(c) Ash Wilhem
Hawai‘i Uncharted Research Collective is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that began in Kona in 2017. After years working on the water, the founding research team noticed that Whale Shark sightings (once considered extremely rare) may be occurring more often than previously thought. With tourism increasing in the once sleepy town of Kona and more people bringing waterproof cameras and video devices on the water, studying this elusive species has become a reality.
We strive to bring the community together. We pair citizen science and education with scientific research and technology to learn more about this relatively unknown species in Hawaiian waters. Through these research efforts we aim to increase awareness and knowledge about whale sharks and inform strong conservation-minded initiatives for their future preservation.
Our organization studies population dynamics, ecology, animal behavior and human impacts. We share our findings with the general public through formal educational presentations and outreach events. Our findings will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals with the goal of implementing and supporting global conservation efforts of whale sharks and their environment.
Some of our specific objectives for the Whale Shark initiative include:
providing education to community members and recreational ocean users, while promoting a basic understanding of the natural history and potential threats to Whale Sharks, to encourage conservation efforts for this endangered species;
creating and maintaining a database of known Whale Shark individuals and matching images of potentially newly sighted individuals;
engaging the public in contributing images and sighting information to this database;
providing research and educational kits to local ocean users (tour boat operators, paddling organizations, snorkelers, SCUBA divers, etc.) to help record information on future Whale Shark sightings and add information to the database;
contributing new information to the scientific literature regarding the endangered Whale Shark which is a critically understudied species. This information could be used to inform future management decisions based on identifying conservation concerns and threats to the marine environment.