Oleson Lab

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management | University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa

Funded position on economics of Hawaii’s longline fishery

Job Description:

To assist with a project to evaluate fishery economic performance of Hawaii pelagic longline fishery. Main responsibilities include conducting in-person interviews with fishery communities and gathering secondary data from reports.

Minimum Qualifications:

Must qualify and enroll in the Natural Resources and Environmental Management graduate program at UH Manoa (will consider related degrees such as Marine Biology, Geography, Economics) and have research interests in fisheries economics. Must be able to work at NOAA facility at least 8 hours a week. Must pass Federal security clearance to access NOAA facility.

Desirable Qualifications:

Demonstrated ability in interviewing; Excellent grades in natural resource economics coursework; Good database management skills (such in ACCESS, R, or Oracle); Possess a valid driver’s license.


Begin August 19, 2019 and renewable annually pending satisfactory performance and availability of funds.

To Apply:

Send resume, contact information of two professional references, and a cover letter with your motivation and a short demonstration of how you meet the minimum and desirable qualifications to Kirsten Oleson koleson@hawaii.edu. Applications will be accepted until position is filled.

Funded position on fire and ecosystem services!

Join the Oleson and Trauernicht labs as an MS or PhD student working on modeling fire and ecosystem services

Fully funded 2 year McIntire-Stennis fellowship (with possibility of up to 5 years, pending funding)

Joint project between Oleson lab (olesonlab.org) and Trauernicht lab (https://www.nrem-fire.org/)

Duties and Responsibilities:

Watersheds provide critical ecosystem goods and services that support human quality of life. In Hawaii, recurrent wildfires have reduced the extent of forested areas, with implications for ecosystem services derived from both upland and coastal environments. Understanding how and where fire-induced degradation impacts socially valuable ecosystem goods and services can aid watershed managers in identifying priority management actions and areas. Understanding the broader benefits and trade-offs of alternate watershed and fire management strategies can improve both conservation and economic outcomes. Managers considering alternate approaches to fire management require decision support tools to help quantify and map ecosystem service changes across the landscape from state changes due to fire. Managers also need decision tools to spatially prioritize fire suppression or other watershed restoration measures to maximize conservation outcomes.

This project will integrate fire prediction and land cover effect models with ecosystem service models into a novel decision support tool capable of assessing the broader benefits and trade-offs of various fire management strategies. The GA will: (1) develop ecosystem service models capable of assessing impact of fire and fire management measures in Hawaii; (2) couple ecosystem services models with fire prediction and land cover change models in a decision support tool capable of assessing the benefits of alternative fire management strategies, and (3) apply techniques derived from decision science to evaluate management alternatives. Initial duties include (but are not limited to) conducting literature reviews; identifying, collecting, organizing, quality controlling, processing, and properly managing secondary environmental, social, and economic data; developing, calibrating, and validating environmental models; analyzing data using appropriate statistical and other analytical techniques; building relationships with potential model users; writing manuscripts for publication; and producing reports and outreach materials. The GA is expected to perform other additional tasks as assigned. Duties also include collaborating and working with other researchers in an interdisciplinary environment.

Minimum Qualifications:

Admission to, or ongoing, graduate student at UH Manoa in NREM or directly related field of study

BS in environmental science, geography, and/or related fields

Excellent knowledge of GIS and experience with geospatial analysis

Experience managing geospatial data

Strong interest in ecosystem services modeling and fire modeling

Demonstrated team player, with ability to work independently

Organized, with excellent communication skills

Desirable Qualifications:

MS in environmental science, geography, and/or related fields

Good performance in environmental courses

Experience working with the Federal and state governments, NGOs, and communities in Hawai'i

To Apply:       

Submit cover letter and CV to Dr. Kirsten Oleson (koleson@hawaii.edu)


Fellowship available to get MEM in NREM!

Full fellowship for Masters in Environmental Management Degree. Requirement: good grades, local (as demonstrated by Hawaii-based HS diploma)

Due March 1

The overall goal of the Hau‘oli Mau Loa graduate assistantships is to develop the next generation of natural resource management leaders in Hawai‘i.

Hauoli Mau Loa_NREM MS B Graduate Assistantship Announcement_2017


New study in PloS One shows the importance of reef fisheries

Article full text here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0123856

Kīholo Bay, North Kona, Hawai'i, August 5, 2015  – A study published today showed that a single artisanal coral reef fishery can produce over 30,000 meals per year, with an annual economic value of more than $78,000. The study, published in PLOS ONE, was conducted in the Hawaiian bay of Kiholo by Conservation International, the Hui Aloha Kīholo — a community-based stewardship group — the National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy and the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

Ocean and coastal ecosystems bring a range of benefits to people worldwide, providing food and livelihoods to millions, but global and local stressors threaten these services. To better understand the benefits from ocean environments, the authors of this study investigated how an artisanal fishery supports a community, using a community-based approach to assess the factors affecting resource sustainability and food security in a small-scale coral reef fishery. 

The authors found that the small-scale Kīholo Bay fishery provides large-scale benefits to communities. "This coral reef fishery generates diverse social, economic and cultural values, which support the health and well-being of the Kīholo community," said lead author Dr. Jack Kittinger, director of Conservation International's Hawai'i program. "These benefits are likely common to coral reef fisheries across the globe, supporting key food security functions, cultural practices as well as local livelihoods." 

The results of the study suggest that similar coral reef fisheries around the world provide the same types of benefits to the people who depend on them. 

The survey found that 58 percent of the caught seafood is kept for home consumption, 34 percent is given away and only 8 percent sold to commercial markets. "We found that the vast majority of the catch is kept for home consumption or given away as part of cultural practices, showing the important role that this bay plays in sustaining our community," said Jenny Mitchell, a board member of Hui Aloha Kīholo. "When Kīholo thrives, so do we." 

By surveying fishermen for an entire year, researchers were able to estimate that the fishery produced more than 7,300 pounds of seafood per year for the community of people who rely upon the fishery. Nearly 60 percent of the catch is used for subsistence, contributing to community food security, and geographic analysis of community beneficiaries showed that 20 percent of seafood procured is used for sociocultural events that are important for social cohesion.

"By working with community fishers, we were able for the first time to map the distribution of benefits from a coral reef fishery, helping to understand the linkages between the ecology, food security and social networks — all of which are critical for sustainable management," said Dr. Alan Friedlander, a co-author of the study and chief scientist of the National Geographic Society's Pristine Seas project.

The community is already seeing benefits from the study, including increased willingness to engage among the fishing community, improved fishery knowledge and evidence of decreased illegal fishing. 

"The participatory approach for this project — where the community took a lead role in the design, implementation and use of the findings, provides a model for conservation science," said Dr. Lida Teneva, science advisor for Conservation International's Hawai'i program. "By developing the project with community management priorities incorporated at the outset, the potential for this information to influence on-the-ground stewardship was embedded in the project." 

The project demonstrates a transferable participatory research approach that resource-dependent communities can use to assess their reliance on — and benefits from — the environment. The cultural, social and economic benefits of coral reefs play a vital role in sustaining communities across the globe, and empowering community members to monitor the resources can play a significant role in supporting sustainable resource management and enhancing community food security.

Hawaii Business article

Hawaiʻi Business Magazine feature on the value of nature in Hawaiʻi

Kirsten is interviewed for a cool article on the worth of nature in Hawaii.

See the link: http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/whats-hawaiis-environment-worth/

Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Reporters: Descriptions of the funded projects for the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center are available here.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is awarding more than $700,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

“Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,”

said Secretary Jewell. “These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

Assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change in Hawai`i and other Pacific Island ecosystems by expanding and improving a novel model to identify which plants are vulnerable most to continuing change. This model, developed by federal, state and non-profit organizations, will allow project leads to respond to the needs of resource managers for such species vulnerability assessment to help inform adaptation decisions regionally and locally for some nearly 2000 plant species, and to prioritize their conservation actions.
Understanding how native and non-native Hawaiian forests will respond to climate change to help resource managers plan for and make effective adaptation and other decisions to slow the spread of invasive species and to keep Hawai`i’s native ecosystems, streams and forests healthy.
Assessing coral reef vulnerability in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to coral reefs and is expected to result in more frequent severe tropical storms and more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Coral reefs are additionally stressed by human activities, including coastal development and overfishing. This project will assess the resilience potential of coral reefs in the Commonwealth; results will help managers target actions that support and build reef resilience.
Developing a pilot decision-support tool for coral reef management that can map, assess, value and simulate changes in ecosystem services under alternative climate scenarios and adaptation strategies. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems such as coral reefs, which provide recreation and food among other benefits. This tool will help decision makers understand the social and economic tradeoffs of their management and adaptation decisions.
Preparing for the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island coral reefs. The research team will use a system of models that will ultimately identify reef areas that are either vulnerable or resilient to the many stressors that the future may hold. Such models can identify areas that might benefit from management actions to minimize local stressors such as land-based pollution, and it will directly provide scientific knowledge to aid in planning for adaptation to climate change.
Providing the best possible projections of future climate change at a regional scale for the islands of Kaui`i and O`ahu. Although the Pacific Islands are notable in their vulnerability to climate change, they have received considerably less attention than more populated areas in climate models. This project will fill that gap in providing downscaled models that will be provided to resource managers for helping them make more effective planning and management decisions.
In Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands, changing climate already is a reality for urban and rural communities, cultural life ways and sites, watersheds, ecosystems and hundreds of imperiled species in this vast oceanic domain of island, atoll and marine ecosystems. “It is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future,” said David Helweg, director of Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. “These studies are designed for the people who need them: managers, policy makers, and community leaders already grappling with the effects of climate change.” 

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, community leaders, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists and students from the universities that comprise the Pacific Islands CSC, from USGS science centers, and from other partners such as the State and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Hawai`i, Manoa, along with the University of Hawai`i, Hilo, and the University of Guam. 


Not so small after all – exposing the true value of tropical ‘small-scale’ fisheries

New study highlights the overwhelming importance of small-scale fisheries for coastal economies

A landmark study has provided a comprehensive assessment of the economic value of small-scale fisheries to some of the Indian Ocean’s most impoverished communities, demonstrating the crucial contribution these make to the daily survival of coastal populations.

Small-scale fisheries are fundamental to the livelihoods of over 500 million people worldwide, both as a source of nutrition and income. Yet despite their critical importance, these fisheries are often overlooked by decision-makers due to their remote and dispersed nature.  A lack of monitoring means that many developing coastal nations – home to 97% of the world’s fishers – lack an understanding of the role these fisheries play in their economies.

Small-scale fisheries are often completely left out of policy discussions due to a lack of data about their scale and importance,” notes Michele Barnes-Mauthe, doctoral researcher at the University of Hawai’i  and lead author of the study.

Amelia johnson Photography-209-small

The study found that small-scale fisheries employ 87% of the adult population and provide the sole protein source for 99% of household meals in a remote coastal region of southwest Madagascar. In a country where nine out of ten people live  on less than $2 per day and half of children aged under five are chronically malnourished, these results highlight the critical importance of small-scale fisheries for income generation and food security.

More than 5,000 tonnes of fish and invertebrates were extracted in 2010 by small-scale fishers in an area with just 8,000 people, of which 83% was sold commercially, equating to a total economic value of $6.9 million including subsistence catch. The unreported economic value of these small-scale fisheries is paramount in a country where per capita GDP has declined every year since 1960.

We have long known that small-scale fisheries are the economic lifeblood of coastal communities throughout the tropical developing world,” comments Dr Kirsten Oleson, environmental economist with Blue Ventures and Professor at the University of Hawai’i, “but this study is the first to demonstrate just how much this equates to in hard currency.”


Out of sight and out of mind

With 78% of catches in the study area being sold locally, the majority of transactions go unnoticed, leading to gross underestimations of the contribution of small-scale fisheries to national GDP and local livelihoods. 

An earlier study  conducted by the University of British Colombia  and Blue Ventures  in 2012 showed that fisheries catches in Madagascar have been underreported by as much as 500% over the past five decades. 

“This new study may signify that our previous estimate was conservative,” says Frederic Le Manach, lead author of the 2012 paper and post-doctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia. “According to national statistics, fisheries account for around 3% of Madagascar’s GDP, however, the results of this new paper suggest that they make a much larger contribution.”

The study suggests that the small-scale fisheries sector in Madagascar is at least one and a half times as valuable as concessions earned from EU tuna vessels, and a sixth as valuable as the entire domestic commercial shrimp industry; both of which receive substantial policy attention. The persistent undervaluation of small-scale fisheries is a key factor in the lack of recognition given to these resources by policy-makers.

The study indicates that management initiatives such as community-led marine areas could safeguard the sustainability of subsistence fisheries and strengthen food security. However, it also notes that these must be supported by regional, national and international policies that safeguard the rights of small-scale fishers over export-orientated commercial or foreign access fishers in contexts where small-scale fisheries are central to the livelihoods of impoverished coastal populations.

The full paper by Barnes-Mauthe et al. can be found here

Editors Notes:
Blue Ventures is a science-led social enterprise that works with coastal communities to develop transformative approaches for nurturing and sustaining locally-led marine conservation.

Dr Oleson’s research group, within the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, employs an interdisciplinary approach for understanding the contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being in the Indo-Pacific. Previously based in Madagascar with Blue Ventures in 2009-2011, Dr Oleson led an ambitious economic valuation of coastal ecosystem goods and services in the Velondriake area.

Please contact research@blueventures.org for more information about this study.

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