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Hawaiʻi Wildlife Ecology Lab

A Collaborative & Diverse Group

Dr. Melissa R. Price

Assistant Professor

To conserve fragile ecosystems, we must understand the ecology and connectivity of individual species. My projects  examine pieces of the puzzle, such as genetic connectivity, habitat use, and species interactions. 

The decisions we make today in conservation will have long-reaching effects, and must be made based on best practices and solid research.  I go to work each day excited to be part of a community of people working to conserve endangered species for the health of our planet and the enjoyment of future generations.


Dr. Kristen Harmon

Derek Risch

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Project Coordinator

Kristen Harmon recently graduated from the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab with a PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Management with a specialization in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology. Her PhD research focused on developing spatial and statistical models to assess environmental impacts on Hawaiian waterbird reproductive success. As part of her dissertation work, she completed the first statewide assessment of projected losses of waterbird nesting habitat due to sea level rise across Hawai‘i, as well as the potential for Indigenous Hawaiian wetland agro-ecosystems (lo‘i) to compensate for these losses. Kristen is now serving as Project Coordinator in the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab on a decision analysis project aimed to optimize threat management strategies for the long-term persistence of species of conservation concern across Maui Nui. Kristen is also committed to outreach and education, and she regularly participates in community conservation events and youth educational programs.

Project Coordinator

Derek Risch is an ecologist with a focus on quantitative methods including ecological modeling, spatial prioritizations, and GIS approaches to wildlife management. Derek was a graduate student in the Wildlife Ecology Lab and was awarded his Master's degree in 2019 from the Natural Resources and Environmental Management department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, titled “Quantifying the impact of wild pigs on global biodiversity and the spatiotemporal ecology of feral pigs on Maui, Hawai‘i”. He is continuing his work as the project lead for the state-wide ungulate distribution project in collaboration with the Department of Land and Natural Resourceʻs Division of Forestry and Wildlife. His current work is focused on how we can better understand the spatial ecology of ungulates in Hawaiʻi to inform decision making. 


Claire Atkins

M.S. Graduate Student

Claire was born in Pennsylvania and led a wild and winding life through her early twenties. She graduated with a B.S. in Natural Resources & Environmental Management from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa after completing the first two years of her degree at the Community College of Denver. Claire is interested in many aspects of coastal ecology and grounds her work through growing and sustaining reciprocal relationships to place, community, and collaborators. She is currently working to understand the occupancy and resource partitioning of migratory shorebirds in Heʻeia, Oʻahu.


Charlton Kūpa‘a Hee

M.E.M Graduate student

As a Native Hawaiian raised in Ke‘elepulu, Ko‘olaupoko, O‘ahu, Kūpa‘a spent his formative years learning the importance of mālama  ̒āina and aloha  ̒āina, restoring ka loko i‘a o He‘eia with the non-profit group Paepae O He‘eia. Prior to joining the Hawai‘i Wildlife Ecology Lab, Kūpa‘a began his relationship with Kāhuli, endemic Hawaiian land snails, in 2015 as a field technician with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife Snail Extinction Prevention Program. Through years of observation and caring for the many imperiled Kāhuli species he has witnessed population-recovery success as well as species extinction. In hopes of improving upon knowledge, conservation and care of these sensitive snails Kūpa‘a tracks the dispersal of lab-reared and wild Kāhuli to better understand their movement behavior.


Lauren Katayama

M.S. Graduate Student

Lauren was born and raised on the island of ʻOahu and grew up loving the environment. She graduated with a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is continuing with the program for her M.S. degree. Lauren has previous experience working with Hawaiʻi’s native waterbirds (Aeʻo, ʻAlae ʻula, and ʻAlae keʻokeʻo) in the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Ecology Lab and with Kāhuli (native snails) in the Snail Extinction Prevention Program. She is now doing research on invasive wild ungulates such as feral pigs, mouflon sheep, and axis deer and their impacts on Hawaiʻi Island and Maui Island ranches.


Molly Hagemann

M.S. Graduate Student

Molly is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in the Natural Resources & Environmental Management department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is focused on studying the population genetics of the Pueo (Hawaiian Short-eared owl, Asio flammeus sandwichensis), but is also interested in the genetic structure of Short-eared owls at a global scale. Molly grew up in Texas and received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2010, she moved to Hawaiʻi and began working at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, where she still serves as the manager of the Vertebrate Zoology collections.


Wade Naguwa

M.S. Graduate Student

Wade is a graduate student who originally started as an intern in the lab as a freshman in undergrad. Being born and raised in Hawai'i, he has always had a keen sense of pride with natural resources in our environment. He is pursuing a masters degree to better his knowledge on our natural resources to better the ecosystem for future generations. Wade has worked on multiple projects in the lab as an intern in the past, but he will be focusing his time in grad school on axis deer movement on Maui. 

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Jaime Botet

M.S. Graduate Student

Jaime Botet is a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in Natural Resources & Environmental Management department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Ecology Lab. His research is focus on how nest site and habitat characteristics influence predation of Hawaiian Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) and Hawaiian Gallinules (Gallinula galeata) nests and how they relate to their nesting success. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he aims to continue collaborating with local communities, non-profit organizations, government agency and the private sector to sustain our ecosystems by enriching the human perception of nature and enhancing worldwide policy actions for the benefit of the planet.


Taylor Shimabukuro

M.S. Graduate Student

Taylor Shimabukuro was born and raised on the island of O'ahu. He graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After graduating he served several terms as an AmeriCorps member where he was introduced to the world of conservation. These opportunities have allowed him to be working towards a master's degree in Natural Resource and Environmental Management at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. His research involves the habitat selection of waterbirds for nesting and chick development at Hamakua Marsh.

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