Hawai'i conservation alliance

2011 Distinguished Service Award

Robert K. Masuda, University of Hawai'i


Bob has served a diversity of public service capacities, including director of several Hawai'i YMCA programs, Deputy Director of the Hawai'i DLNR, and founder and critical visionary for Hawai'i Restoration and Conservation Initiative. He has filled diverse advisory capacities to government officials, educators and conservation groups, and currently serves on the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance Foundation board – for which he is providing both leadership and vision.

In 2007, Bob began interacting with a group of individuals who had started discussing the need for a large scale restoration and conservation program for Hawai'i. This original effort and guiding vision was narrow in scope and focused entirely on plant and animal species conservation. Bob transformed this initiative into broadly integrative effort that sought to more fully bring Native Hawaiian culture into the conservation movement. He pulled together critical partners in the Native Hawaiian community including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, EKF and DHHL. Under Bob’s guidance, these individuals initiated a series of discussions that led to the formation of the Hawai'i Restoration and Conservation Initiative, and through Bob’s efforts this group has provided state wide leadership on the integration of Native Hawaiian and western perspectives on conservation. His contributions have been tremendous, but one that stands out particularly strongly was his investment in the past year in bringing hunters, Native Hawaiians, DOFAW managers and scientists together on the Hamakua coast to discuss natural resources issues as a larger community. Again his leadership resulted in healthy, positive dialogue, tremendous progress in finding common ground and now a framework for seriously addressing conservation issues on windward Hawai'i Island.


Dr. Jim Maragos, Retired Coral Reef Biologist, Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


As the senior coral reef biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1999, Dr. Jim Maragos initiated, led, or participated in dozens of ship based expeditions to some of the most remote islands and atolls in the vast Pacific Ocean, documenting species and surveying ecosystem health. His data, over approximately 100 permanent monitoring stations at 71 atolls and islands, has begun our understanding of changes to these systems through time. Jim first established permanent coral reef monitoring plots at multiple islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, documenting for the first time the extensive endemism of corals in the Hawaiian archipelago. His species inventories, photographs, and rapid ecological assessments spurred significant interest from the scientific community and have had a multiplying effect for producing purposeful science necessary to conserve these fragile systems. His widespread scientific work, published reports, and outstanding behind-the-scenes education provided background rationale and enthusiasm which led to the extraordinary conservation achievement established by four marine national monuments (Papahānaumokuākea, Pacific Remote Islands, Rose Atoll, and Marianas Trench).

Dr. Maragos’ coral conservation accomplishments span decades. His doctoral thesis focused on assessing the impacts of sewage and other anthropogenic stresses on corals in Kaneohe Bay, Hawai'i. This research helped compel local governments remove the sewage outfalls from the bay and led to coral recovery. This seminal project is recognized as one of the first successful habitat restoration programs for coral reefs and helped introduce the necessary discipline of coral reef management to the world stage.

Jim’s career is culminated in wide recognition as the Hawai'i-central Pacific field specialist in coral taxonomy and biodiversity, compiling records, guides, and photos of corals for thousands of reefs throughout Oceania. With his extensive coral taxonomy knowledge, Jim described one new species and, with partners in the 2010 summer, helped identify at least ten other species that are likely new to science.

Dr. Maragos’ surveys documenting Pacific coral distribution and abundance informed the extinction risk assessment of 83 species of corals petitioned for Endangered Species Act listing, including 75 species reported in the U.S. Pacific. Evidence based on Jim’s collaborative work with molecular geneticists suggests that two of the petitioned taxa may represent population level variation or incipient species rather than distinct species, alternatives that have very different conservation implications.

In 2005, there were no “marine national monuments.” Because of pioneering work by Dr. Maragos and many others with whom he has worked, today, the U.S. boasts protection and management over more than 215 million tropical marine habitats acres in the Pacific that are unparalleled in biodiversity and intact ecological structure. As many reefs degrade world-wide in response to multiple anthropogenic stressors, the reefs in these four monuments provide an unparalleled scientific resource, as models of the structure and dynamics of near-pristine tropical marine ecosystems. Their biodiversity and intact trophic dynamics represent a huge investment in improving the planet’s resilience to climate change; offering an opportunity for Monument managers to better ensure their marine ecosystems endure into the future.