MNNH joins Coral.org for a Restoration Event at Kā’anapali on Maui

We will again be joining the Coral Reef Alliance to plant native plants to reduce erosion and sediment reaching our coral reefs. We’ll also:
– Help protect West Maui Reefs and learn about ridge to reef restoration and ahupua’a management
– Learn about native plants and watershed restoration
– Get some amazing views of Kā’anapali, Lahaina and Lāna’i

If you are interested in joining us, check out the details here. https://www.meetup.com/Maui-Nui-Natural-History/events/260508766/

Seek : A Free, Kid-friendly app That Uses Computer Vision to ID What you are Seeing

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could point your phone at a plant or animal and it could tell you what you are looking at? Well, now, you can. Seek uses a computer vision algorithm, along with the species list for your area based on iNaturalist platform observations to give you its best guess as to what you are looking at. Considering that professional taxonomists can have a hard time (or even simply cannot) identify many organism from an image, what this app can do is pretty impressive. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices and gives you a live camera view along with IDs. This is an upgrade over the iNaturalist app model that requires you to take a photo first and then wait for an ID.

The Seek app by iNaturalist correctly identifies a gecko on Maui.
A screen capture of Seek identifying one of Maui’s species.

Unlike the iNaturalist app, is not intended for children under 13 because of concerns over the need to provide location along with observations, the Seek app does not share location information. The end result is a kid-friendly field guide on a device that gives real-time feedback on what you are seeing. What a great way to get kids engaged in seeking out (and identifying) biodiversity.

Read more about Seek on the iNaturalist blog, along with some videos of the app in action: https://www.inaturalist.org/blog/23075-real-time-computer-vision-predictions-in-seek-by-inaturalist-version-2-0

Join us on Maui for the 2019 City Nature Challenge

City Nature Challenge 2019 Maui

We are again organizing the City Nature Challenge on Maui, this time for April 2019.   The event participants will use the iNaturalist app or desktop program to record observations of plants and wildlife anywhere on Maui and help crowd source identifications for those observations. The event will start 12:01 AM (local time)  on Friday April 26 and go until 11:59 PM on Monday April 29. After the observation portion of the event, we’ll encourage participants to help identify unknowns or to improve or verify observations made by other participants.  To count as a contribution, three people need to agree on an identification – the minimum required for a ‘verified/research grade’ observation on iNaturalist.  If you’ve never tried a community science project before, this is a great chance to try it out! Look for events posted here and on our meetup page.

Guided Walks at Kealia Pond NWR

It is migratory bird season at the pond and that means it is the best time for seeing a diversity of birds at the refuge. The walks start at the visitors’ center that is next to Mokulele Highway every Tuesday  at 9 AM until March of 2019. Bad weather (is there such a thing on Maui??) and pond water levels may cause cancellation. You can call (808)875-1582 to confirm.

Viewing birds out by the ponds. Note the shoes and hats!

These walks are led by experienced refuge staff. You’ll learn how to identify the refuges’ resident and migratory birds and about their life history.  It can get hot and sunny out there so remember your water, sun protection. Close toed shoes are recommended as are binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens.

Protip: If it has rained in the area recently, expect the trails around the pond to be super muddy. There is a shoe scraper at the shelter by at the end of the paved road, but you will not get all the mud off. Bring a bucket or bag for your shoes and clean shoes to change into after the walk.

One Health Day is November 3

One Health Day

It might seem odd to write about a health event on a natural history site, but with over 50 percent of human diseases are “zoonotic” they can spread between animals and people. Malaria, dengue, and many other mosquito-born diseases can be spread or controlled depending on human environmental responses. Recognizing that humans are part of nature and the natural history of our islands is one point this site hopes to highlight.

On Maui (and greater Hawai’i) you may have heard about the concern about the spread of “Rat Lungworm Disease” – a really unpleasant, brain-eating disease that is hosted by several mollusk species and should end up in a rat as a final host. In the cases where a human gets exposed, severe illness and even death are possible outcomes.  We hope to target both rats and mollusk host species in the upcoming City Nature Challenge, hopefully understanding the natural history of the hosts on our islands while illuminating where the disease might spread more easily.  

If understanding the relationship between animals, humans and environment is up your alley, then the One Health Initiative is something to learn more about. Check out the One Health Day page  for more details about the event and the initiative in general. 

iNaturalist Project Feature: Pollinators in Paradise

If you are using the iNaturalist app, one easy way to do community science (citizen science) is to contribute to ongoing research efforts.  The Pollinators in Paradise iNat project is one that you can contribute to understanding Hawaii’s pollinator community. It is focused focused on bees, wasps and sawflies and hopes to spread awareness of Hawaii’s endangered pollinator species. Follow this link to join the project.

Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees are currently listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. The listing below provides links to  the USFWS ECOS system that provides summary data on these bees. Five of the seven are reported from Maui county and two are know only from Maui County. The last listing for Hylaeus mana provides a good overview/description of the group that is lacking for the other species. Here is a nice article from the Maui News that gives a nice big-picture overview.

Anthricinan yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus anthracinus)(Maui)

Assimulans yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus assimulans) (only Maui)

Easy yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus facilis)(Maui)

Hilaris yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus hilaris) (only Maui)

Hawaiian yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus kuakea)(only Honolulu)

Hawaiian yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus longiceps)(Maui)

Hawaiian yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus mana)(only Honolulu)

Numbers on Turtles? What’s up with that??

Kihei Beach with Sea Turtle

I’ve worked with sea turtle conservation for a number of years and I knew that flipper tags (kinda like sea turtle ear-rings but for flippers) were a standard way to mark turtles for later identification. These tags help scientists track where turtles stay and migrate to, how old they grow, how fast they grow and more.  I was surprised during an early morning walk along the beach in Kihei earlier this year when I saw a painted number on the shell of a female green sea turtle that was making her back back to the sea. This was not something I’d come across before.

A snippet from fall 2017 the Hawaiian Hawksbill Turtle newsletter had  a clue:

Some of the male and female Hawaiian green sea turtles that nested and basked all the way up in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument) this past season can be identified by the temporary white letters/numbers the NOAA researchers painted on their carapaces.  Their flipper tags are often more difficult to read, so these numbers truly help us understand their migratory patterns.”

I just sent in the observation to RespectWildlife@noaa.gov and will update this post if I get any information back. You can also call in sightings to the statewide marine wildlife stranding number here:  +1(888)256-9840

Green Sea Turtle with Number

Hey, did you “just” see a turtle? Even without numbers, turtle sightings can be helpful. If you’d like to add your observations to a global community science project, check out http://inaturalist.org.  BUT do remember… Sea turtles are threatened/endangered species.  Any effort to take a photograph should be respectful and not alter their natural behavior.

Here are some recent observations:

Ghost Crabs on Hawaiian Beaches

You may not have seen these crabs in person, but if you walk the beach in the morning, you’ve certainly seen their handiwork. Ghost crabs live in the intertidal zone and after the high tide recedes, they must clear their burrow of the sand the waves washed in. While there are a number of species worldwide, in Hawaii the question is which of the two species is it?

pallid and horned ghost crab burrows on maui

The pallid ghost crab,” Ocypode pallidula,  is active day and night and produces a fan shaped formation of sand as it excavates its burrow.  The horned ghost crab,  Ocypode ceratophthalma, is active at night and forms a small, cone-shaped heap as it excavates its burrow.  The latter grows to a larger size and at least for adults, larger burrows, with openings larger than 3″ across, are likely to belong to a horned ghost crab.

Help DAR keep Invasive Species in Check – Aquatic Invasive Species Project on iNaturalist

One of the outcomes of our participation in the 2018 City Nature Challenge is the realization that a number of group on Maui and the Hawaiian Islands at large are using the platform to get input from citizen scientists about rare, endangered, and invasive species.  In this post, I wanted to highlight the DAR Aquatic Invasive Species Team’s iNaturalist project; named, of course, State of Hawaii: Aquatic Invasive Species.

Invasive species, as you might guess from the name, are species that are both not native and are causing a problem.  The team has put together a list of thirty-nine aquatic species that are considered invasive in the State of Hawaii. The list below are species of particular interest. A listing of all thirty-nine species, with pictures is available on their iNaturalist guide.  Not all of these species are known from all of the Hawaiian islands. Early detection can make a difference between getting rid of these problem species before they spread and having to deal with the ecological (and often economic) havoc they can cause.

If you’d like to find out more about the DAR Aquatic Invasive Species program, there website is here: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/ais/

Invasive Algae:

  • Smothering Seaweed (Kappaphycus/ Euchema sp.)
  • Gorilla Ogo (Gracilaria salicornia)
  • Leather Mudweed (Avrainvillea amadelpha)
  • Hook Weed (Hypnea musciformis)
  • Prickly Seaweed (Acanthophora spicifera)

Invasive Marine Animals:

  • Orange Keyhole Sponge (Mycale armata)
  • Tilapia (Tilapia spp.)
  • Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea spp.)
  • Peacock Grouper (Cephalopholis argus)

Invasive Freshwater Animals:

  • Banded Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis elongatus)
  • Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
  • Green Swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri)
  • Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigorfasciatus)
  • Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
  • Suckermouth Catfish (Hypostomus c.f. watwata)
  • Asiatic Clam (Corbicula fluminea)
  • Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculate, P. bridgesi, P. paludosa, Pila conica)
  • Tahitian Prawn (Macrobranchium lar)

Invasive Freshwater Plant:

  • Giant Salvinia/ Water Fern (Salvinia molesta)