Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

The mission of the Hawai'i Coral Reef Network is to foster education and research on coral reefs by facilitating communication among the environmental, scientific, governmental, and public communities and to enhance the conservation of coral reefs through stewardship

Also see: Who are we? Philosophy, Awards


In response to federal and international efforts to conserve valuable coral reef ecosystems several different groups within the state of Hawai'i began activities which subsequently gave rise to the Hawai'i Coral Reef Initiative (HCRI). These activities were formerly validated in 1994 by a state legislative resolution (H. R. 379) calling for community-based approaches to education, conservation, and research on coral reef ecosystems. Groups involved in coral reef initiative related activities include several departments within the University of Hawai'i system, the Office of State Planning, the Pacific Whale Foundation, the Sierra Club, Save Our Seas, Malama Kai, The Ocean Recreation Council of Hawai'i (TORCH), and many other groups. HCRI activities included educational talks, informational workshops, community surveys on reef health and threats, and reef monitoring and assessments. Most of these efforts were based on volunteer, grass-roots efforts by individuals within these organizations that have concerns about coral reefs in the state.

One of the major problems that has arisen while trying to organize these groups, and to integrate their activities with traditional education and research activities under a coherent "coral reef network," has been the need for communication from a central source that would also act as a repository for statewide information in a standardized format. It is not clear what each group has been doing and more importantly, information obtained during group activities has been inconsistently obtained and not easily accessible to interested individuals. This situation is particularly severe for monitoring data (water quality and biological assessments) which is generally very limited in availability and stored in incompatible formats. In order to focus our efforts and move forward effectively and efficiently there is a strong need to link all of the information together in an electronic format.

Hawai'i Coral Reef Network 

We propose a Hawai'i Coral Reef Network on the Internet that would centralize all the information in a common format and make it available to any interested individuals. Funding would be used to purchase a network server. The server would reside at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, which would provide a full time and fast (T-1) Internet connection for World Wide Web, file transfer protocol (FTP), and data archival applications. Data would be solicited by the Principal Investigators and collaborators, which collectively cover all of the Hawaiian counties, and matching funds would be used to enter and update information during the first year of operation. The server would be maintained by faculty and staff on-site and would be used for the following applications:

  • Directory: a listing of all state-wide coral reef groups and their activities;
  • Current events: frequently updated postings of events in the state related to CRI activities;
  • Coral reef forum: comments and/or observations made on reefs; questions and answer sessions with coral reef scientists;
  • Educational materials: information for identifying coral reef organisms and conducting scientifically valid surveys; teaching material; on-line courses;
  • Coral reef bibliography: a keyword-searchable listing of publications conducted on reefs within the state organized by location, and cross-referenced by subject; papers can be linked to archived data sets;
  • Coral reef database: storage of coral reef data in a common format (includes both numeric and image data) that can be copied and/or queried by interested individuals.

All participating groups will be given an account on the server and storage space in which to establish web pages and on-line databases. Much of the information listed above is currently available but is scattered throughout the state and in incompatible formats. Web pages on the Hawai'i Coral Reef Network will be integrated with a common theme and format and will include multimedia text, sounds, images and video.

Monitoring data will be organized in a single relational database format that can be queried through Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts, ODBC databases, and Java applications. The format will be based on the United Nations Environmental Program standard discussed in English et al. (1994) and Pernetta (1993) so that it can easily integrated with other international coral reef databases (e.g., REEFBASE, McManus, 1996). There are currently many years of data collected by students & faculty at UH-Hilo and the Pacific Whale Foundation which will be entered into the database. The two Principal Investigators have been collaborated on developing common monitoring procedures and database formats for several years. Additional monitoring data will be solicited from researchers throughout the state, primarily focusing on studies conducted through the University of Hawai'i and the Division of Aquatic Resources. Matching funds and additional volunteer time will be used to enter, verify and maintain these databases.

Once the network is established it will be promoted using a series of state-wide newsletters, newspaper articles, and public access television programs (e.g., the University of Hawai'i Interactive Television System, or HITS).


Establishing a coral reef network on the Internet addresses one of the most fundamental problems in the state: communicating what is happening, where it is happening, and where the information resulting from the event (e.g., educational program or reef survey) is located. In addition to helping organize groups, activities, and data throughout the state by acting as a central repository for coral related information, the network would serve as a model system for other CRI groups and promote interactions with coral reef activities at a global level. For example, students at a school in America Samoa could download and analyze data from a coral reef in Hawai'i and compare it to their own system.


This project would facilitate other efforts in the state with regards to education, community awareness, monitoring reef health, and conducting research. The network would be a resource for teachers, environmental groups, ecotourism, and researchers throughout the state. On-line curriculum can be used to supplement courses on coral reef biology and ecology and on-line databases can be used for a wide variety of research projects.

The network would serve as an educational tool and data repository for current Pacific Whale Foundation studies on Maui, project Ocean Pulse, sponsored by Save Our Seas, which uses middle school students and community members in reef monitoring on Kauai, and new collaborative studies between the University of Hawaii and the Department of Aquatic resources at Kapoho, Molokini, and four sites on the Kona coast of the big island. Information by the Marine and Coastal Zone Management Advisory Group, the Sierra Club, as well as many other non-profit and educational groups could post information on the network. In addition, the network would serve to strengthen already existing Internet links between projects within the state and on a national level (e.g., Earthwatch's collaboration with the Pacific Whale Foundation). The idea for this project was actually conceived independently by all four groups involved, and includes a major group promoting coral reef activities on each of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Last update: 1/25/2005