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. Marie-Sophie Garcia-Heras

Wildlife Research Coordinator - Pueo Project

I am a field ecologist with a strong focus on conservation biology, specifically working with raptor and seabird populations. I am interested in developing comprehensive research to look at how various environmental and anthropogenic factors may be affecting and limiting species. My primary research interests include habitat use, movement ecology and migration patterns, in addition to ecotoxicology, ecophysiology, and the interactions between top-predators and prey. I am a strong believer of interdisciplinary research and international collaborations as key elements for a broader understanding of the ecology of wild species and the functioning of the ecosystems they depend on.
I earned my PhD from the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology - University of Cape Town (South Africa) where I investigated the ecology of an endemic raptor, the endangered Black Harrier. From 2018-2020, I became a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University (USA), looking at marine space use of a threatened seabird, the Marbled Murrelet. Starting in August 2020, I am currently working within the Pueo (Hawaiian Short-eared Owl) project by investigating different aspects of its ecology, such as movement and breeding.


Derek Risch

Spatial Conservation and Wildlife Planner
Ungulate Project Leader

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 minimize conflict between conservation and game management objectives.


Kristen Harmon

PhD Candidate

Kristen Harmon is a PhD candidate in the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab pursing a MSc. degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management with a specialization in Ecology Evolution and Conservation Biology. Her research focuses on the conservation of native Hawaiian waterbirds, as well as restoration and management of native systems in Hawai‘i. Kristen is also committed to outreach and education, and she regularly participates in community conservation events and youth educational programs.



Jessica Idle

PhD Student

Raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Jessica found her passion for wildlife management and conservation after completing a two-week study abroad program in South Africa learning about African ecology and conservation. She then earned her B.S. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management at UH Manoa where she conducted a research project through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. The project sought to understand the effect of human traffic on the fledging success of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nesting along Kailua Beach. Jessica is now pursuing a PhD in the same program, with a dissertation focused on Hawaiian Stilt chick habitat use and survival. (https://jessicaidle.weebly.com/)

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Philip Kitamura

M.S. Graduate student

Born and raised in Waimano, Hawaiʻi, Philip obtained his undergraduate degree from the Natural Resource and Environmental Management Program from University Of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, specializing in wildlife management. He is continuing his studies in the NREM program as a Plan A masters student; his research builds off of Melissa Price’s population genetics for the endangered endemic genus of Achatinella (tree snails).


Eryn Opie

M.S. Graduate Student

Eryn had spent several years participating in habitat restoration work in Papahānaumokuākea and it was here that she developed a deep connection to the environment and the place she was living in. However, she started to realize that though she loved remote seabird colonies, she wanted to be home cultivating this connection in the place she grew up. She saw issues of the world from the perspective of a tiny atoll and knew she wanted to be back in society working to better understand human behavior and their global impacts. She is a graduate student in the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and a research assistant with the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve studying the utilization of Hawaiian agrosystems by native waterbirds. She is grateful to be back in school with an amazing opportunity to cultivate her passion for conservation at home and to be apart of a community working together to understand and preserve Hawaiʻiʻs ecosystems.


Olivia Wang

M.S. Graduate Student

Olivia is a graduate student pursuing her MSc. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science. Olivia discovered her passion for wildlife conservation as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis, where she monitored breeding Northern Harriers in Bay Area tidal marshes and analyzed the migration phenology of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. Upon graduating from Davis with a B.S. in Animal Biology, Olivia worked as a field technician on various avian population monitoring projects and as an environmental educator, helping students build meaningful connections with nature and learn the importance of environmental stewardship. Her interest in raptor conservation has led her to the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab, where she is studying the ecology and management of pueo, or Hawaiian Short-eared Owls.


Kaleiheana-a-Pōhaku Stormcrow

M.S. Graduate Student

Kalei is an incoming graduate student in the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Ecology Lab where she is pursuing a MSc. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management. She grew up in Maine and Kailua, and developed a deep relationship to the land in both places. She lived in Oakland for some years, where she was a falconry apprentice before moving to Oregon. She received a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Oregon State University with a focus in ecosystem dynamics. Kalei spent the last two summers working with Northern Goshawks in Colville National Forest. She is particularly interested in the intersection of conservation and culture. That interest paired with her love of raptors brought her home to Hawaiʻi to study Pueo, Hawaiian Short-eared Owl.


Malia Staab

M.S. Graduate Student

Malia was born and raised in Mānoa Valley on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. She went to Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana for her undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Studies. She has always loved being outside and passions include developing sense of place through outdoor education and protection of native Hawaiian plants and ecosystems. Malia has returned to Mānoa to pursue a Masters in Environmental Management. She is working to create a waterbird botulism reporting database that will increase communication between wetland managers, including Federal, State, independent and non-profit land management agencies.


Nikki Preston

M.S. Graduate Student

Nikki Preston is a graduate student pursuing the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Natural Resources and Environmental Management Program. Her previous work spans across Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and the Northern Mariana Islands where she gained experiences in plant and animal identification, nest searching and wildlife tracking techniques, and endangered species management decisions, which has further stoked her passion for contribution to the conservation and research of island endemic flora and fauna. Nikki Preston has begun her journey into the Masters of Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM) starting Fall 2021 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Enrolled in the Masters of Environmental Management (MEM) capstone plan, Nikki is investigating predictors of O'ahu 'Elepaio (Chasiempis ibidis) Nesting Success Between Rodent-Controlled and Uncontrolled Areas. Her project is currently underway.
Significance: One of the main causes of decline to the O'ahu 'Elepaio is predation by black rats. This research will dive into whether additional predator control grids are needed to protect and expand the breeding range of 'Elepaio. Additionally this project may illuminate other environmental factors that aid in 'Elepaio breeding success.

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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.


Undergraduate Research


Andreanna Cole

Undergraduate Student

Andreanna Cole is an undergraduate student in the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lad pursuing a BS degree in Marine Biology. She was introduced to the lab by being a research assistant for Kristen Harmons Hawaiian Stilt Project, and assisting others involved in research projects with the endangered waterbird. She then started a UROP with Clarine Phipps under the mentorship of Melissa Price and assistance of Kristen Harmon. The UROP studies the diet of the Hawaiian Stilt chicks in the different, complex wetland systems here on O’ahu. Andreanna is very passionate about the conservation of marine or terrestrial wildlife, specifically those threatened or endangered. She enthusiastically participates in anything conservation related, whether it be the assistance of banding Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters or coordinating Community Service Work Days on James Campbell Wildlife Refuge, where she works as a full-time Outreach KUPU.