James Morioka

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

  • Marine Biology (B.S.) 2010

Last year, I spent the summer at Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands conducting Hawaiian monk seal research as a marine biologist.  It truly was the greatest experience of my life.  Getting to travel to such a beautiful place as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and handle critically endangered mammals, was unreal.  Camping on little islets with wildlife makes you really get in touch with nature.  Its amazing how living with wildlife allows you to build relationships with these animals.  While I was there conducting research, we came across an adult female monk seal swimming around in shallow water, entangled in marine debris.  We waited around and looked all around the island day after day for her to haul out on the beach, and when she did, we took the chance to disentangle her and give her a real shot at survival.  We successfully disentangled her, and although she was still in critical condition after we administered her antibiotics, she survived.  This year, I heard that she successfully gave birth to a female monk seal pup, and that news almost brought me to tears.  The feeling of directly saving a monk seal's life, and giving her a new shot at motherhood, as well as giving her pup a shot at perpetuating the population, was simply euphoric.

The internships I got involved in as a student at UH built the foundation that allowed me to fulfill my dreams.  It was a great way to gain valuable experience and knowledge which led me to conduct field work, and helped me discover what I really love to do.  I felt it was really important to get involved with the science community, network and build relationships, but most important help you discover new things about yourself you never knew.  Because of the internships and research experiences as a student, I have been able to work at NOAA ever since graduation, and now I feel like the sky is the limit.

I've always been extremely passionate about the ocean and marine sciences, and UH Manoa gave me the opportunity to make all of my dreams a reality.  Through UH Manoa's Department of Biology and MOP program, I was able to network and build professional relationships with lots of people involved in marine sciences here in the Pacific.  With hard work and dedication at various internships for different organizations, from the State of Hawai'i, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, I eventually made a good impression with NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program and was invited to travel to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for Monk Seal Research.  Since then, I have been conducting field research all around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

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Content Type: 
Alumni Blog
Last Modified: 
05/23/2014 at 9:25am