Unit 1: Riding The Currents
For millions of years, plants and animals have been making their way to the Hawaiian Islands with the help of air and ocean currents. Beginning with the Polynesians who voyaged here, humans have been similarly assisted in reaching Hawai‘i. This unit engages students in exploring how marine life reached the Hawaiian Islands. Planning a course for a hypothetical Polynesian canoe voyage from the South Pacific to Hawai‘i provides a context in which students begin to understand the oceanic currents that helped determine the geographic origin of Hawaiian marine species.
Length of Entire Unit
Two class periods.
Dispersal of marine life. Oceanic currents in the Pacific Ocean. Endemism.
As the Hawaiian Islands formed, marine life arrived here from other parts of the Pacific Ocean to become what we know as the native marine life of the islands. The ongoing dispersal of marine life depends upon ocean currents and the life cycle of marine organisms.
Unit Focus Questions
- What major oceanic currents influence the origins of Hawaiian marine species?
- How did marine life disperse throughout the Pacific Ocean?
- How do origin, means of dispersal, and island location influence the species variety and rate of endemism among Hawaiian invertebrates?
- Do Internet and library research to compile a collection of images of adult marine animals and the larval phases of the same species to provide a visual context for Activity #2 “Dispersing on the Currents.”
- Research the problem of marine debris in the Hawaiian Islands, analyzing the influence of oceanic currents on the origin of marine debris found here and the location of problem areas for marine debris on the islands.
Resources for Further Reading
Aquatic Resources Education
The Division of Aquatic Resources’ Education Project provides posters, games, and other reference materials for enhancing understanding of Hawaii’s aquatic environments, and developing responsible attitudes and a sense of stewardship toward these resources.
Polynesian Voyaging Society, “Hawaiian Star Compass” at <leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/pvs/navigate/stars.html>.
Explanation of the Star Compass and how it is used for navigation
Kawaharada, Dennis, Polynesian Voyaging Society, “Wayfinding, or Non-Instrument Navigation” at <leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/pvs/navigate/navigate.html>.
Kay, E. Alison and Stephen R. Palumbi, “Endemism and Evolution in Hawaiian Marine Invertebrates,” in Kay, E. Alison, (ed.), A Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands: Selected Readings II, University of Hawaiʻi Press, Honolulu, 1987, pp. 346-353.
Scheltema, Rudolf S., “Long-Distance Dispersal by Planktonic Larvae of Shoal-Water Benthic Invertebrates among Central Pacific Islands,” in Kay, E. Alison, (ed.), A Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands: Selected Readings II, University of Hawaiʻi Press, Honolulu, 1986, pp. 171-186.
Moanalua Gardens Foundation and Computer Visualizations, Inc., Sea Search: Exploring Tropical Marine Life CD-ROM, Moanalua Gardens Foundation, Honolulu, 1996.