Fishpond 1An old Hawaiian proverb says “I ka wā mamua, ka wā mahope,” or the future is in the past. University of Hawaiʻi researchers and others came up with an innovative way of using technology to engage the community in learning about a vital component of ancient Hawaiian culture; fishponds.

The Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the UH Mānoa has created an iPhone app that highlights scientific research and indigenous knowledge with virtual and walking tours of a Hawaiian fishpond, according to UH.

The project supported by the National Science Foundation and the Omidyar Foundation grew out of a three-year community-based research internship program called Laulima A ʻIke Pono, which was offered by HIMB in partnership with Paepae o Heʻeia at Heʻeia fishpond in Kāneʻohe Bay, Oʻahu.

The team of researchers, mobile app developers and fishpond experts developed the Loko Iʻa (fishpond) app to increase community awareness of both the research and restoration efforts happening at Heʻeia fishpond, and inspire people to become more involved.

Fishpond 2The app is designed to enhance a visitor’s experience while physically at Heʻeia fishpond and allows off-site users to virtually explore the fishpond through interactive elements that feature important physical, cultural and scientific aspects of the pond.

“The community internship program was fantastic for those who were able to participate, but we wanted to educate a much broader audience about the importance of Hawaiian fishponds in general, about Heʻeia fishpond and the dedicated group of stewards who are restoring it, and also about the scientific research that is helping to inform that restoration”, said Judith Lemus, HIMB associate specialist and principal investigator of the project.

Research shows that connecting people to place creates relevancy that can enhance interest in scientific discovery and environmental stewardship. A very small percentage of the community has the opportunity to experience Heʻeia fishpond in person, and most people in Hawaiʻi know very little about traditional fishponds as centers of Native Hawaiian science, ingenuity, green engineering, sustainable aquaculture and cultural sustenance.

The Loko Iʻa app includes walking and virtual tours that highlight these aspects of Heʻeia fishpond, and are also interconnected with data maps and information on scientific research in the pond.

The team hopes to identify additional sources of funding that will allow them to add new features to the app such as a pictorial history of Heʻeia fishpond, Hawaiian language, moʻolelo about Heʻeia and even include other fishponds.