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Pua Genetics & Recruitment 

Collaborative at Kumuola


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For several years kia'i and haumāna at the Kumuola Marine Science Education Center were counting high numbers of a non-native and invasive mullet, the kanda, within the loko i'a of Waiāhole and Kapalaho that are recruiting into the ponds alongside their native, and highly desired cousins, the 'ama'ama.  These two mullet species enter the loko i'a from the open oceans as small pua (2-4cm) in spikes throughout the year.  At these small sizes the two pua species look almost identical to one another, making it impossible to visually distinguish when the native or invasive fish are entering the pond systems and leaving few options to kia'i in terms of management. 

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A collaborative effort among UH-Hilo, HPU and Kumuola developed a technique to extract and barcode DNA from pua to identify recruiting fish as either the invasive kanda mullet or the native 'ama'ama.  KSH AP Biology students then used these genetic techniques on pua collected at Waiāhole and Kapalaho to identify representative pua collected throughout the year to their species and built a map of the temporal recruitment of these two species into the loko. 


This map represents the first picture kia'i have had on the species-specific recruitment patterns of pua into the loko i'a and will provide more management options for dealing with the contemporary challenge of unwanted species invasions into native ecosystems.  This research is ongoing and will involve several more cohorts of haumāna to expand upon this 'ike to capture the full nature of this challenge to our important loko i'a. For more information about this research or to partner with us, please contact Luke Mead at

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