Maui, Hawai'i
Student Expedition

Sea Turtle Monitoring & Traditional Taro Farming

Maui, Hawai'i
Student Expedition

Designed for high school and undergraduate students, this hands-on field program will introduce volunteers to wildlife monitoring methods, sustainable living, and to marine conservation planning.


  • Snorkel with turtles and assist marine biologists collect data
  • Study sea turtle biology, habitats, and conservation
  • Meet community leaders and examine different approaches to marine conservation
  • Participate in a service project
  • Cultural immersion a in traditional Hawaiian taro farm
  • Enjoy coral reef snorkeling

Based on the beautiful island of Maui, we assist  Hawai'i Wildlife Fund's team monitoring green turtles in shallow waters and basking on the beach. We also search for the rare, critically endangered Hawaiian hawksbill sea turtle. We collect data on occurrence, distribution, and note any other details such as tags and injuries. Another important objective is educating the public about green turtles at the basking beach site.

Students immerse ourselves in island life, culture, and learn about traditional taro and fish farming practices. Located in West Maui's mountain rain forest, volunteers visit a private, remote and "off the grid" farm where traditional management and land-use practices are being revived by a Hawaiian family and community leader. We assist with planting taro and managing fish under the direction of a taro farmer and cultural practitioners to revitalize taro patches for food production, reducing the pressures on local reef fish.

Hannah Bernard of Hawaii Wildlife Fund a local nonprofit organization, will lead the expedition. HWF has conducted conservation programs and projects in Hawai'i since 1996. Actively engaging local communities, HWF works to protect Hawai'i's fragile marine ecosystem and inhabitants through research, education, and advocacy.

This volunteer expedition is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to conservation science, help protect Maui's green and hawksbill turtles, and help restore a traditional Maui taro farm in Kahakuloa Valley. You will receive on-site training and no prior field experience is needed to participate. Volunteers can choose from multiple tasks and sampling equipment will be provided.

The program was profiled in the Seattle Time's article by Brian J. Cantwell, originally published Saturday, November 9, 2013


Day 1:
Arrive at the Kahului Airport on the island of Maui. Group transfer lodging. Early afternoon briefing with biologists and then late afternoon visit to green turtle basking beach, and start collecting data.

Day 2-3: This morning we enjoy an incredibly scenic drive to the remote Kahakuloa Valley. We meet our hosts and instructors and settle in to dormitory style accommodations in one of the most beautiful valleys in Maui. Properties are owned solely by Hawaiian families in this area and entry is by permission only. Group learns about traditional practices in taro farming and fish pond management and then volunteers can choose from a variety of tasks to help with restoration.  Learning opportunities include Tapa (or kapa) pounding demonstration. 

Day 4: Morning transfer to hostel then continue to west side for marine environment immersion. Snorkeling safety briefing and gear check out. Discover Maui's  coral reef ecosystem and learn to identify fish.  After lunch,  assist with sea turtle nesting beach restoration, conduct surveys looking for turtle tracks.  Evening Nest Watch for nesting hawksbill turtles and hatchlings.  If active nest is located, camp on beach to monitor for nest emergence.

Day 5: Dawn Patrol to look for nesting hawksbill turtle tracks. Snorkelers can assist with in-water sea turtle survey. After lunch we transfer to the northeast side of the island for  monitoring  the green turtle basking beach. Farewell dinner.

Day 6:  Morning transfer to the Kahului Airport for your flight home.

Trip Information

Due to Hawai'i Wildlife Fund's cooperative program with Hawaiian community leaders, we are able to experience a traditional taro farm as invited guests. Accommodations at the remote farm are primitive but incredibly scenic.  Three nights in a youth hostel, and one potential night camping on the beach, gear provided.  Students need to bring own snorkel gear or arrange for rental on Maui.


Dates: 2017
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Hannah Bernard

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