Kāpili Summer 2018 Newsletter



Dr. Brian Taylor, Dean of SOEST

Dr. Brian Taylor

Letter from
the Dean

Next month the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology turns 30. So much has happened for the School and for the University in fulfilling the vision of UH President Emeritus Al Simone (whom you can read about later in this newsletter). Since its founding in 1988, SOEST has become one of the top Earth and Environmental Science schools in the world; made critical advancements in ocean and planetary exploration; has become an influential advisor to government and industry in matters of energy, climate change and natural hazards; and has graduated over two thousand scientists with jobs that are changing the way we live and thrive on this planet.

In the last decade alone we have been entrusted with $1 billion in research funding. We now have over 1,000 employees, including ~3 times as many PhDs as our 130 tenured faculty. Our people (faculty, staff and students) are our most important assets and we have some remarkable ones, including four members of the National Academy of Sciences, and other recipients of some of the highest international awards in their fields. Along the way, we added new degrees at both the undergraduate (Global Environmental Sciences) and graduate (Marine Biology) levels. We created new units, including the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography, Research and Education and the International Pacific Research Center, and others have joined us, such as the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. Major new facilities include the POST building and C-MORE Hale, the R/V Kilo Moana and 6-km ROV Lu‘ukai, the new marine center at Pier 35 in Honolulu Harbor, the solid-fuel rocket launch pad at PMRF, the ongoing renovations and infrastructure upgrades at HIMB on Coconut Island, and multi-million-dollar shared-use analytical facilities too numerous to list.

Thank you for all the support you have given to SOEST and its constituent units over the years. You have helped us become a world-leader in ocean and earth science and technology, and a major resource for the Hawaiian Islands that are our home, and we are deeply grateful for your partnership.

Mahalo and best wishes,

Brian Taylor, PhD
Dean of SOEST

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Jana Light in front of SOEST’s Pisces V manned submarine on the Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa.

Jana Light in front of SOEST’s Pisces V manned submersible on the Ka‘imikai-O-Kanaloa.

Letter from
the Fundraiser

This year we celebrate SOEST’s 30th anniversary, and celebrate the incredible accomplishments it has made since 1988. Thank you for all you do and have done to help SOEST reach this important milestone, not just as an important piece of how the University of Hawai‘i as a whole is serving the community and expanding our knowledge of this fascinating tropical and marine environment in which we find ourselves, but as one of the top earth and environmental schools in the entire world. For today, I hope you enjoy reading about the man whose vision started SOEST, as well as stories of the wonderful donors who have made an impact on SOEST programs, research, and students this past year. Here’s to the next 30!


Jana Light
Associate Director of Development — SOEST
University of Hawai‘i Foundation

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UH President Emeritus Albert J. Simone.

UH President Emeritus Albert J. Simone.

Kāpili Spotlight on: Dr. Albert J. Simone

President Emeritus, University of Hawai‘i System

When Dr. Albert J. Simone became President of the University of Hawai‘i system in 1984, he got right to work instituting changes. One of the biggest changes was finding a way to unite and strengthen the university’s excellences in marine sciences, with work being done across numerous departments that he felt were too siloed and in danger of working at cross-purposes.

Simone assembled the heads of many UH research institutes and departments to start a task force, led by Dr. Lorenz Magaard, and charged them with putting together a proposal. He said if they could work together and conceive a new school to house these marine programs, he would get the new school a new building and additional funding, and he would work with them on a national/international search to recruit the absolutely best scholar-leader to head the new school. Within a few months, the task force had created what would eventually become the new School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

“SOEST is the program I’m most proud of,” says Simone. “I had many wonderful opportunities as President of UH, but none was so fulfilling as making SOEST a reality.”

Simone had other notable experiences while serving as the President of UH. He came to UH when the East was just starting to open up to the West. During his tenure he traveled extensively to Asia and was the first US university president to visit countries and cities such as Vietnam, North Korea, South Korea, and Vladivostok.

He also remembers dedicating the W.M. Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in 1991, advancing UH’s astronomy program and research. It snowed during the dedication, and Simone remembers being bundled up in his Boston outerwear while everyone else shivered in island wear. “You can find snow in Hawai‘i,” Simone says, “you just have to look for it.”

Simone grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics from Tufts University and his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After getting his PhD, he taught full-time at Boston College while also lecturing at MIT, Harvard, Tufts University, Northeastern University, and Boston University. Simone was hired as dean of the College of Business Administration at University of Cincinnati in 1972 and lived there for 15 years. It wasn’t until he went to a conference in Hawai‘i in 1982 that the University of Hawai‘i came on his radar, and after an extended vacation the whole family fell in love with the islands. Simone applied for and was hired as Vice President for Academic Affairs and moved to Hawai‘i in 1983. Shortly thereafter he was hired into the presidency and worked in that office for a little over 10 years. In 1992 he was hired as President of the Rochester Technical Institute, where he worked until he retired in 2007.

Simone and his wife, Carolie, have been married over 50 years. They have four children and several grandchildren who live all over the mainland U.S. Simone and his wife are still in contact with people they met while living in Hawai‘i, both in the community and at the university.

“Our time in Hawai‘i was the best, most formative, influential 10 years of our lives,” says Simone. “There were some bumps in the road, and it was hard at times, but I have an overwhelming fondness for Hawai‘i, UH, and SOEST.”

Simone and his wife live in Penn Yan, New York, and love seeing their children and grandchildren whenever they get a chance.

If you would like to make a gift to support SOEST in honor of Dr. Albert Simone and his legacy, please visit the SOEST Enrichment Fund giving page.

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Marilyn and DB Dunlap in front of a sunbathing Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Marilyn and DB Dunlap in front of a sunbathing Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Cementing an “Impressive Legacy”: Marilyn and DB Dunlap

Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Marilyn Dunlap, associate director of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) and director of the Biological Electron Microscope Facility, has donated $45,000 to the University of Hawai‘i Foundation to create a new fund supporting Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi) research at the University of Hawai‘i’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) in honor of her late husband, DB Dunlap, and his tireless work researching and protecting Hawaiian Monk Seals on O‘ahu.

The DB and Marilyn Dunlap Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Fund will support monk seal research at the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) at SOEST, particularly in its collaborative monk seal work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Marilyn made the gift in the same spirit as DB approached his work.

“When DB saw his first Hawai‘i monk seal and realized the need for community involvement, protecting and preserving them became his passion,” said Marilyn. “He never did anything in moderation. He did everything full-tilt. He saw a need and rather than expecting someone else to do it, he jumped in.”

Danny Brooks (known to friends as “DB”) Dunlap saw his first monk seal on Sandy Beach in 2001. Soon thereafter he was spending every day searching Oahu’s coastlines or peering at Rabbit Island from Makai Pier, gathering the voluminous details of Hawaiian Monk Seal behavior that now form a core of knowledge about local Monk Seal ethology. DB was able to identify individual animals, all of whom were affectionately named, by both sight and the particular ways they moved. He also responded to monk seal sightings and beachings all over the island, to both observe and protect the seals. From 2003 – 2017, he recorded almost 20,000 monk seal sightings on O‘ahu, sending his daily reports and data to NOAA.

“When I started with NOAA’s monk seal work 15 years ago, DB was already part of the infrastructure,” said Charles Littnan, director of NOAA’s Protected Species Division. “He was a valuable unofficial partner with us and inspired the formation of the monk seal conservation community across the island. It wasn’t his job, it was a mission. He was a great advocate for the species.”

JIMAR director and SOEST oceanography professor Doug Luther concurs.

“DB Dunlap’s accomplishments in advancing the study of monk seal behavior in Hawai‘i would be considered an impressive legacy if he were a trained naturalist,” says Luther. “The fact that he accomplished what he did with essentially self-training, and the fact that his efforts have galvanized a whole legion of citizen naturalists who are expanding upon his work, raises his legacy to a singular level. And it was wonderful to see DB and Marilyn working together to pursue this great passion of DB.”

Marilyn Dunlap has been with UH Mānoa for almost 50 years; she started as a graduate student in Zoology in 1968. Perhaps knowing the unique challenges of funding in the sciences, Marilyn wanted her gift to be broadly flexible to allow JIMAR to use the funds according to the specific needs and opportunities of monk seal efforts each year.

“I want to support efforts to protect and preserve the species,” she said, “and to honor DB and support the university. I’m hopeful the gift will allow JIMAR and NOAA to do the work not supported by federal funding, and to continue to educate people about the seals and their value to the environment.”

“This is the kind of gift we dream of,” said Luther. “Individuals are making bigger-than-ever impacts in the sciences with their giving, and JIMAR is very grateful to Marilyn Dunlap for her donation to support ongoing monk seal research that is crucial for ensuring the survival of these superb animals.”

A large group of people from JIMAR, SOEST, the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, NOAA, and O‘ahu Hawaiian Monk Seal community groups gathered at Makai Pier on February 8 to celebrate Marilyn’s gift agreement signing and remember DB’s life and work.

“This gift and the gift agreement signing are both a testament to Marilyn and DB,” said Littnan. “They both epitomize the best of what we can hope for in concerned, motivated citizens and in folks supporting conservation work in Hawai‘i. We are thrilled to be able to continue the good work DB and Marilyn started and are thrilled to see Marilyn’s gift to UH supporting this important work.”

Marilyn’s gift is the first private gift to JIMAR and the only fund at SOEST dedicated to supporting research of Hawaiian Monk Seals.

If you would like to make a gift in memory of DB and his advocacy for Hawaiian Monk Seals, please visit the DB and Marilyn Dunlap giving page.

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Ed and Stephanie and their children at their gift agreement signing.

Ed and Stephanie and their children at their gift agreement signing.

Life, Liberty, Happiness, and the Pursuit of Education: Ed and Stephanie Laws

Global Environmental Science

On December 27, 2017, Dr. Edward A. and Mrs. Stephanie S.L. Laws established the Global Environmental Science Endowed Scholarship to support undergraduate students in the Global Environmental Science program (GES) in the Department of Oceanography. Their gift will provide standout GES students with tuition support, allowing them to focus on their studies, be rewarded for excellent work, and be able to take advantage of more research opportunities for their senior projects.

While they make annual donations to build up the endowment, Ed and Stephanie decided to fund an annual scholarship so that students can start receiving aid immediately. Providing avenues of support for students is and has always been a priority for Ed during his time in higher education.

“It’s all about opportunity,” he says. “If we don’t give someone an opportunity, nothing is going to happen. The Founding Fathers didn’t say we were entitled to education, but how can we pursue happiness in this day and age without education? Stephanie and I wanted to provide an opportunity to students who need financial support and are excited to study in the GES program.”

The first scholarship recipient, Noah Howins, is a junior in GES. Currently he is working with Chris Sabine in the Department of Oceanography and plans to pursue graduate studies and coral reef research once he graduates. He had an opportunity to meet Stephanie Laws in person at the Spring 2018 GES Symposium.

“The scholarship has already allowed me to focus more on my studies and to becoming the best scientist and person I can be,” says Noah. “It was really rewarding to see Stephanie’s excitement as I described the projects and volunteer opportunities I’m involved in. I hope I make both Ed and Stephanie proud.”

After spending 30 years as a faculty member in the Department of Oceanography at SOEST, Ed is now a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). In addition to his work at LSU, Ed works with two universities in China to help their scientists refine English in the papers they are trying to get published in American journals. Because researchers in China have limited access to the premiere journals, he also helps them improve their science by giving them information on the newest findings.

Stephanie works for the City and County of Honolulu and is also active in the community, serving as member of ARCS Honolulu.

Ed and Stephanie are looking forward to retiring in Hawai‘i, and Ed is hoping to find a little office space on the UH Mānoa campus in which to write books. In the meantime, they are happy to see their scholarship already supporting students at GES.

“It doesn’t take that much to make a difference,” says Ed. “I hope more people start contributing to scholarships at SOEST, as it makes a big difference in the opportunities available to students.”

If you would like to make a gift to support Global Environmental Science, please visit the GES Scholarship giving page.

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Father Theodore Vierra in Hawai‘i.

Father Theodore Vierra in Hawai‘i.

The Impact of Consistency: Father Theodore Vierra

Geology & Geophysics

It may seem an odd transition, going from geology to theology. But Fr. Theodore Vierra thinks the two fields make a natural fit.

“When it comes down to it, it seems that there are different perspectives of looking at the world,” he says. “I’m fascinated by reality, every aspect of reality. Everything is so mysterious – there are so many fascinating questions for science and for theology. All reality is interconnected somehow and we’re here to discover it, through science, theology, the humanities, all of it.”

Growing up in Hawai‘i and around the active volcanoes on the Big Island, Fr. Vierra’s fascination with reality led him to the field of geology. He started his geology studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa back in its formative years.

“I was there at the beginning, before it was even a department!” he says. “The time I had with Harold Palmer was very special.”

Fr. Vierra eventually left Hawai‘i to finish his studies at UCLA and graduated with his geology degree in 1953. During his senior year, he discovered his passion for theology and ministry and decided to enter the priesthood, ordained into the Catholic Church in 1960. He served with the Paulist Fathers in several parishes and campus ministries on the mainland and in Canada, at UC Berkeley and at UCLA for over 30 years, retiring from active ministry in 1998. Throughout his ministerial career, he never lost his passion for science.

“I’m really in awe of true scientists because they have to examine the world as precisely as they can with the instrumentation we’ve developed, report their results honestly and humbly, just as it is, and use their findings to develop theories to try to explain reality. I am in awe of these people who dedicate their lives in search of knowledge and truth.”

Supporting all those who seek to uncover the mysteries of our universe, Fr. Vierra has been an annual donor to the Department of Geology & Geophysics since 1974. These yearly, consistent donations make a big difference to the health and strength of the department.

“I don’t think many people realize just how important consistent, annual gifts are to our department,” says Dr. Paul Wessel, Chair of the Department of Geology & Geophysics. “Those gifts give us resources to address the unique needs and opportunities each year brings. This year we were able to offset the cost of our field trips both on and off island; the latter is an expensive undertaking for us. Such critical activities would exceed our students’ budgets if it were not for gifts like those from Fr. Vierra. We are grateful for his consistent generosity and support over all these years.”

This past June, Fr. Vierra had a chance to visit the Department of Geology & Geophysics and got a sense of what it has become since his time here.

“It was wonderful to see how the department has grown since I was there,” he says. “I am grateful for all Hawai‘i has given me and am happy to be able to support the department.

If you would like to make a gift to support the Department, please visit the Department of Geology & Geophysics giving page.

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Image of two Atmospheric Sciences undergraduate students in caps and gowns

Two Atmospheric Sciences undergraduate students celebrate their graduation.

The Next Generation of Scientists and Conservationists

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

Congratulations to the SOEST undergraduate and graduate classes of Spring 2018! This year’s graduates have crossed the globe to study environments are far away as Antarctica; gotten their hands dirty with the waters, volcanoes, and soil of the Hawaiian Islands; and come out with a unique skill and experience set that will help them pursue careers, further academic study, and in general find ways to be good stewards of our changing planet.

Here is a sampling of some of the projects from our undergraduate class and the way they are already making an impact:

  • Development of a new sensor to monitor wind fluctuations
  • Analysis of bacterial interactions in the Ala Wai Canal
  • Studies of coral reefs around islands like Baker, Howland, and the Wake Atoll
  • Analysis of the effects of sea level rise across Hawai‘i
  • Development of irrigation and soil water retention best practices for local farms

Congratulations to the SOEST graduating class for all their hard work! We also offer a special mahalo nui loa to all the donors who supported the scholarships and fellowships that helped make SOEST students’ success possible.

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