The 23rd annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference kicked off on Monday, with a move to Hilo this year. More than 1,200 people attended from across the isles as well as the U.S. mainland. The conference theme this year was "Hanohano Hawai‘i Kuauli: Celebrating Collaboration and Wisdom Across Hawai‘i's Ecosystems." It concludes on Thursday.
I think the move to Hilo was a great idea this year. After all, Hilo is home to the Merrie Monarch Festival as well as some of the most beautiful, precious lands and habitats for native plants and birds.
Topics covered at the conference range from a general session on birds and bats to the albizia invasion across Hawaii's physical, political and economic landscapes. There was also a session called "Connecting Culture and Science," moderated by Sam Ohu Gon.
>> The conference opened with a Kipaepae Ka Mauli Kuauli, its official opening ceremony on Monday evening. Kipaepae is translated as "stepping-stones for entering a house." Aunty Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele was the opening keynote speaker.
>> Conference attendees participated in various huaka‘i, including an excursion to one of Hawaii's largest, remaining dry forest on the slopes of Mauna Kea. The forest is home to the critically endangered palila bird. Conservationists are working to restore the forest through collaborative partnerships.
>> A special, day-long exhibition on Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Wednesday. Keynote speaker in the morning was Kamana Beamer.
>> As usual, the conference offered a Community Connections Day on Wednesday, which is open and free to the community. There were live performances by Paula Fuga and Kainani Kahaunaele, along with poster presentations, a special talk story with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kaimana Barcarse. Chefs Mark "Gooch" Noguchi and Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon also offered a collaboration dinner, along with Aloha Monday's, Moon + Turtle and Sweet Cane Cafe.
>> An IUCN workshop was held Thursday morning. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, themed "Planet at the Crossroads" is scheduled for Oahu Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. Keynote speakers were Sen. Brian Schatz (via video) and Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.