Hanauma Bay Impacts, More in Undergraduate Research Showcase

Shannon Murphy surveyed four plots in Hanauma Bay every two months for nine months.

The impact of visitors on Hanauma Bay’s coral reef and how geographic locations affected students’ college experience were two of nearly 100 undergraduate research and creative work exhibited at the Virtual University of 2022 Hawaii in Manoa Spring Undergraduate Showcase April 29.

Impact of Hanauma Bay Visitors

Person in scuba gear above water in a bay
Shannon Murphy

Shannon Murphya world specialist in environmental sciences in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technologychose to study the impact of visitors on the coral reef of Hanauma Bay because she has visited the bay all her life and volunteered with Friends of Hanauma Bay.

“I also discovered a passion for studying coral reef ecology, and this project was the perfect combination of studying my favorite organisms and providing scientific data to my community,” Murphy said.

Under the direction of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology Searcher Kuʻulei Rodgers, Murphy monitored four plots in the bay, every two months for nine months. She recorded the number of snorkelers entering each patch and their interactions with the reef. The results showed a direct relationship between snorkeling density and the number of disturbances, however, these disturbances did not translate into impaired coral health, meaning there was no coral breakage or abrasion by divers.

Murphy said this could possibly be explained by low coral cover in the bay and/or high skeletal strength coral species due to the history of high water movement and high visitor numbers. Murphy said future management actions could limit visitor numbers and occurrences of reef disturbances to potentially reduce tissue loss and promote coral recruitment.

“Hanauma Bay is a place of cultural and ecological significance, not just a place for tourists,” Murphy said. “As this is a marine life conservation district, residents and visitors should take responsibility for preserving and protecting this area. In the end, if the corals do not gain surface area or reproduce, it is only a matter of time before more corals disappear. I hope this project can encourage further research in the bay on coral health and initiate stricter conservation strategies so that the people of Hawaii can enjoy the bay for years to come.”

Role of Geography in the College Experience of Students

picture of person
Manu Moreira

Manu Moreiraa major in psychology at College of Social Sciences, focusing on the role of geography in students’ college experience (self-efficacy, well-being, stress and self-esteem). Under the direction of Assistant Professor Emilie DaubertMoreira interviewed more than 300 uh Mānoa students, evaluating their college experience across different variables.

“I grew up in the rural county of Kaʻu and when I went to Oʻahu my experiences as a rural student felt unique compared to my peers from urban and suburban backgrounds,” said Moreira. “Also, my peers from rural backgrounds had similarities, but the differences in perception of the college experience or how they navigated through those experiences were different from mine.”

According to Moreira, the results found no significant difference between geographic locations on college experience, controlling for income and gender. However, Moreira said there were significant differences in stress between men and women. Although the results of this study did not show statistically significant differences in the college experience, future studies with a larger sample would create a more diverse understanding of the college experience of students. Moreira said geographic location is not a commonly used variable, therefore, its inclusion narrows the literature gap in geography-based studies.

Learn more about the Undergraduate Showcase

Hosted by the Honors Program and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, the Undergraduate Showcase takes place at the end of each semester. This is a public event open to visitors on and off campus. All uh Mānoa undergraduate students in any field of study pursuing a faculty-supervised research project or creative work are encouraged to submit an abstract for presentation. Visit the Undergraduate Showcase Website for more information.

This work is an example of uh Mānoa’s goals of Improve student success (PDF) and Research Excellence: Advancing the Enterprise of Research and Creative Work (PDF), two of the four objectives identified in the Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (PDF), updated December 2020.

-By Marc Arakaki


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