You can now watch He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai, a three-part Hawaiian language-narrated video series that explores the plight of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal! The series was created as part of a collaborative internship project with Kamehameha Schools and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. It represents a greater effort to increase the integration of traditional ecological knowledge into our work and make marine conservation stories widely accessible to all.
The goal of this project was to create engaging stories about the Hawaiian monk seal for Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) with a focus on haumāna (students). Viewers learn about monk seals, the threats they face, and our kuleana (responsibility) to respect and conserve them.
The internship took place over the course of an entire school year, beginning in September 2022. The project was led by two Kamehameha Schools Kapālama seniors, Huki Plunkett and Nohi Tabilangan, who wrote, narrated, and edited the entire video series. As a multi-disciplinary project, they worked with the school’s digital media department on the technical aspects of editing and recording media. They also received expert language guidance on translating the script into ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). The support of experts and kumu (teacher) included:
- Tisha Louis, Science
- Leah Kihara, Digital Media
- Aulani Herrod, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi
- Dr. Stacie Robinson, Research Ecologist, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program
- Ali Bayless, Outreach and Education Coordinator, CIMAR/RCUH in support of NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
The team met bimonthly to discuss script development, video content, and story creation. On World Ocean Day 2023, the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center team hosted a video premiere at the NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center. They welcomed the entire Kamehameha Schools team to celebrate the success of these haumāna.
“This project allowed our haumana to realize the value in their voice through the ancestral knowledge they carry. The opportunity to work collaboratively in a professional setting pushed them to a higher level of achievement while still allowing a safety net through the guidance of mentors at school as well as at NOAA,” shared Tisha Louis.
He Moʻolelo ʻĪliokai invites us into the world of the Hawaiian monk seal.
The first episode provides an overview of the history of the Hawaiian monk seal and a Hawaiian linguistic perspective of its various names and the meanings behind them. Beginning with the Kumulipo, Hawaiian creation chant, we learn that the Hawaiian monk seal is an important part of our ecosystem here in Hawai‘i.
The second episode dives deeper by providing a glimpse into the Hawaiian monk seals habitat in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument through captivating footage taken both above and below the ocean surface. Part of this includes images captured by seal-mounted cameras, which are portable cameras that can be attached to active monk seals to capture images of them engaging with their environment. Through a seal’s perspective, we learn interesting facts about their behavior and diet as well as other species with which they interact.
The final episode explores human impacts on the seals and our responsibility to help the species recover and thrive. Dr. Stacie Robinson discusses the current status of the Hawaiian monk seal and what we can do to protect them!
Collaborating With Community
As the 2023–2024 school year progresses, the team will conduct classroom visits at ke kula kaiapuni (Hawaiian language immersion schools) to further share this valuable resource with Hawaiian language learners.
Collaborations like this are greatly needed, and we appreciate opportunities to work closely with students and the communities we serve. We hope that these videos enable broader access to Hawaiian monk seal science, their cultural importance, and the stewardship efforts we can all take to conserve this important species.
Mahalo for watching!