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Kiwa Hasegawa
HWF Intern - November 2014

> I would like to start with thanking for Hawaii Wildlife Fund for having me as an intern. I felt very welcomed and spent 11 incredible days with them on Maui. My thanks especially go to Hannah Bernard, the president of HWF, who provided me with a program that suited my interest.

HWF Intern Kiwa Hasegawa, right, poses with HWF President Hannah Bernard above a sea turtle at Maui Ocean Aquarium.

Of the many projects happening, joining Honu Watch was significant. I watched and learned what HWF does at this honu's favorite basking site. It is only a natural reaction for people to get excited to see wild turtles on the beach. I was, too, and wanted to take picture or get closer and even touch them. We would think we are not going to harm them, it would only be seconds, so it should be OK to do those things but we don't realize turtles have to deal with you and him and her and them and more. Our behavior does cause interference with their rest. That is why HWF has volunteers there to help people understand how turtles need to be left alone quietly. The way HWF approaches people is so professional that the visitors were convinced and gained respect for HWF and for honu after all. It was meaningful to see ecological education take place on the ground. HWF also monitors while on the basking site. They keep count of how many honu come and go, at what time, and also take photos for later identification. They do this 365 days a year. It is regardful that HWF is committed to save honu completely.

I had a couple of chances to go snorkeling while on Maui. In water transparency, both times, I met honu together with many kinds of fish. It was really amazing to come across this beautiful creature under water very often like that. It tells me that the marine ecosystem is still rich on Maui, compared to the other parts of ocean.

On the other hand, it came as a bit of a shock to learn the fact of how much debris there is in the ocean by participating in a beach cleanup, which HWF does monthly. It was the true experience. Once I squatted down, I stayed down for a long time until picking up all pieces of debris around me. It was a startling finding, enough to make me want to clear out everything out there. Just to think of the devastating impact to marine ecosystem made me sad. Much of our careless trash ends up in the ocean and becomes a threat to life. This is entirely avoidable by awareness campaigns and education.

That means I was lucky to visit LIMU FESTIVAL. It is an annual educational event where you can learn about limu (seaweed), ocean resources and marine ecology while enjoying Hawaiian music and dancing. Many conservation organizations gathered together to raise awareness and support. HWF was there to set up a booth and hold a game for kids to learn about honu.

Half of my stay in Maui, I slept under a tent on the beach to be present at nest watch for honu hatchlings, together with many devoted volunteers. We took turns as a lookout through night after night. Unfortunately, this nest, the latest in this season, didn't hatch.

Working at taro farm with Uncle Oliver was a valuable lesson, too. Pulling weeds and replanting taro for half a day was tiring! Organic farming is hard work. I would not know how hard it was until experienced. I renewed a sense of gratitude for organic growers.

That wasn't all but to sum up, I spent quality time with HWF. Hannah accompanied me all kinds of places to show me real conservation work and also took care of me well. She is the sweetest and the coolest person you can learn environmental conservation from. Cheryl King, the vice president of HWF, taught me about honu and marine debris. I was impressed by her passion and love for honu, Tara Branham, volunteer and educational coordinator, arranged to make my internship possible. Thanks to them, my internship turned out to be fulfilling. I work for a conservation organization in Tokyo, off-site. Having experienced on-the-ground inspired me to contribute to nature conservation even more closely.

In closing, I thank again HWF for what they do for nature and for us. I really hope Maui will stay beautiful forever and ever.

Hawai'i Wildlife Fund       PO Box 790637 Paia, HI 96779      808.280.8124       wild@aloha.net      http://wildhawaii.org
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