2012 Hawaiian Natural History Class at Kilauea
Every January, the ENC Biology Department offers Field Problems in Ecology: Tropical Natural History. Destinations for this course have included Belize, Hawaii, and New Zealand. Other destinations may be offered in the future.
ENC offers various trips for students to fulfill requirements for different classes. Hawaii, an archipelago of islands with great biodiversity, its own history and rich culture, was the location of the most recent trip. In January 2012, the course title was "Hawaiian Natural History".
On December 28, ten students (Samantha Leach, Laura Smith, Kaitlyn Jo Yoder, Dominic Penson, Chris Jones, Melanie Marchetti, Katie Clifton, Meghan Holden, Kelsey Waddle and Stephen Shenouda), accompanied by Professor Twining, boarded a United Airways flight and took off for the island of Hawai’i. Finally landing on ground, the Hawaiian Natural History Class grabbed their luggage, received traditional leis, and left for their first hotel in Kona, HI to rest and become acclimated to the time change, and the climate change.
While the class was located in a popular vacation spot and the instant desire to sit at the beach was overwhelming, students were challenged to learn, give presentations and experience all they could in a 13 day span, on an island that many only dream of visiting.
After purchasing snorkeling gear and other trip necessities, the van was packed and students headed out for the “Place of Refuge” (Pu’uhonua O Honaunau) to learn about ancient Hawaiian customs and religion, and hear a beautiful song played by a park ranger on the nose flute. Students later had the opportunity to snorkel at Kealekekua Bay, where Captian James Cook, the first European to visit what he called the Sandwich Islands, was murdered in 1779.
The class traveled all over the island of Hawai’i visiting national parks (including Akaka Falls State Park and Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site) as well as taking advantage of any snorkeling spot in an attempt to identify animals that lived just off the shore of the Big Island.
The class spent New Year’s Eve in Hilo, exploring a diverse and welcoming Farmer’s Market, and making frequent stops in the rainforest. Later in the week students went hiking through lava tubes, and down into Kilauea Iki, a volcanic craters while staying in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The trip was filled with wonder, as students were introduced to new species and beautiful landscapes, but as they learned, this seemingly perfect paradise has its setbacks as well. One reoccurring theme was that of invasive species: pretty plants that adapted to Hawaii’s climate and took over rainforests, animals brought over as pets, escape and eat native insects or plants endangering not only native, but endemic species. Eruptions from Kilauea have force people to relocate. Kalapana Village, while a perfect ecological example of succession as pioneer species (Ohi’a Lehua) were beginning to grow, was village that was destroyed by lava flowing through it. Tsunamis are an eminent threat as well. Lapahoehoe Point provided the location for one student’s presentation on such phenomenon. This park was left in memory of the people who lost their lives in a 1946 tsunami that killed around 150 people.
Throughout the trip, the Hawaiian Natural History Class was exposed to a new culture, landscape, climate and time zone. And while their work was graded, students appreciated the ability to travel and experience something new. Departing from the island, the group said, “Aloha” to an amazing adventure.
The ENC Science Department offers different travel courses each year. If you are interested in taking a science class outside of the ENC campus, taking a travel course could be your perfect opportunity. For more information contact Prof. Jonathan Twining at