Dead, Alive, or Excreted: The Mysterious Role of Detritus in Food Webs

Suppose I ate a moldy fish, and my friend ate a fresh one. Though both food items are fish, food web ecologists would probably call my friend’s meal “fish” and mine “detritus.” Detritus is a catch-all term for dead plant tissue (e.g. leaf litter, dead wood, dead algae), dead animal tissue, feces, mucus, and even … Continue reading

Shelter or Buffet? The Predator Paradox In Mangrove Communities

  What’s in a mangrove? Anoxic, tannin-rich sediments, yes. But there are also predators… quite a few of them. Brian Nakahara, a recently graduated masters student from the Oceanography department at UH found that there are higher abundances of predators inside mangrove forests than on adjacent bare sediments. He also found that predators with smaller … Continue reading

Whatever Sinks Your Boat: Pests as a Conservation Tool

Teredo worms (or shipworms), which are actually bivalves of the family Teredinidae, are legendary in their appetites for ship hulls, wood pilings, or any other wood found in the ocean. Like a clam or any other bivalve, they have two sharp shells on one end, but their long, soft body makes them look more like … Continue reading

Little Shop of Cores: What Lives in He’eia’s Sediments

These invertebrates were found in sediment cores from the edge of the pond, all of them areas were mangroves had been removed (See “Old Scourge, New Questions,” January 30th). Some organisms may have been living a few centimeters underneath the sediment surface, while others may have had shallower burrows– since these samples were depth-integrated, we … Continue reading

What Is An Ecosystem Engineer?

Though I use the term frequently, deciding whether an organism is an ecosystem engineer is difficult. The term “ecosystem engineer” itself is problematic: almost every organism modifies its environment in some way, and in the face of indirect effects, quantifying this modification is nearly impossible. However, this category is useful because it can help us … Continue reading

Homemaker, Lovemaker, Engineer

While they are not the most attractive of crabs, nor of interest to any fishery, Thalamita crenata, or the “blue pincher” is numerically the most dominant crab in the fishpond. I am interested in it because it seems to have no problem living in concert with the toughest invaders. Blue pinchers can be found burrowing in … Continue reading

Alien Babies: To’au in He’eia Mangroves

While I was seining with the LAIP interns this past summer, we came across some interesting fish living near the mangroves. While some of the fish and nearly all the invertebrates we’ve seen are species that may spend their entire lives in the pond (the half-spotted goby, for example, or Podopthalmus vigil, the Hawai’ian swimming crab), … Continue reading

Back To Bacteria: A “Big, Rotten Loofah”

More on the mangrove story: This Tuesday we took sediment cores from two areas where mangrove overstory (prop roots and trunks) were cut down in 2007 and 2008. In these areas, dead stumps still stick out of the mud, and a thick, fibrous root mat stabilizes the sediments. Even though the overstory was removed four … Continue reading

What’s In A Sponge?

This weekend we found a sort of sponge raft drifting along the bottom of the pond. Composed of Gracilaria and the orange sponge Mycale sp., the piece was weighed down with sediment and tiny organisms living inside. The contents included two brittle stars, several polychaete worms, a few amphipods, and some mysterious organism (pictured below). Whether the sponge … Continue reading

  • Mahalo Nui Loa

    I recently graduated from the Donahue Lab at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and am currently a graduate student at the University of Washington. This research is funded by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, as well a scholarship from the Seattle chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation.
  • “Where do ecological ideas come from? …Most do not spring deductively from the minds of ecologists, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Instead, they emerge when ecologists absorb the essential spirit of individual places– their genius loci.”

    ~Mary V. Price & Ian Billick, "The Ecology of Place"
  • “Aloha is the intelligence with which we meet life.”

    ~Olana A'i, Kumu Hula

  • “I no longer say ‘Hawaiian ways of knowing’ anymore. Because people relegate that to the margins. ‘Ways of knowing,’ as if it’s a quaint, anthropologic way of describing something outside us. No, it’s ‘epistemology,’ the philosophy of knowledge. Land educates. ‘Ike ‘aina. The land of your birth educates you. This land here educates you.”

    ~Manu Meyer