PBRC is an active sponsor of research-based training programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and community college levels. PBRC faculty members serve as PI's and research mentors in these programs, which have trained over 100 students during the past four years alone.
Undergraduate + Graduate Training Programs
Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC)
The MARC Program provides support for undergraduates from groups under-represented in the biomedical sciences to help prepare them for successful graduate training at the Ph.D., M.D./Ph.D. or other professional degree/Ph.D. level. Funded by the NIH, and led by co-principle investigators Patricia Couvillon and Petra Lenz of the Békésy Laboratory of Neurobiology, the MARC program complements and augments the undergraduates' classroom training through a combination of hand-on research training and professional development. MARC students are typically accepted to the program as juniors or seniors, and are appointed for two years of research training under the supervision of a faculty mentor. MARC fellows receive a monthly stipend, partial tuition waiver, and travel funds to attend a scientific meeting each year of their training. MARC students also participate in professional development courses and one "off-island" summer research experience, and have the opportunity to attend hands-on skills development workshops offered annually.
Undergraduate Research and Mentoring in the Biological Sciences (URM)
The URM in the Biological Sciences program, "Environmental Biology in the Pacific Islands", is an NSF-funded undergraduate training program focused on increasing the number of students from under-represented minority groups, especially Pacific Islanders, pursuing bachelors and advanced degrees in the biological sciences. The UH Mānoa URM program is headed by Michael Hadfield (PI, Kewalo Marine Lab), and supported by Celia Smith (co-PI, UHM Botany Dept), Gail Grabowsky (co-PI, Chaminade University), Robert Richmond (Kewalo Marine Lab), Robert Toonen (HIMB). URM recruits and trains promising undergraduates from Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Compact of Free Association Micronesian states (Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands), as well as small numbers from the U.S. mainland, in modern approaches to environmental biology. The URM program recruits eight student fellows each year who participate in a 10-week summer research internship. Five of those summer interns are selected to remain in the program throughout the year.
URM students gain hands-on experience in experimental laboratory studies on the biology of native Hawaiian animals and plants, field ecological studies on marine ecosystems, studies of coastal and mountain biota with emphases on invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant communities, biodiversity investigations using classical and molecular approaches, and species-focused research on island endemics. The emphasis of the intern's research training is an independent research project for which the student receives on-on-one training by the mentor and others in the sponsor lab. Through this process URM interns are prepared for future graduate studies as they receive training in scientific research and gain valuable experience in experimental design and implementation, scientific writing, and oral presentation of research and research-related literature.
Additionally, each fellow is introduced to the activities of governmental agencies and NGOs that are involved with environmental management and conservation, thereby contributing to each participant’s understanding of biodiversity and conservation problems, with a particular focus on island ecosystems. As a result, the URM program returns to the Pacific Islands a group of native islanders exceptionally trained to recognize and resolve local problems and to serve as role models and educators for other young residents.
International Research Experiences for Students (IRES)
The IRES program “Ampullariidae Model using Phylogeography, Laboratory Integration with Field Investigations into Ecology and Diversity (AMPLIFIED)” is an NSF-funded USA-Brazil-Uruguay collaborative program that supports the training of 15 American undergraduate students and one graduate student, in international collaborative research in Brazil and Uruguay. The focus o this project is a group of aquatic snails commonly called apple snails, and the overarching theme is to understand a range of aspects of the biology of these snails in a phylogenetic context. Under the direction of Kenneth Hayes (Principal Investigator, CCRT) and Robert Cowie (co-PI, CCRT), the IRES program brings together a diverse community of researchers and students from the United States, Brazil, and Uruguay to quantify genetic variation in aquatic snail populations, identify patterns of speciation, investigate traits that promote invasiveness, and determine reproductive potential. Students participating in the IRES program work directly with the host scientists, blog about their international research experience, and work closely with other undergraduate and graduate students from the host country. IRES students are also developing educational materials to be used locally in their host countries. Upon returning to their home institution, students are disseminating their results through professional meetings, scientific publications, and social media networks. The research supported by the IRES program also has important benefits for human health, as apple snails are highly invasive species and vectors of parasitic nematodes that can cause illness in mammals, including humans. Insights into how the trophic roles of these snails in native habitats may lend insight into how to deal with them in invaded wetland ecosystems such as the Florida Everglades and local Hawaiian wetlands, and minimize their impacts as disease vectors.
Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT)
The IGERT program supports graduate education and research in Ecology, Conservation, and Pathogen Biology involving collaboration across academic departments, institutes, and campuses of UH Mānoa. IGERT provides doctoral students with interdisciplinary training in the skills required for conducting research at the interface of the biomedical and ecological sciences. The over-arching research theme is to improve the understanding of emerging infectious diseases, how they originate and spread, their impact on humans and domestic animals, and on natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. IGERT fellows participate in a 15-week intensive laboratory and field research experience that takes advantage of Hawai‘i’s unique tropical forest and coral ecosystems as the outdoor classroom and laboratory. Using state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, IGERT students conduct research on the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of host-pathogen relationships, the molecular and cellular processes involved in pathogenesis, and the role of anthropogenic environmental change in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Each Fellow is assigned two faculty mentors for his/her doctoral career during the program, an evolutionary ecological scientist and a biomedical scientist or parasitologist. In addition to their research experience, students receive continuing training through biannual workshops, a group project to build interdisciplinary collaborative research skills, and participation in an annual international symposium. IGERT is led by Kenneth Kaneshiro (P.I., CCRT), Shannon Bennet (co-PI, Dept of Tropical Medicine), and Jo-Ann Leong (co-PI, HIMB).
Community College Training Programs
Advanced Technical Education (ATE)
The NSF-funded ATE program “Partnership for Advanced Marine and Environmental Training for Pacific Islanders” supports the development and improvement of critical degree programs in the marine and environmental sciences at a consortium of community colleges located throughout the Pacific Region (including American Samoa, Palau, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Micronesia), each of which serves an under-represented minority population. PBRC (Robert Richmond, P.I., Kewalo Marine Lab) serves as the administrative home for this program, and the Palau International Coral Reef Center serves as a key training facility.
The ATE program has facilitated development of degree programs at the community college level in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines throughout the Pacific Islands. The minority-serving institutions participating in the ATE program serve as the primary gateway for students to enter the work force with requisite technical skills or to pursue four-year and graduate degrees in STEM. Most of the students enrolled in the marine and environmental sciences programs at the participating community colleges are the first generation to pursue higher education, and the ATE program has been instrumental in producing the first cohorts of local scientists, technicians and experts. As identifying, documenting and addressing the challenges and impacts of problems such as climate change, overfishing and development have become more urgent for these island nations, the programs developed and supported by ATE have and will continue to become even more important for the future of the communities served by the program. Over 500 students from under-represented communities have benefited directly from the PBRC administered ATE program. Moreover, the number of marine and environmental science majors at each of the participating community colleges has increased dramatically over the past five year. These experiences have and will continue to develop students’ passion for and self-confidence in the STEM disciplines, and cement their desire to pursue careers in areas considered non-traditional in these minority communities.