Author Archive

Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo

April 18th, 2014
By



mauka-to-makai_620

The seventh annual Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at Waikiki Aquarium.

The free family event offers a live rain garden demonstration by Hui o Ko‘olaupoko, surgeonfish feeding, educational booths and native Hawaiian plants giveaway by the Hawaiian Electric Co. Hui O Ko‘olaupoko will be unveiling a 150-square-foot rain garden designed to capture roof runoff from the Diamond Head side of the main building and infiltrate water into an area vegetated with natural plants.

This year's expo focuses on our impact on water sources — from mauka to makai.

Enjoy keiki arts and crafts, along with educational exhibits. Free parking and shuttles available at Waikiki Elementary School beginning at 8:45 a.m. Admission is free.

The unveiling of the Waikiki Aquarium's rain garden happens tomorrow (Saturday, April 19) at the Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo. Photo courtesy Hui o Ko‘olaupoko.

The unveiling of the Waikiki Aquarium's rain garden happens tomorrow (Saturday, April 19) at the Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo. Photo courtesy Hui o Ko‘olaupoko.

Also, there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved hands-on with the ‘aina Saturday at Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's Earth Day Cleanup*Mauka*Makai.

Meet at Kualoa Ranch at 8:30 a.m. to participate in beach cleanups from Kahuku Beach and golf course to Laie Beach. Community service projects include invasive species removal, fishpond restoration and native plantings with partners Papahana Kualoa, Kako‘o Oiwi, Hui o Ko‘olaupoko and Paepae o He‘eia.

Afterwards, enjoy a free festival from noon to 3 p.m. with food vendors, educational booths, keiki activities and prize giveaways. Enjoy live music from the Late Ones and Dread Ashanti. Free T-shirts for the first 1,000 volunteers provided by sponsors Hurley and Hawaiian Electric. All are welcome.

On Earth Day, April 22, join the Surfrider Foundation 9 a.m. at Maui County Council chambers to show your support for Bill 24, which would ban smoking products on Maui County beaches and parks. An Earth Day event will follow. Visit maui.surfrider.org to learn more. Or join the Blue Planet Foundation and Hawaii's youth at the state Capitol on Oahu from 10 a.m. to noon for a clean energy rally.

earthdayrally2014-webflyer

For a schedule of Earth Month events, click on this former blog post.

 

A plastic Easter

April 14th, 2014
By



When did Easter become so plastic? Typical store aisle of Easter goodies. Photo by Nina Wu.

When did Easter become so plastic? Typical store aisle of Easter goodies. Photo by Nina Wu.

While wandering the aisles of the store the other day, with shelves full of Easter goodies, it struck me that most of the offerings are now, plastic.

Plastic Easter egg shells, plastic cellophane filler grass, plastic-packaged chocolate Easter bunnies and candies, plastic toys and sometimes, even plastic Easter baskets. When did Easter become so plastic?

Sure, I can see how plastic egg shells come in handy for an Easter egg hunt. Unlike real, boiled eggs, they won't spoil.

But having watched "Bag It The Movie: Is Your Life Too Plastic?' and Plastic Paradise and seeing images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I know I'm also trying to get away from so many plastics.

Easter egg shells would, in my book, fall under the classification of single-use plastics because they're intended to be used once, then thrown away after the hunt is done. Sure, you can reuse them. But do you have a three-year-old? Chances are after he or she plays with the plastic eggs in the house, you're not going to find the matching halves.

So I'm not purchasing any plastic eggs this year. I know they'll still end up in the house — inevitably, my three-year-old will come home with some from school or community events. If you're vegan, well, then you'll be skipping the eggs.

As for the Easter grass, there are now options for the eco-conscious. Whole Foods Market sells this organic and compostable Easter basket grass by The Vermont Hay Co. Safeway sells "Eco-Pure" plastic grass which claims to be biodegradable. I say — just skip the grass. You don't really need it.

Here are some Easter greening suggestions:

>> Get a non-plastic Easter basket that you can use year-round, and not just for Easter. I opted for a handwoven, fair trade Alaffia mini market basket, woven from savannah grass by a women's cooperative in West Africa. Hopefully we'll use this basket again at farmer's market.

FTR-5-things-basket-3

>> Skip the Easter grass. I'm inclined to say just skip it  because you don't really  need it. If you feel like you must have filler, then try shredded newspaper that you can later recycle.

>> Go back to real eggs and natural dyes. How about going back to using real eggs (preferably local), with natural dyes made from beets, blueberries and green tea? Here are several all-natural Easter Egg dye recipes from "Better Homes & Gardens." You can find plenty of ideas online, including www.lovechildorganics.com/blog. See eggs below. Aren't they  beautiful?

Find the blog "How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally: at www.lovechildorganics.com.blog

Find the blog "How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally: at www.lovechildorganics.com/blog

Earth Day 2014

April 13th, 2014
By



www.outlook.noaa.gov/earthday/

www.outlook.noaa.gov/earthday/

Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

Each year, Earth Day marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

While 1970 was the "height of the hippie and flower-child culture in the United States," according to the Earth Day Network, 2014 is an era of social media, solar power and genetically modified organisms.

Global warming, or climate change, was, and is, still an issue.

Do a google search for "Earth day 1970" and  you find black-and-white images of demonstrations, rallies and a nationwide Environmental Teach-In over clean water and air. I like the ones portrayed in this  National Geographic story on the first Earth Day. It was definitely not a time of apathy.

Today, many start celebrating Earth Day early, with events scheduled throughout Earth Month. There are plenty of ways to learn more or get involved on Oahu, whether you want to start a worm compost, participate in a beach cleanup or recycle your electronics.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa hosts an all-day festival at its symbolic Sustainability Courtyard. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore delivers a free lecture at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday, April 15, while environmental activist Bill McKibben speaks at the Art Auditorium April 24.

Check out one of the events below.

EARTH DAY EVENTS IN APRIL

April 13

Worm composting workshop. April 13, 6:30 p.m. and April 15, 9 a.m., Nuuanu Congregational Church, 2651 Pali Highway, Kosasa Hall. The church’s Ula Wai ministry offers two free community sessions on vermicomposting by Ralph Rhoads of Bellingham, Wash. Reservations required by emailing Velma, kimoment2@hawaiiantel.net or calling 595-3135 after 7 p.m..

April 15

Al Gore lecture, 7 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.), Tuesday, April 15. Stan Sherriff Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore offers a free lecture on campus, sharing his insights on climate change and related topics and how they relate to Hawaii. Organized by the UH Sea Grant College Program of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, joinly with the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. Free, but tickets are required and can be picked up from the Stan Sherriff Center Ticket office, 956-4483.

April 16 

Mala Ho‘olaule‘a, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Honolulu Community College, 874 Dillingham Blvd., behind the Children’s Center. Celebrate the harvest of The Garden of Niuhelewai, a taro patch, planted three years ago on campus. Hawaiian music, poi pounding. Call 845-9211.

April 19

Earth Day Ahupua‘a Cleanup, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 19. Kualoa Ranch. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is organizing a beach cleanup of several coastlines to celebrate Earth Day. Participants can also help rebuild fish ponds, do stream restoration work or native plantings. Check in at Kualoa Ranch at 8:30 a.m. to participate in cleanups at Kualoa Beach, Kalama Beach Park, Kahuku Beach and Laie Beach Park. You may also go directly to the beach location. Festival with lunch and live music follows at Kualoa Ranch from noon to 3 p.m. Partners include Hui o Ko‘olaupoko, Paepae o He‘eia and Papahana Kualoa. Visit www.fb.com/sustainablecoastlineshawaii for updates.

EarthDayCleanup

April 19 

Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waikiki Aquarium. Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services and state Department of Health Clean Water Branch present the seventh annual Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo. Visit educational booths, learn about the impact we make on water sources from Mauka to Makai, watch a live rain garden demonstration and take pictures with Apoha the oopu and friends. Free admission, prizes and native plant giveaways by the Hawaiian Electric Co. Free parking and shuttle from Waikiki Elementary School. Call 923-9741 or visit www.waikikiaquarium.org.

April 19

Kaka‘ako Community Cleanup, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The Shidler Group, Team Hawaii Going Green, Kaka‘ako Improvement Association and others are organizing the third annual Kaka‘ako Community Cleanup. Free validated parking at Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana Blvd. (entrance on Pohukaina St.). Cleaning, painting supplies and refreshments provided. Starts at Mother Waldron Park, ends at Waterfront Plaza. RSVP to Steve Sullivan, ssullivan@shidler.com or 532-4751. Visit www.fb.com/events/648168028565920 for event details.

April 22

Earth Day

10 a.m. to noon, Hawaii State Capitol. Community clean energy rally sponsored by the Blue Planet Foundation. Join Hawaii's youth as they rally a future beyond fossil fuels. Visit  www.fb.com/blueplanetfoundation for details and updates.

April 24

UH MANOA EARTH DAY FESTIVAL & CONCERT 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. April 24, Sustainability Courtyard, University of Hawaii at Manoa. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Earth Day Festival: Visit more than 40 booths from student groups, local non-profits and green businesses. Plant sale, music, poetry, locally sourced food. 4 to 6 p.m. Celebratory reception. 6 to 7:30 p.m. Environmental activist Bill McKibben’s free lecture at the Art Auditorium. 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Free concert by Mike Love, Sam Ites, Lucie Lynch and slam poet Jenna Robinson. Visit manoa.hawaii.edu/earthday or www.fb.com/uhmearthday.

earthday-v5

April 26

Eat Your Yard! Edible Landscaping Workshop. 10 to 12:30 p.m.. The Green House, 224 Pakohana St. Organic gardener and permaculturist Tia Silvasy will lead this class focusing on growing food instead of grass. Explore the types of plants brought to Hawaii by many ethnic groups such as cassava, banana, taro, sweet potato, lemongrass, sugarcane and coconut. Cuttings and starts will also be shared. Fee is $30. Advanced registration required. Call 524-8427 or visit www.thegreenhousehawaii.com.

April 26

Green Day eWaste Recycling, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nu‘uanu Congregational Church, 2651 Pali Highway. Pacific Corporate Solutions is accepting desktop and laptop computers, LCD monitors, printers, fax machines, keyboards, mice, servers, routers, DVD players, VCRs, cell phones, stereo equipment, video cameras, cables and more for recycling. No TVs or alkaline batteries. Free. Call 488-8870 for more information.

Malama Pupukea-Waimea Marine Science Talk Story, 5-7 p.m., Sunset Beach Recreation Center, 59-540 Kamehameha Highway. Learn the current science about Pupukea-Waimea Marine Life Conservation District. Light pupus and refreshments will be provided. Contact Jenny Yagodich, jenny@pupukeawaimea.org or visit www.pupukeawaimea.org for more inforamtion.

Hawaii businesses: Save energy plus LED exit signs

March 31st, 2014
By



Universal LED Exit sign from www.simplyexitsigns.com.

Universal LED Exit sign from www.simplyexitsigns.com. Swapping to an LED exit sign can save a business substantial electricity costs plus qualify for a $40 rebate from Hawaii Energy.

Attention, Hawaii businesses.

Did you know swapping out your older, incandescent exit sign for an LED one can save you $80 to $100 a year? It's a no-brainer. Plus Hawaii Energy's offering up to $40 in additional incentive to businesses that do so from now until May 31.

An Energy Star LED exit sign uses only about 44 kilowatt hours annually compared to 350 kilowatt hours for an incandescent sign — about 87 percent in savings.

It's as simple as that.

The exit signs, a legally-required safety feature in case of an emergency, are on 24 hours a day throughout the year.

Businesses must complete an application and submit a paid invoice or show proof of purchase to qualify for the incentive.

Also, Hawaii Energy is offering small businesses and restaurants an opportunity to replace their old lighting with newer, energy-efficient ones for free from now until June 9. Incandescent bulbs and halogen lighting are swapped out for CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes).

To qualify, businesses must have an individual meter and be on an electric rate schedule G, or occupy a workspace of less than 5,000 square feet. Restaurants on any electric rate schedule or of any size can qualify.

Pagoda took advantage of Hawaii Energy's lighting retrofit program to save costs. Courtesy photo.

Pagoda took advantage of Hawaii Energy's lighting retrofit program to save costs. Courtesy photo.

Pagoda Floating Restaurant participated in the program, and expects to save about $14,400 a year.

Visit www.hawaiienergy.com/retrofit to apply.

Lighting can account for nearly half of a retail businesses' overall electricity costs at 48 percent. For offices, it's about 27 percent, and for restaurants, about 18 percent.

Hawaii Energy's Small Business Direct Install Lighting program, launched in July 2011, has helped 1,790 small businesses and restaurants throughout the state — from hardware stores to surf shops, art galleries and bakeries. The program provides free consultation, lighting and installation.

Hawaii Energy is a ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program serving the isles of Hawaii, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.

Visit www.hawaiienergy.com/lighting or call 839-8800 to learn more. On neighbor isles, call 877-231-8222.

Rain garden workshop

March 26th, 2014
By



 

Rain gardens help filter rainwater runoff. Learn how to build one at a free Waikiki Aquarium workshop March 25. Photo courtesy Hui O Ko‘olaupoko Facebook page.  www.fb.com/huiokoolaupoko

Rain gardens help filter rainwater runoff. Photo courtesy Hui O Ko‘olaupoko Facebook page. www.fb.com/huiokoolaupoko

The Waikiki Aquarium hosted a free rain garden workshop from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25.

Rain gardens help stop water runoff, the greatest source of pollution of Hawaii's streams and coastal waters, by allowing storm water from impervious surfaces to collect, briefly settle, then infiltrate into the ground.

They mimic natural processes by treating and infiltrating storm water into the ground and evaporating it back into the air.

Todd Cullison, executive director of Hui O Ko‘olaupoko, provided instruction on how to create a do-it-yourself rain garden. A free manual is also available at www.huihawaii.org/rain-gardens.html.

The workshop, supported by the state Department of Health's Clean Water Branch and Hardware Hawaii, brought awareness to the importance of natural vegetation designed to absorb and filter rainwater from heavy tropical storms.

Visitors to the aquarium during the month of April also receive 100 tote bags with rain garden information and instructions for teachers to give their students.

The Waikiki Aquarium itself will also be home to a rain garden to be revealed at its annual Mauka to Makai Event on April 19.

To learn more, visit www.waikikiaquarium.org.

World Water Day

March 19th, 2014
By



wwwd-logo

World Water Day is Saturday, March 22.

There is, perhaps, no more important resource than water, earmarked as one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Water and energy are closely interlinked and interdependent, according to the United Nations.

Water, a resource we so often take for granted, is not an infinite resource.

That message hit home for California residents, who were urged to conserve water amid severe drought conditions this year.

In Hawaii, we are just as vulnerable. In particular, the health of our forests plays a key role in maintaining our water supply, which is vital to agriculture and tourism. See "The Rain Follows The Forest," a video by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, to learn more.

Here are some ways to celebrate World Water Day in Hawaii this year:

>> Plastic Free Hawai‘i Beach Cleanup, check-in 8:30 a.m., cleanup from 9 to 11 a.m. at Kahuku Beach, James Campbell Wildlife Refuge. Bring a reusable water bottle, hat and sunscreen. Visit www.fb.com/PlasticFreeHawaii.KHF or email plasticfree@kokuahawaiifoundation.org.

>> Rain barrel catchment workshop. From 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12 at Halawa Xeriscape Garden, 99-1268 Iwaena St. Collect rain water to reduce the amount of drinking water used for irrigating landscapes. Offered by the Board of Water Supply and Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden. Cost is $35 for lecture and a pre-drilled, 55-gallon water catchment barrel and hose bib (or $5 for lecture only). Call 748-5363 or email workshops@hbws.org to register.

>> Opt for a reusable water bottle. Last week, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted to ban bottled water from city property and events and food trucks. Many national parks like the Grand Canyon have also taken this step. Many people drink bottled water because they believe it to be of higher quality, but that may not be the case, say environmental advocates. Tap water is regulated by the EPA, and bottled water by the FDA. According to Ban the Bottle, 24 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. is either Pepsi's Aquafina (13 percent) or Coke's Dasani (11 percent) —  both of which are simply purified municipal water. A high-quality filter may help you save money and bottles.

>> Build a rain garden. Rain gardens help stop water runoff, the greatest source of pollution of Hawaii's streams and coastal waters. There's a free manual online from Hui o Ko‘olaupoko. Also, if you want to learn more, the Waikiki Aquarium is hosting a free rain garden workshop from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25.

>> Support companies that support clean drinking water — Freewaters footwear, MiiR water bottles and Cascade Designs.

Posted in Water | 1 Comment »

Looking for monk seal artists

March 14th, 2014
By



Can you paint, draw or sculpt a Hawaiian monk seal? Kermit, the monk seal, above. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Can you paint, draw or sculpt a Hawaiian monk seal? Kermit, the monk seal, pictured above. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Attention, student artists!

The Wyland Foundation is teaming up with the Monk Seal Foundation to host the first 'Conservation through Art' contest starting Monday, March 24.

All students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to participate and to display their artistic talent and ocean awareness to one of the world's leading environmental artists, Wyland.

ArtContest

The theme is "The Hawaiian Monk Seal, a living treasure."

Students are invited to create images of Hawaii's critically endangered monk seal through paint, drawing, collage or sculpture.

Art mediums can include chalk, charcoal, clay, crayon, marker, paint, pen, pencil or watercolor. All work must  be your original creation. Only one submission per student.

Students register and submit their original artwork online. Deadline is April 11.

One winner from each grade will be selected by a panel of artistic judges, including Wyland, Doug Perrine, Patrick Ching and Matt Sproat. An overall 'best of show' winner will also be selected. The 14 winners, which will each receive prizes and awards, will be announced in late May.

Winners' artwork will be featured in a 2015 calendar, with the 'Best of Show' on the front cover.

The goal of the contest is to engage and inspire students to learn more about the Hawaiian monk seal and its unique role in Hawaii's ecosystem.

The Hawaiian monk seal, endemic to Hawaii (meaning found only in Hawaii), has existed in the archipelago for 13 million years.

Their population, estimated at 1,100 today, is at a critical low.

Hawaiian monk seals face diverse threats, including entanglement in marine debris, food limitations, shark predators, infectious diseases, human disturbance and habitat loss.

This is a pivotal time to save the monk seals, a living treasure, from extinction. So get your canvas out, and create!

The Monk Seal Foundation's gallery can provide inspiration. Visit www.monksealfoundation.org/artcontest for more information.

Clean energy jobs

March 12th, 2014
By



Star-Advertiser file photo.

Workers install a solar photovoltaic panel on to a rooftop. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Let's hear it for clean energy jobs.

Hawaii ranked no. 3 among the top 10 states for clean energy job postings last year, and was also among the top 10 in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a report by nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

California ranked No. 1, followed by Texas at No. 2.

But there's certainly room for improvement.

The E2 report cites a survey revealing overwhelming public support for solar energy as well as opposition to a hookup fee in Hawaii. HECO, meanwhile, seeks approval for six more renewable energy projects in the state.

Click here for the Brookings fact sheet detailing clean job growth and wages in Hawaii. Brookings ranked Hawaii 45th among 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of its overall size (with 11,113 clean jobs). The estimated median wage in Hawaii's clean economy is $42,235 compared to $38,615 for all jobs in Hawaii.

Among the statewide facts the E2 report listed for Hawaii:

>> Hawaii has 916 megawatt hours of renewable generation, with the potential for 2.9 million Gigawatt hours (equal to 1 billion watt hours)of renewable energy.

>> A sampling of Hawaii job announcements include positions for a solar facility on Kauai, a retrofit of state airports, a wind farm on Oahu and a solar farm at Kalealoa.

There was no mention of Oahu's rail transit project.

Nationwide, Environmental Entrepreneurs tracked more than 78, 600 clean energy and clean transportation job announcements in 2013. Solar power generation was the year's top sector, with more than 21,600 jobs announced. Other strong sectors included building efficiency and public transportation.

"Our report makes it clear," said E2 executive director Judith Albert. "When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country. Whether it's a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy."

See the full report at www.CleanEnergyWorksForUs.org.

Bottle Caps

March 10th, 2014
By



Students at Lanikai Elementary are participating in Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Looks like they even have a special collection container. Courtesy photo.

Students at Lanikai Elementary are participating in Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Looks like they even have a special collection container. Courtesy photo.

I've had a bag full of bottle caps for some time. I know the city doesn't take them for recycling in the blue bin (only No. 1 and No. 2) in Honolulu. So, honestly, I was hoping to recycle them somewhere convenient.

And now that opportunity is here, with the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation's first Hawaii School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Visit kokuahawaiifoundation.org/bottlecapchallenge to find a list of participating schools.

Each participating school collects plastic bottle caps from the community and turns them in by March 31. Schools will submit a collection report online and also document the process with photos, videos and blogs.

The school that collects the most caps for recycling wins a special performance by musician Jack Johnson (the foundation’s co-founder).

The challenge, which started Feb. 1, is open to all Hawaii schools, from pre-school to high school. More than 50 schools, so far, are participating, mostly from Oahu, but also from Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. New schools are still welcome to register.

The foundation partnered with Method and Preserve to send the plastic caps to California, where they will be recycled into new products, including Method’s Ocean Plastic bottle and Preserve’s cutlery, plates and cups.

At Kokua’s beach cleanups over the year, volunteers have collected more than 25,000 pounds of waste, including thousands of discarded plastic bottle caps.

Can your cap be recycled?

The Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation has a collection guide. Look for the No. 5 inside the triangular recycling symbol, which stands for a rigid plastic called polypropylene.

These usually include caps that twist on to shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, as well as vitamin and medicine cap lids, the flip top caps on ketchup and mayonnaise, and peanut butter jar lids.

The recycling challenge is not accepting plastic pumps with metal springs, margarine tub lids or metal lids.

Happy recycling!

Recyclingcaps

 

Thanks, Kermit

March 9th, 2014
By



Kermit the monk seal with National Geographic crittercam mounted on his back at White Plain Beach in February 2014. Photo courtesy Barbara Billand, Monk Seal Foundation volunteer.

Kermit the monk seal with National Geographic crittercam mounted on his back. Photo courtesy Barbara Billand, Monk Seal Foundation volunteer.

First of all, let's say thanks to Kermit the monk seal for giving us a peek into his under-ocean life.

Kermit, an approximately 20-year-old male monk seal who hangs out on the leeward side of Oahu, is part of a three-year National Geographic crittercam project conducted by NOAA Fisheries. The camera was mounted on his back between Feb. 7 and 14.

Students in Castle High School teacher Dani Padilla's marine science class got to get the first peek at footage gathered from Kermit's crittercam in February. You can get a peek, too, via this link courtesy National Geographic and NOAA Fisheries.

While five groups (of about four students each) watched 30-minute video clips, the project will gather more than 200 hours of footage to pore through (swimming, sleeping, playing, eating). The students are enlisted to help scientists put together a short video to present to the community as well as to be the future voice of monk seals.

It's a great idea — taking science out of its "scientific research bubble" and out into the community.

"I think the main takeaway for my students was the first hand experience watching un-touched footage," wrote teacher Dani Padilla in an e-mail. "They got to DO rather than be told. They were not just having the 'facts' fed to them through the grapevine. Instead, they were the ones collecting the data and watching a monk seal pass up hundreds of fish before he decided to eat anything...."

FTR MONK SEAL IN CLASSROOM 19

Castle High School teacher Dani Padilla with students as they examine footage taken from the National Geographic crittercam mounted on Kermit the monk seal's back. Photo by Craig Kojima.

Only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals, known as ilioholoikauaua (dog running in the rough seas in Hawaiian) remain in the isles today, with their population in decline. They are a native species found only in Hawaii, and protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. The state of Hawaii considers the intentional harm or killing of a seal a third-degree felony.

Now, back to Kermit. You can't help loving Kermit when you see him. Monk Seal Foundation volunteer Barbara Billand, who provided the courtesy photo above, admits he's her favorite of the many monk seals she keeps tabs on. He's often found at White Plains Beach, snoozing in the sun.

"He's a very cool seal," she said. "Very laid  back, a gentleman."

Monk seals can live between 25 to 30 years, dive for an average of 6 minutes when feeding and eat a varied diet of fish, octopus, crabs, shrimp and lobster. They grow up to seven feet long and weigh 400 to 600 pounds. They can also travel long distances.

While the monk seals may not be keen about having these crittercams attached (who knows what they would say if they could?), NOAA scientist Charles Littnan said in a Feb. 12 FB post that the new technology will provide valuable data about their foraging behavior (more than satellite tags and scat analysis can offer) as well as their habitat. It also offers potential solutions for fisheries.

It can also help dispel myths about the critically endangered monk seals, one of them being that they consume a lot. First-hand footage can show, rather than just tell the community these facts. "I'm not trying to create love for the seals," said Littnan, "Just knowledge, with the facts."

Here's a great link to Hawaiian monk seal myths vs. facts.

If you're interested in learning more about Hawaii's monk seals or volunteering, check out the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program's Facebook Page. If you see a monk seal sleeping on shore, do not approach, touch or feed it. If you see one in distress, call 888-256-9840.