Skip to main content

Mapping Ocean Currents Through Human Observations: Insights from Hilo Bay, Hawai'i

Abstract

Complex systems, such as ocean currents, occur at multiple temporal and physical scales require simultaneous analysis across a range of geographic scales. Presently, there are few available nearshore current maps or models accessible to managers or the public in Hawai'i despite the fact that predicting nearshore currents and processes is important for understanding many other social-ecological interactions. Maps of coastal ocean currents are difficult to create because of constant change and the limited availability of nearshore data. Maps are symbols of our collective knowledge frameworks, representing various geographic areas and features that humans utilize. Our objectives were to understand human observations of nearshore ocean currents and the ability of ocean observers to communicate this knowledge. In Hilo Bay, Hawai'i, we asked 30 experienced ocean users, based on their natural observations, to create ocean current maps that share their knowledge of the seascape, and important processes that define each area. We then compared the scale of human observations of the seascapes with automated coastal observatories. We find that ocean observers were able to communicate their knowledge regarding ocean currents on maps at multiple spatial scales, and particularly commented spatially at a 1:5000 map scale. Understanding differences and similarities between the human observation scale and the in-situ mechanical observatories enable a more complete understanding of small-scale oceanic environments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  • Alessa, L., Kliskey, A., Gamble, J., Fidel, M., Beaujean, G., and Gosz, J. (2015). The Role of Indigenous Science and Local Knowledge in Integrated Observing Systems: Moving Toward Adaptive Capacity Indices and Early Warning Systems. Sustainability Science (Special Feature):1–12.

  • Aluli-Meyer, M. (2008). Indigenous and authentic: native Hawaiian epistemology and the triangulation of meaning. In Smith, L. T., Denzin, N., and Lincoln, Y. (eds.), Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Sage Publishing, Los Angeles, pp. 217–232; 11.

  • Aswani, S., and Lauer, M. (2006). Incorporating Fishermen’s Local Knowledge and Behavior into Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Designing Marine Protected Areas in Oceania. Human Organization 65(1): 81–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnes-Mauthe, M., Arita, S., Allen, S. D., Gray, S. A., and Leung, P. (2013). The Influence of Ethnic Diversity on Social Network Structure in a Common-Pool Resource System: Implications for Collaborative Management. Ecology and Society 18(1): 23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berkes, F., and Berkes, M. K. (2009). Ecological Complexity, Fuzzy Logic, and Holism in Indigenous Knowledge. Futures 41(1): 6–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brattland, C. (2013). Sami Culture and the Mapping of Marine Biodiversity. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift-Norwegian Journal of Geography 67(2): 87–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, A., and Wagner, J. R. (2003). Who Knows? On the Importance of Identifying “Experts” When Researching Local Ecological Knowledge. Human Ecology 31(3): 463–489.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dudley, W. C., and Lee, M. (1998). Tsunami! University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

    Google Scholar 

  • Egenhofer, M. J., and Mark, D. M. (1995). Naive Geography. Springer,.

  • Eley, T. J. (2001). Mapping local and traditional knowledge: mental maps to GIS. In 20th International Cartographic Conference (Beijing, China August 6–10).

  • Farina, A. (2000). The Cultural Landscape as a Model for the Integration of Ecology and Economics. Bioscience 50(4): 313–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feinberg, R., Dymon, U. J., Paiaki, P., Rangituteki, P., Nukuriaki, P., and Rollins, M. (2003). ‘Drawing the Coral Heads’: Mental Mapping and its Physical Representation in a Polynesian Community. The Cartographic Journal 40(3): 243–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fernandez-Gimenez, M. E., Huntington, H. P., and Frost, K. J. (2006). Integration or Co-optation? Traditional Knowledge and Science in the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee. Environmental Conservation 33(04): 306–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flament, P., Kennan, S., Lumpkin, R., Sawyer, M., and Stroup, E. (1996). The Ocean Atlas of Hawaii. 2015 (May 1 Accessed Online).

  • Freundschuh, S. M., and Egenhofer, M. J. (1997). Human Conceptions of Spaces: Implications for Geographic Information Systems. Transactions in GIS 2(4): 361–375.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gray, S., Chan, A., Clark, D., and Jordan, R. (2012). Modeling the Integration of Stakeholder Knowledge in Social–Ecological Decision-Making: Benefits and Limitations to Knowledge Diversity. Ecological Modelling 229: 88–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hauʻofa, E. (2008). We are the Ocean: Selected Works. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, N., Ross, H., Lynam, T., Perez, P., and Leitch, A. (2011). Mental Models: an Interdisciplinary Synthesis of Theory and Methods. Ecology and Society 16(1): 46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kanahele, P. (2012). Ka Honua Ola-’Eli’eli Kau Mai: the Living Earth Descend, Deepen the Revelation. Kamehameha publishing, Honolulu.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, I. M., and McCay, B. J. (2004). Cooperative Research, Co-management and the Social Dimension of Fisheries Science and Management. Marine Policy 28(3): 257–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lumpkin, R., and Pazos, M. (2005). Measuring surface currents with surface velocity program drifters: the instrument, its data, and some recent results. In Griffa, A., Kirwan Jr., A. D., Mariano, A. J., Özgökmen, T., and Rossby, T. (eds.), Lagrangian Analysis and Prediction of Coastal and Ocean Dynamics. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, p. 39.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin, S. (2004). An Introduction to Ocean Remote Sensing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

    Google Scholar 

  • McKenna, J., Quinn, R. J., Donnelly, D. J., and Cooper, J. A. G. (2008). Accurate Mental Maps as an Aspect of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK): a Case Study from Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland. Ecology and Society 13(1): 13.

    Google Scholar 

  • McLain, R., Poe, M., Biedenweg, K., Cerveny, L., Besser, D., and Blahna, D. (2013). Making Sense of Human Ecology Mapping: an Overview of Approaches to Integrating Socio-spatial Data into Environmental Planning. Human Ecology 41(5): 651–665.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Menzel, S., Buchecker, M., and Schulz, T. (2013). Forming Social Capital—Does Participatory Planning Foster Trust in Institutions? Journal of Environmental Management 131: 351–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller, T. R., Baird, T. D., Littlefield, C., Kofinas, G., Chapin III, F. S., and Redman, C. (2008). Epistemological Pluralism: Reorganizing Interdisciplinary Research. Ecology and Society 13(2): 46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, L., and Etnoyer, P. (2002). The Baja California to Bering Sea priority areas mapping initiative and the role of GIS in protecting places in the sea. In Breman, J. (ed.), Marine Geography: GIS for the Oceans and Seas. ESRI Press, Redlands, CA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pandian, K. P., Emmanuel, O., Ruscoe, J. P., Side, J. C., Harris, R. E., Kerr, S. A., and Bullen, C. R. (2010). An Overview of Recent Technologies on Wave and Current Measurement in Coastal and Marine Applications. Journal of Oceanography and Marine Science 1(1): 001–010.

    Google Scholar 

  • Personal Communication. (2014). Moku O Hawaii Paddlers 2014.

  • Poepoe, K., Bartram, P., and Friedlander, A. (2001). The use of traditional Hawaiian knowledge in the contemporary management of marine resources. In Putting Fishers’ Knowledge to Work: Conference Proceedings, Fisheries Centre, UBCFisheries Centre, UBC, p 328.

  • Rundstrom, R. A. (1990). A Cultural Interpretation of Inuit Map Accuracy. Geographical Review 80(2): 155–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. C. (1998). Thin simplifications and practical knowledge: Metis. In Scott, J. C. (ed.), Seeing Like a State and Evading States: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University, New Haven, p. 309.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shackeroff, J. M. (2011). Social-Ecological Guilds: Putting People into Marine Historical Ecology. Ecology and Society 16(1): 52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shemer, L., Marom, M., and Markman, D. (1993). Estimates of Currents in the Nearshore Ocean Region Using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar. Journal of Geophysical Research 98(c4): 7001–7010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sletto, B. I. (2009). We Drew What We Imagined. Current Anthropology 50(4): 443–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Noelani Puniwai.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Puniwai, N., Gray, S., Lepczyk, C.A. et al. Mapping Ocean Currents Through Human Observations: Insights from Hilo Bay, Hawai'i. Hum Ecol 44, 365–374 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9822-0

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9822-0

Keywords

  • Cultural seascapes
  • Hawai'i
  • Ocean currents
  • Knowledge systems
  • Scale