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Special Edition New Year's Eve Newsletter


Our organization has grown significantly! During the past year, volunteers, donors, and community interactions increased by 35% aiding our achievements in research, restoration and education.


So to all our supporters, both near and far, know that your help has increased our reach and effectiveness in all that we do. Our new year's resolutions: We will continue on our mission to improve the health of our oceans and its inhabitants. We will continue to educate and work alongside our many environmentally conscious partners.


Here are our 2021 accomplishments and Goals for 2022!


Our talented staff: Professional educators, marine biologists, Hawaiian cultural practitioners, film makers, artists, digital developers and entrepreneurs. We partner with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and businesses in Hawaii, California and world-wide.

Youth Education


For the last five years, and operating through the last two challenging ones, Reef Guardians’ team of marine biologists, educators, and dive masters, has been sparking the interest of hundreds of Kauai’s youth to discover for themselves what it means to be a Reef Guardian. Registration fills in a day for our in-person school break and afterschool environmental programs as parents enroll their children ages 5-13 (and teen interns) from across the island of Kauai to participate in our popular Reef Camps and Kula Kai Afterschool programs. During full-day weekly sessions provided by our every school break, Reef Camp participants experience the joy of discovery while diving into snorkeling, scientific ecological understanding, Hawaiian cultural and place-based knowledge and wisdom, and stewardship and advocacy experiences.


The impact of this environmental education can be seen immediately as Reef Campers and families become increasingly aware of ways to participate in environmental protective activities at home, in the community and in the environment. A few examples include pono fishing practices, sharing watershed awareness and taking responsible action like keeping chemicals and objects from washing into roadways and drains, and cultivating a reef-safe garden. This year we served 190 children and teens. Thanks to our funders there were no financial barriers to participate. GOAL: Developing a conscious, caring community who make good choices is essential to maintaining a sustainable nearshore ocean ecosystem. It’s vitally important to this island community that we reach more children and families through this popular experiential education program.


Our extensive 16-unit coral reef and watershed ecology science, Hawaiian culture, and arts Digital Sea School program for children and families is in full production and includes all phases from research and design to video production, build out, marketing and delivery. Program development is shifting from production to preparations for launch. Taught in thematic modules by our talented fun-filled team Aquamarine (Jess), Kamalani, Uncle Terry, Bri, and Ms. Mermaid (Aunty Robin), the comprehensive course topics mirror and expand our conservation message and robust Reef Camp curriculum. Multi-media videos, art projects, experiments, interactive games, stories, quizzes and associated activities are designed to keep young explorers moving through a series of ecological discoveries to inspire their interests and aspirations. The Sea School is an on-line statewide program designed for use at home or on mobile devices, in schools, afterschool programs, homeschools, through hotels and through other visitor industry partners. GOAL: Currently science and environmental education takes a back seat for elementary aged children. This easily accessible program will instill a deeper appreciation for and involvement in science, the arts, Hawaiian culture, and environmental sustainability. 














Our innovative Hawaiian Reef Life App for children and families is in production. This creative tool will help users, residents and tourists, identify and learn about the fascinating creatures they see while in the outdoor coral reef environment, and then allow them to share their discoveries via social media. The phone app will provide information which will help raise users’ awareness for appropriate and protective interaction with the natural environment.  GOAL: Reef Guardians was formed to address the decline of the coral reefs and nearshore environments. Educating the millions of visitors to Hawaii has become critical to protecting the animals and their habitats. This app will help users achieve more satisfaction and meaningful connection with the environment by enhancing their snorkeling experience. Through promoting responsible use of our natural resources, it will help reduce stress to the ecosystem. 


Reef Guardians’ newest educational initiative Wanini Explorers is our technology-based field study program partnering with Hawaii Tech Academy. Starting in January, middle and high school students and teachers will be involved in real life research, using underwater drones, cameras, and software to gather data for our Robots on the Reef (ROR) program. They will also learn to process the data to train the AI software. Diving into our Reef Camp snorkeling and ecology program, participants will acquaint themselves with the reef first hand. They will join our Anini Watershed Initiative, adopting water testing projects based on Action Steps identified in the Anini Characterization Study. Students will train in GIS and create story maps based on the data they collect, adding their work to our report and media presentation. GOAL: Involving youth on this level is key to their personal growth and to Kauai’s future. Youth involvement will help them and the broader community understand, appreciate, and envision a sustainable future for this invaluable resource (Anini reef is Hawaii’s longest reef system and fish nursery).


Research, Monitoring and Restoration


Oil well discovery and capping, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties in California

Our new joint research project, entitled AI CARBON, has led to the development of automated aerial drone flights. Scores of wellheads can be surveyed in a single flight for the purpose of detecting hydrocarbons on the surface of the ocean. And revealing any wellheads in the vicinity for closer investigation.  This technology has also assisted the California State Lands Commission in locating and capping of 4 prolific leaking legacy well heads over the last 4 years. Our primary research partner for AI CARBON is On the Wave, with additional help from F1DRONE, Florida International University and Heal the Ocean. GOAL: working with the state of California, RGH will continue to develop AI CARBON into a fully functional autonomous platform that can be deployed in coastal zones nationwide and globally. Early detection is critical for the protection of sensitive marine life habitats.


Robots on the Reef (ROR)

Photogrammetric imaging data collected from Kauai coral reefs is being used to train AI based software for drone monitoring of the health of coral reef systems. This innovative project will make it possible to collect images of targeted reefs and their corals using ocean based drones pre-programmed for precise and repeatable GPS based navigation.

GOAL: An ROR toolkit will be assembled and made available for researchers, citizen scientists, local ocean-based community groups, and ocean related government agencies to become global members of the ROR community and be able to efficiently and effectively monitor reefs.














California based shark research and advocacy

Our California team continues to monitor the Great White Shark nurseries on the central coast. We logged and reported over 61 individual great white juveniles observed in 2021. Working alongside California Fish and Game Commission and California Fish and Wildlife, Reef Guardians staff assisted in the creation and in some cases actual installation of educational signs at known great white nursery locations and nearby marinas up and down the California coast. These signs have QR Codes providing weblinks designed to educate boaters and beach goers on best practices in these nurseries increasing awareness and protection for these endangered young great white sharks.

GOAL: In a world of climate change, our efforts in monitoring these great white nurseries is critical to their survival, as they face many challenges to their very existence. We will continue to monitor them and to educate boaters and beach goers, as they undeniably play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. We hope to upgrade our research vessel so more in-depth long-term research can be accomplished in assuring that they have a higher chance of reaching adulthood. Harry and Kylie, our mainland marine biologist, will continue this vital work.

Anini Watershed Initiative on Kauai

Our water quality science team Robin Knox and Star Dressler conducted an in-depth characterization study and report of environmental pollution factors influencing the health of the Anini lagoon. Planning is underway for targeted environmental testing, working in communication with the Hawaii Dept. of Aquatic Resources, Dept. of Health and private landowners. A media presentation we designed this year for community stakeholders outlining key report findings will be used to guide strategic planning, public education, and action steps in the coming year. GOAL: Anini lagoon is an important place for many people, from ocean recreation to putting food on the table. Reef Guardians’ adoption of this unique resource is focused on the land-ocean relationship and how to protect the environment, working toward a sustainable resource for our present and future generations.

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Mahalo nui to our supporters! You made so much possible.

Many thanks to these individuals, foundations, and agencies who have generously supported our work this year and are giving us the momentum to continue.


Nora McNeely Hurley and Michael Hurley

The County of Kauai Economic Development Kupa’a Kaua’i

The Manitou Fund

The S.W. Wilcox Trust

The McInerny Foundation

The County of Maui Dept. of Economic Development 

The G.N. Wilcox Foundation

The Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii

Ed and Lupe Morishige in memory of Kinichi Ishikawa

Michael and Leah Pytel


We are truly grateful to the families and individuals who have donated this year supporting our vision of clean water, healthy reefs, abundant fish and wildlife, and educated ocean-loving communities. 


Wishing you peace and joy in the New Year!

Your support of Reef Guardians will help us continue to protect and educate. We cannot do this work without donations from people who care.

Happy New Year from the Reef Guardians Family!

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Copyright © 2021 Reef Guardians Hawaii, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
3737 Kaweonui Road
Princeville, HI 96722

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