Monday, November 23, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 4th week in November: 'amakihi

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 4th week in November:

Starting this week, 'amakihi are starting to nest in high, native forests on the island of Hawai'i. Although breeding at this time of year is unusual for Hawaiian birds, 'amakihi and nēnē have both developed this behavior. Perhaps there is a greater availability of food available during the rainy season.

The Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Hemignathus virens) is a small generalist Hawaiian honeycreeper (Family: Fringillidae) that occurs on the islands of Hawai‘i, Maui, and Moloka‘i. Until 1995, the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi, and the O‘ahu 'amakihi (H. flavus) and Kaua‘i ‘amakihi (H. kauaiensis) were considered a single species: the common ‘amakihi (H. virens).

Plumage of all species is similar; males are yellow-green to olive in color, and females are generally similar, but duller. All have decurved bills.

Hawai‘i ‘amakihi are generalized foragers that most often glean arthropods from the leaves, blossoms, twigs, branches, and less frequently from tree trunks of a variety of trees, ferns, and shrubs. This species feeds on nectar predominately from the flowers of ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha), māmane (Sophora chrysophylla), and native lobelias (Campanulaceae), but also forages on flowers of a number of other native and non-native plants. Hawai‘i ‘amakihi also eats fruit from native and non-native plants, but predominately from pilo (Coprosma spp.).

Hawai'i 'amakihi forages alone, in pairs, in family groups, or in mixed flocks. Courtship behavior is somewhat complex and includes courtship chases, advertising displays, and courtship feeding. Pairs will remain together for successive breeding seasons. The pair selects a nest site, the female builds an open-cup nest, then lays two or three eggs. Only females incubate eggs and brood nestlings. Males deliver food to females who then feed nestlings. Fledglings are dependent on parents for up to three months. The Hawai‘i ‘amakihi usually raise two broods in a season.

Drawn images taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events" 
published by Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989
For more info about 'amakihi, and to see photos, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Conservation Strategy forest bird fact sheets.

Or click on the names below:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Time For An Environmental Pop Quiz!

Lessons from the Environment:
Test Your Environmental Knowledge!

An environmental awareness quiz, brought to you by the National Environmental Education Foundation. This quiz covers issues that have been discussed in the media. The questions are designed to illustrate how much accurate information people are getting from television, newspapers, magazines, and other sources. Write down your answers and compare them to the correct answers below.

1. There are many different kinds of animals and plants, and they live in many different types of environments. What is the word used to describe this idea? Is it:
. Multiplicity

b. Biodiversity
c. Socio-economics
d. Evolution
e. Don't know

2. Carbon monoxide is a major contributor to air pollution in the U.S. Which of the following is the biggest source of carbon monoxide? Is it…
a. Factories and businesses

b. People breathing
c. Motor vehicles
d. Trees
e. Don't know

3. How is most of the electricity in the U.S. generated? Is it…
a. By burning oil, coal, and wood

b. With nuclear power
c. Through solar energy
d. At hydro-electric power plants
e. Don't know

4. What is the most common cause of pollution of streams, rivers, and oceans? Is it…
a. Dumping of garbage by cities

b. Surface water running off yards, city streets, paved lots, and farm fields
c. Trash washed into the ocean from beaches
d. Waste dumped by factories
e. Don't know

5. Which of the following is a renewable resource? Is it…
a. Oil

b. Iron ore
c. Trees
d. Coal
e. Don't know

6. Ozone forms a protective layer in the earth's upper atmosphere. What does ozone protect us from? Is it …
a. Acid rain

b. Global warming
c. Sudden changes in temperature
d. Harmful, cancer-causing sunlight
e. Don't know

7. Where does most of the garbage in the U.S. end up? Is it in…
a. Oceans

b. Incinerators
c. Recycling centers
d. Landfills
e. Don't know

8. What is the name of the primary federal agency that works to protect the environment? Is it the…
a. Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA)

b. Department of Health, Environment, and Safety (the DHES)
c. National Environmental Agency (the NEA)
d. Federal Pollution Control Agency (the FPCA)
e. Don't know

9. Which of the following household wastes is considered hazardous waste? Is it…
a. Plastic packaging

b. Glass
c. Batteries
d. Spoiled food
e. Don't know

10. What is the most common reason that an animal species becomes extinct? Is it because…
a. Pesticides are killing them

b. Their habitats are being destroyed by humans
c. There is too much hunting
d. There are climate changes that affect them
e. Don't know

11. Scientists have not determined the best solution for disposing of nuclear waste. In the U.S., what do we do with it now? Do we…
a. Use it as nuclear fuel

b. Sell it to other countries
c. Dump it in landfills
d. Store and monitor the waste
e. Don't know

12. What is the primary benefit of wetlands? Do they…
a. Promote flooding

b. Help clean the water before it enters lakes, streams, rivers, or oceans
c. Help keep the number of undesirable plants and animals low,
d. Provide good sites for landfills
e. Don't know

Click here to compare your responses to the responses of a random survey of Americans. Click here for a report card on Americans' environmental knowledge.

(Answers: 1. b, 2. c, 3. a, 4. b, 5. c 6. d, 7. d, 8. a, 9. c, 10. b, 11. d, 12.b)

Quiz, answers, and links from the National Environmental Education Foundation website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Online Environmental Education Resources

See below for two online resource centers for educators and advice for teachers looking to incorporate EE into the classroom:

Resource #1.
Attention High School Teachers! The National Environmental Education Foundation's Classroom Earth is an online resource designed to help high school teachers include environmental content in their daily lesson plans. This is not just for science teachers. Lessons are divided up by subject area, and include foreign languages, language arts, math, social studies, the arts, and of course, science.

Useful resources on the site include:
In the News: Find environmental news articles to connect to your classroom content.
Where in the World: Geographically-based environmental information, plus resources for incorporating geographically-based topics into your lessons.
Find your Course

Look at Success Stories. The projects of other teachers can offer inspiration.
Explore Funding Opportunities
Teaching about the environment does not require funding, but if you have a creative idea that needs funding, or want to allow an opportunity to enrich your skills, browse the funding resources.
Discover Professional Development Opportunities
Are you looking for professional development opportunities to help you learn more about how to include environmental content in your high school classroom lessons? Look for tabs at the top of the home page or links in the bottom right hand corner.

Resource #2
The National Wildlife Federation has officially started the Eco-Schools USA Program. It is the new US component of an international network of 30,000 schools in 43 nations.

The Eco-Schools USA goals are simple:  1) green the school buildings,  2) green the school grounds, and c) green the educational programming at registered schools.

The program encompasses a rich set of educational "pathways" such as energy, water, green hour outdoors and climate change. Program partners include, Facing the Future, Al Gore's Climate Project, and the HSBC climate initiative. Schools and teachers can sign up online to be a part of the program and access valuable resources for "greening" your school!

And finally...
Advice from educators, for educators interested in incorporating the environment in their teachings.

  • Look for real-life connections that students can relate to.
  • Talk about science careers.
  • Don’t brainwash students, let them reach their own understanding based on facts.
  • Get the whole school involved. A holistic approach that incorporates the environment in more than just science classes.
  • As the teacher, you need to get out in the field. Try a summer project with the Nature Conservancy or a university professor.
  • Forge a connection with a university so that you can bring a scientist into your classroom.
  • Show school administrators that you’ve done your homework and have a workable plan if you want to sell them on a class project that takes the kids outside the classroom.
  • Learn how to write and apply for grants.

    *This list is part of the article "Teachers and schools embrace green curricula" by Harriet Blake for KABC TV - Los Angeles.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 3rd week in November - Humpback Whales

What's Happening in Hawaii 
during the 3rd week in November:
Humpback whales are now beginning to arrive for their annual, five-month stay in island waters. Humpbacks come to calve, and preferring warm, sheltered water for this purpose, they can often be seen from shore. Arrivals can increase in December and January, with the peak population being reached in February, when much of the calving occurs. 

At least a few humpbacks winter near each of the main islands, but they can be found in greatest numbers in the enclosed waters off Maui's southern flank and over a shallow bank west of Moloka'i.

Of the several hundred adults present, perhaps 30 will bear calves, and some will also mate before setting out in April or May for their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific. Humpbacks are known for underwater song, and their music evolves while they are here. New themes are started and old ones dropped, so that they leave with a different song than they brought. 

To see a video of singing whales, visit the Whale Humpback Whale Song site. This site also answers many frequently asked questions about whale songs.

Visit the Discovery Channel webpage to hear Humpback whale songs as well as noises from other interesting creatures. (You may need Quicktime, RealPlayer or Windows Media player to access these audio files. DOFAW is not affiliated with Whale Trust or the Discovery Channel.)

Want to learn more about the Humpback's migration? Visit the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary site to play a fun migration game.

If you'd like to volunteer your time and join others to watch and count whales this winter, visit the NOAA Humpback Whale Sanctuary Ocean Count Volunteer page.

Natural history info and image taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events," 
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How can you help Hawaii's unique and beautiful natural resources?

Here are a few ideas:

Get outdoors! Try out a new Na Ala Hele trail, visit a forest or spend some time in your neighborhood park. Appreciate what's out there, and spread your enthusiasm to others.

Before and after your hike, make sure to clean your shoes and pant legs. Seeds from invasive plants can stick to the bottoms of your shoes and pants, which can spread to native areas. Help the native forest by keeping it free of weeds!

Plant a tree! For advice about planting the right tree in the right place, visit the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage.

Plant some native vegetation. For a list of native plants, and tips for how and where to plant them, visit pages 6, 7 and 9 of the Backyard Conservation publication distributed this year on Oahu. Did you get your copy in your newspaper? If not, you can utilize this informative online resource right on your computer! While you're browsing through the booklet, learn about xeriscaping, compost, and water conservation.

Keep the environment free of litter. Make sure your trash goes into the trash can, and join beach and park clean-ups. Visit the Keep America Beautiful webpage for a list of community organizations working to keep Hawaii beautiful. If there are no clean-ups in your neighborhood or at your favorite beach, get friends and family together to start one!

Like spending time at the beach? Volunteer with the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Ocean Count program. Each winter when the humpback whales stop off in the islands during their annual migration, volunteers post up at beaches on Oahu, Hawaii and Kauai to watch for whales, and monitor their behavior. This information is then reported back to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by location team leaders. For more details about dates, locations and registering to help, visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale webpage.

What else can you do to help Hawaii's environment? Leave your ideas in a comment below!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Richard C. Bartlett Award - A $5,000 Grant For Environmental Education

"Engaging youth to learn about nature and the environment is important. Positive solutions to achieve a sustainable planet begin in the classroom with teachers...who are true leaders in education."  
-Richard C. Bartlett

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award is awarded annually to an outstanding educator who has successfully integrated environmental education into his or her daily education programs. The award is given to an educator who can serve as an inspiration and model for others.
A $5,000 cash award is provided for the recipient to continue their work in environmental education. Additionally, as part of the prize, the winner travels to Washington, D.C., to meet with representatives from the  environmental community to further his or her network. Read about previous winners of the Bartlett Award.

This award honors teachers that are bringing environmental education into the curriculum and the community, not just teaching about environmental challenges but also engaging students in the solution.

The award was established in 2007 by the National Environmental Education Foundation to distinguish the teachers who best represent Richard C. Bartlett’s passion for and leadership in environmental education. For more than 40 years, Richard C. Bartlett has been inspiring environmental educators nationwide.  For more information on Mr. Bartlett, read his biography

Applications are due January 15th, 2010

Interested?? You can fill-out the online application, which includes six brief essay questions and must be completed online. In addition, at least three letters of support (one from a school administrator, one from a fellow teacher, and one from a student) must be submitted to NEEF by mail or fax.

The winner will be honored during National Environmental Education Week, April 11-17, 2010, and will travel to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month to receive their $5,000 prize, and meet with representatives in the environmental education field.

For more about applying, eligibility, and any questions:

Or contact Meghan Trossen, Bartlett Award Coordinator
Phone: 202-261-6466

Good luck! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Join DOFAW at the Kamehameha Schools Surf Sample Sale and Environmental Awareness Event November 21, 2009

On Saturday November 21st, join DOFAW at the 2nd Annual Kamehameha Schools Surf Sample Sale and Awareness Event to learn about how to care for our watersheds. Watershed education is beneficial for everyone, especially those who love the ocean. What we do mauka affects makai; take care of the land and the ocean will benefit too.

The event is happening from 10am-2pm and is hosted by the KS Surfers Give Back Club. It is a benefit for Shriner's Hospital and the Queen Lilioukalani Foundation, with profits from the surf sample sale going to these two places. For more about the history of the KS Surfers Give Back Club and details about the event, visit the website below.

This free event is open to everyone, and will have food, entertainment, a kids corner, and LOTS of surf gear for sale. For more info, visit the event webpage here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Week in Nature:The 2nd week in November - Nene

What's Happening in Hawaii 
during the 2nd week in November:

Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis), begins nesting on the upper slopes of Haleakalā, Hualālai, and Mauna Loa. Historically, at least five species of geese (family: Anatidae) occurred in Hawai‘i; today, only the nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, survives. Adult males and females are mostly dark brown or sepia with a black face and crown, cream-colored cheeks, and a buff neck with black streaks. Females are smaller than males. Compared to other geese, nēnē are more terrestrial and have longer legs and less webbing between their toes; these differences likely facilitate nēnē walking on lava flows.

Nēnē, Haleakalā National Park, Maui.
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Nēnē pairs mate for life. Nēnē have an extended breeding season and eggs can be found all year except May-July, although the majority of birds nest between October and March, and most clutches are laid between October and December. Nēnē nests consist of a shallow scrape, moderately lined with plant materials and down. Pairs typically return to previous years’ nests sites, typically in dense vegetation; when available, kīpuka may be preferred. Females lay between two and five eggs which hatch after 30 days. Young are not fed by their parents; however, young remain with their parents for up to one year.

Nēnē, Haleakalā National Park, Maui.  
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr 

In 1951, the wild nēnē population was estimated at 30 individuals. Current population is estimated at between 1,300 and 1,500 individuals with 378 birds on the island of Hawai‘i, 295 to 325 birds on Maui, 720 birds on Kaua‘i, and 74 birds on Moloka‘i. All populations have been or are currently being supplemented by captive-bred birds.

Historical threats included habitat loss and degradation, hunting, and predation by rats (Rattus spp.), cats (Felis silvestris), dogs (Canis domesticus), and the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus). Current threats include predation by the non-native mammals listed above, exposure in high-elevation habitats, nutritional deficiency due to habitat degradation which may result in low productivity, a lack of lowland habitat, human-caused disturbance and mortality (e.g., road mortality, disturbance by hikers), behavioral problems related to captive propagation, and inbreeding depression.

Nēnē at Namana o ke Akua Haleakala National Park, Maui 
 Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

The goals of conservation actions are not only to protect current populations and key breeding habitats, but also to establish additional populations, thereby reducing the risk of extinction. Past and current actions include captive propagation and release of captive-bred individuals into the wild, predator control, habitat enhancement, research and monitoring, private conservation efforts, formation of the Nēnē Recovery Action Group, and public education.

For more details about the nēnē life cycle, and how DOFAW is working to protect the nēnē, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy nēnē fact sheet.

Also, visit the nēnē page.

Check out Forest and Kim Starr's gallery for more beautiful images of nēnē and other native Hawaiian species. 

Drawn image from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989.

Text: Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, October 2005. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free Resources for Teachers

Are you looking for a fun activity to teach your students about Hawaii's special plants and animals? Check out the coloring books and other resources available for educators online from Division of Forestry and Wildlife!

Click here to see the other pages to the fun and educational Endangered Animals of Hawaii coloring book available free to educators of all kinds. Simply print out the pages and have fun!

Check out the Forest Jewels of Hawaii coloring book online too. Learn about pueo (sample page above), 'i'iwi, 'amakihi and more of the unique and beautiful birds that call Hawai'i home.

Also see the Teacher Resources page to see curriculum, lesson plans, posters and other great resources for educators.

While you're on the Forestry and Wildlife kids page, explore some of the resources available from other agencies like NOAA.

Have fun and happy teaching!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

See a Snake? Don't Wait - Report a Pest!

Hawaii residents are urged to use the new pest hotline to promptly report sightings of invasive pests such as snakes, unusually aggressive stinging ants, and illegal or unknown animals.

643-PEST (7378)

Fire AntsCoqui Frog
The new Pest Hotline number, 643-PEST (7378), can be dialed from any island in the state, without dialing a “1” or an area code. This Pest Hotline is also the Amnesty Line, where people can turn in illegal animals without fear of prosecution.

The new Pest Hotline relies on a computer program to route calls to the nearest Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) office during normal business hours. On weekends or afterhours, calls are routed automatically to the HDOA office at the Honolulu International Airport, which is staffed 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

The implementation of the new number means that neighbor island callers will NOT incur toll charges as they have in the past when calling the original pest hotline, 586-PEST. The original pest hotline will continue to be operational. An existing HDOA database used to log interceptions of pests at airports and harbors has been modified to also log pest hotline reports.

For more about invasive species and pests in Hawaii, including a guide to high profile invasive species with photos, visit

Click here to watch short videos about pest species and how you can help "Stop the Silent Invasion."

Pictured above, clockwise from top left: Brown Tree snake, Miconia, Coqui frog, and Little Red Fire ant.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Celebrate Arbor Day and Support Native Plant Programs November 6th

Looking to spruce up your yard or lanai with some new plants? Want to contribute to native plant programs? Check out the Arbor Day plant sales on Friday November 6th at DOFAW baseyards on O'ahu and Big Island. See below for details: 

HONOLULU –   Celebrate Arbor Day in Hawaii and “go green” by purchasing and planting a native plant from the Arbor Day plant sale on Friday, November 6 at Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) nurseries on O‘ahu and the Big Island.

Plant sales will feature both native and non-native plants raised at DOFAW nurseries that are popular with gardeners and landscapers. Proceeds will be used to support nursery operations and forest management.

The O‘ahu plant sale will take place from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the Makiki baseyard, 2135  Makiki Heights Drive, above the Hawai‘i Nature Center.  Some of the species included are. ‘ohia, koa, ‘a‘ali‘i, and lama. Prices start at $1 for dibble tubes and up to $15 for larger potted plants and shrubs. For information call the DOFAW O‘ahu baseyard at 973-9784. 

The Big Island plant sale will take place at two locations, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In Hilo the plant sale is at the DOFAW baseyard at 19 E. Kawili St. (corner of Kawili St. and Kilauea Ave.). Phone 974-4221.  In Kamuela, the sale is at the DOFAW Kamuela office at 66-1220A Lalamilo Road. Call 887-6061. 

A few of the native species that will be available are: koa, koai‘a, ‘ohia, hame, koko (hibiscus), alahe‘e and loulu. A few of the non-native species that will be available are:  puakenikeni, Mexican/Monterey cypress, Loblolly/Sugi pines, ‘ohia‘ai, cacao and Podocarpus.

The cost of plant species will range from $1 each for dibble tube seedlings to $15 each for 3-gallon pots. There are no limits on quantities purchased and all sales are on a cash only basis.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Week in Nature:The 1st week in November - Hawaiian pepperwort

What's Happening in Hawaii 
during the 1st week in November (Welehu):

A Welehu ka malama, noho i Makali'i.
Li 'ili 'i ka hana.

The month of Welehu is ruled by the Pleiades.
Work is done a little at a time.

Hawaiians reckoned the beginning of Welehu and of the rainy season from the date when the Pleiades, or Makali'i, rise at sunset - as they will this week. Work is limited by the storms and by kapu related to Makahiki. Another proverb says, "Rest the head on the pillow; Welehu is the month."

On O'ahu, at Koko Head and Lualualei Valley, winter rains cause sprouting of 'ihi'ihi-lau-ākea, the Hawaiian pepperwort (Marsilea villosa). Superbly adapted for life in normally arid areas, this aquatic native fern goes dormant in dry weather, dying back into fuzzy, rust colored runners and spore capsules that lie waiting to germinate. With rain, the runners put up shoots that resemble four-leaf clover, carpeting the ground in emerald green. If the rain is heavy enough to form a pool, spore capsules will awaken from their decades of slumber and release spores within half an hour. 

For more about this plant species, visit the Hawaii Ecosystems At Risk ( info page. View photos of Marsilea villosa at Forest and Kim Starr's searchable photo gallery.

To see additional photos of the Hawaiian pepperwort, visit the University of Hawaii botany webpage.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989