Kirsten

Compassion is our deepest nature.  It arises from our interconnection with all things.

This principle stemming from Buddhist psychology eloquently states my passion for conservation.  A similar ideology also resonates in Hawaiian culture as the concept of lokahi.  Lokahi describes the connection, essentially describing the balance between ʻāina, kānaka, and ke akua but also mind, body, spirit, and land.  With the understanding that all things are connected I have travelled through my education and past experiences to find myself in a place I have always strived to be.

Hawaiʻi is such a unique place full of life, community stewardship, and tradition.  I was raised to be an enthusiast of the ocean and a steward of the land. This aspect of my life was challenged when my family moved to Illinois amidst my childhood.  At the time, all I could see in this move was an uprooting of a child of the sea to a place 4,100 miles away, a place unknown and unfamiliar.  Throughout the rest of my compulsory education I learned to see the light in a place so different than Hawaiʻi and familiarized myself with such a terrestrial environment still holding onto that feeling in my naʻau that Hawaiʻi was home and one day I would return.

Upon graduating from high school, I made my intended journey back to the wonderful islands of Hawaiʻi earning my Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2012.  I am elated to be back in the place that I call home; looking back now, I am perpetually thankful for my time spent in Illinois.  The time spent away has given me an even greater appreciation of Hawaiʻi, not only its unique ecosystems but its deep sense of community and its devotion to culture and tradition.  This brings me back to lokahi; the balance of mind, body, spirit, and land that guides me to care for Hawaiʻi and all it has to offer.

With this, I am overjoyed to begin my excursion as a Marine Fellow with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi.  I am forever grateful for The Nature Conservancy, NOAA’s Pacific Services Center, Atherton Family Foundation, Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation, and The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument Division for providing Brad, Kalani and I with such an outstanding opportunity to serve and protect Hawaiʻi’s unique marine ecosystems.  Through this fellowship I hope to gain vital knowledge and skills to ensure the well-being of Hawaiʻi for future generations to come.

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