Nā Waʻa Mauō - Honuaiākea Voyaging Program

Mentor: Hōkūokahalelani Pihana

STEM Fields: Marine Science; Indigenous Sciences; Oceanography 

Internship Research Goal: To perpetuate the practices of our Kūpuna (ancestors) by using our native tools and language to care for our oceans with a vision of ʻāina momona (fruitful and productive lands) through Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) stewardship. 

Website: https://www.kahalemauo.com/nawaamauo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nawaamauo
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nawaamauo 

Honuaiākea logo with stylized wave over gray backgroundAbout the Nā Waʻa Mauō – Honuaiākea Voyaging Program

Nā Waʻa Mauō means the canoes which sustain us. The Nā Waʻa Mauō marine stewardship program uses waʻa (outrigger canoes) as vehicles to care for our oceans. The mission of Nā Waʻa Mauō is to perpetuate the practices of our Kūpuna (ancestors) by using our native tools and language to care for our oceans with a vision of ʻāina momona (fruitful and productive lands) through Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) stewardship. The Nā Waʻa Mauō program blends indigenous and institutional sciences to create community-driven marine stewardship efforts that are scientifically rigorous and culturally rooted. As Kānaka ʻŌiwi, we have generational ties to our lands and intimate connections to our environment that gift us with the kuleana (responsibility) to care for our islands. The Honuaiākea Voyaging Program works with high school students from Hawaiʻi Island by providing activities to strengthen academics, STEM research skills, personal health and wellness. Participants take part in ocean safety, marine sustainability and stewardship research using an integrated methodology that blends institutional and indigenous sciences, while they learn about career and college opportunities and lifestyles. 

Additional program opportunities include: 

  • open ocean readiness training: ocean safety, rescue, first-aid and CPR
  • college to career pathways – learn from professionals in the field  and other  environmental stewards 
  • climate change and sustainability awareness and what it means to encourage community resilience

Outdoor headshot of person smilingMeet Our Internship Mentor: Hōkūokahalelani Pihana

Executive Director Nā Waʻa Mauō

I am a Native Hawaiian mother and marine scientist who has worked with the scientific and indigenous communities in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific for almost twenty years. I was born in Wahīawa, Oʻahu, raised in Long Beach California and now live in Keaʻau, Hawaiʻi. 

My academic studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo have provided me with a Bachelor’s of Art in Marine Science and a Masters of Science in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science. In 2015, I developed the Nā Waʻa Mauō marine stewardship program that uses waʻa (outrigger canoes) to care for the nearshore and coastal oceans of Hawaiʻi. Our methods blend institutional and indigenous sciences to understand our oceans. We work with other ocean communities to exchange practices and learn from each other about how to care for our natural resources through our stewardship practices.


Students would learn about the importance of healthy watershed and estuary systems and important wahi pana. They will take part in a research process that gains greater understanding of our environment by implementing scientific methods used by our kūpuna and oceanographic data collection techniques aboard waʻa (Hawaiian canoe). 

The experience will include some or all of the following activities:

  • Na kilo ʻāina data collection
  • Mele oli
  • Moʻolelo and wahi pana exploration: Hilo One and others
  • Huakaʻi to experience Wao Akua and to learn about watershed health, as well as forest and sea connectivity
  • Water quality testing: salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), turbidity, temperature & pH
  • Plankton tows, microscope viewing and plankton identification
  • UH Hilo Laboratory Tour(s) 
  • Tidepooling 
  • Social media campaign work
  • Research projects


  • Swim
  • Work in shore and ocean environments
  • Get wet and dirty
  • Take part in ocean safety sessions, CPR/First-Aid training
  • Paddle canoe (experience or willing to learn) and learn about waʻa
  • Learn and practice mele oli and interest in wahi pana
  • Have an interest in environmental studies and/or mālama ʻāina 


  • Spring 2023: Monday, March 13, 9am – 2pm at Hilo Bayfront Park & Wednesday, March 15, 10am – 1pm at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
  • Summer 2023: The internship will take place during June and the first two weeks of July in 2023. Tentative dates and times are listed below:
    • Fridays: June 2, 9, 16 & 23, 4pm – 6pm
    • Sundays: June 4, 11, 18 & 25, 9am – 2pm
    • Wednesdays: June 7, 14, 21 & 28, 10am – 1pm

*Schedules are tentative and are subject to change. Interns will be required to work 40 hours in the Summer 2023. 

Internship Meeting Locations: 

Kamehameha Canoe Club hālau at Hilo One (Bayfront Park)
1273 Kamehameha Ave. 
Hilo, HI 96720