in the middle of the fishpond.
Cherie Kauahi explores the complexities of groundwater sources in the coastal environment of the loko i‘a (traditional fishpond).

Groundwater springs are fundamental to providing nutrients to coastal environments. However, these systems are challenging to understand due to the complex interactions between hydrogeologic, oceanographic, and climatologic processes. In Hawai‘i groundwater plays a significant role in the functioning and sustainability of coastal loko i‘a (fishpond), so understanding the interactions between groundwater and seawater in these environments is important to their persistence. The focus of this project is to identify how groundwater flow changes over different timescales at three loko i‘a in Keaukaha, Hawai‘i. The work will also examine the socio-ecosystems of place by soliciting information from the perspectives of various individuals who have an experience-based relationship to these loko i‘a. This research will provide fishponds managers details of groundwater flow changes through time that can be used to enhance loko i‘a practices and sustainability.

Project Collaborators

Masters Student

  • Cherie Kauahi, Graduate Student

Faculty Advisor

  • Steven “Steve” Colbert, Associate Professor of Marine Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

Committee Members

  • Noelani Puniwai, Assistant Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
  • Jene Michaud, Professor of Geology, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Kēhau Springer, Conservation International Hawaiʻi

Additional Collaborators

  • Luka Mossman, Manager, Hale o Lono Fishpond, Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation and Conservation International Hawaiʻi
  • John Burns, Lecturer/Researcher, Marine Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Jason Adolf, Associate Professor (Marine Science), Dept. of Biology, Monmouth University




Steven Colbert
Associate Professor of Marine Science, UH Hilo


Cherie Kauahi
Tropical Conservation Biology & Environmental Science
UH Hilo

Noelani Puniwai
Professor of Hawaiian Studies
UH Mānoa

Jene Michaud
Professor of Geology
UH Hilo

Kēhau Springer
Hawaiʻi Coastal Community Capacity Development Advisor
Conservation International

Luka Mossman
Kiaʻi Loko, Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation
& Fisheries Outreach Coordinator, Conservation International

John Burns
Marine Science Researcher
UH Hilo

Jason Adolf
Professor of Marine Science
Monmouth University