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Honolulu Scholar Kane Brings Indigenous Knowledge to Science

Posted on Saturday, June 1, 2024

The first Native Hawaiian woman to receive a PhD in geology from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Haunani Kane has never lost sight of her cultural roots in pursuing her science career.

Most recently, the 2017 Toby Lee ARCS Scholar was co-author on a PLOS One article reporting that culturally grounded practices such as traditional Polynesian oceanic voyaging have e a significant role in achieving holistic health and, thus, hold promise for reversing health inequities in Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other global indigenous populations at similar risk.

As a UH Manoa Assistant Professor, Dr. Kaneʻs research combines coastal geology, reconstructions of past climate conditions, and the perspectives of a native islander to investigate how islands, reefs, and island people are impacted by changes in climate. She is also co-creator and chair of the MEGA Lab, a Hawaiʻi-based nonprofit that engages underserved communities in science and ocean conservation.

No wonder the nonprofit, independent media organization Grist named her a Fixer in 2023. The award goes to leaders who find unique ways to apply their strengths, creativity, and time in tackling the biggest problems facing the planet. Read about the award.

Haunani Kane giving Ted Talk

"I am an islander from Hawai‘i who relies on ancestral knowledgte and modern technology to identify the best solutions so that we as a collective island people can adapt," Dr. Kane explained in a 2021 Ted Talk about an all-Hawaiian research crew she led to Papahanaumakuakea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands—a place that will be uninhabitable in the next 30 years and removed by sea level rise in the next 80. Watch the video

To learn more about Dr. Kane, read the Civil Beat profile or visit her website.

Haunani Kane