Women in the Workforce: You are Your Own Leader

Recent Statistical History of Women at Work

Women in the workforce have come a long way since the 1960s. Statistics presented by the U.S. Department of Labor (2012) show women’s labor participation is up by 53 percent since 1963. There have been several initiatives put into place by lawmakers in order to promote equality for working women. These include the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (U.S. Dept. Labor, 2012).

Despite the fact that there are more women in the American workforce than ever before, and despite all of the legislation passed to help women succeed regardless of discrimination, females still face difficulties and adversity.

Present Day Statistics

Currently, women in the U.S. take home less income than men. The median weekly earnings of women workers, ages 16 and over in 2013, was $706 dollars. The median weekly earnings of men, ages 16 and over was $860 dollars. In other words, on average, women make $0.82 for every $1.00 that men make. This might not seem like a huge difference, but over the course of a year it means that women take home roughly $36,712 while men take home $44,720 for doing the same job (U.S. Dept. Labor, 2015).

Another recent statistic shows that the majority of students who are attending college today are women. Forbes (2012) reports that universities are made up of 43.6 percent men and 56.4 percent women. Female domination of higher education prevails across all schools whether it be public, private, or not-for-profit institutions. This is interesting if you compare the ratio of males to females who are of eligible college age. There are more males than females in the age range of 18 to 24 who are of college age, at 51 percent vs. 49 percent (Borzelleca, 2012).

This could possibly be explained by the fact that there is more of a demand in leading occupations that do not require a college degree in fields that women typically don’t enter. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor (2015) reported that the in-demand, higher-paying occupations for 2010 to 2020 include; accountants and auditors, brick masons, cargo and freight agents, carpenters, cement masons, cost estimators, and database administrators. The percentage of women actually employed in these fields? Aside from the field of accounting a very low percentage of women actually work in these occupations, approximately zero to 39 percent, which are dominated by men and require only a high school diploma (U.S. Dept. Labor, 2015).

Women in Male Dominated Roles

So, what if women decided to become cement masons or decided to work in a male dominated field? Take the case of Lilly Ledbetter, as reported by the National Women’s Law Center (2015). She was one of the few female supervisors at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Gadsden, Alabama.   She worked there for close to two decades. After overcoming sexual harassment and being told by her male counterparts that they didn’t think a woman should be working there, she found out through an anonymous tip that the salaries of the three male managers with whom she worked were grossly higher than her own. Ledbetter then filed a complaint and her case went to trial. She was awarded $3.3 million and new legislation was signed into action by President Obama on January 29, 2009, restoring the Protection Against Pay Discrimination Act, which some would claim “had been stripped away” by the Supreme Court in its earlier ruling in the Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case (National Women’s Law Center, 2015).

Ledbetter did not give up and she took an active role in making things better for women: financially, legislatively, mentally, and socially. This is also not ruling out the fact that women have a lot of adversity to face and overcome.

Progress Toward Equal Pay

What is being done about inequality in the workforce? Aside from legislative acts and amendments, the White House under President Obama reported that raising the minimum wage will greatly impact women.

Obama said in a speech at Central Connecticut State University on March 5, 2014 that, “Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job- their average age is 35. Women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs. These Americans are working full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over 10$ an hour today. Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25. Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same (The White House, 2015, p.1).”

Congress is 18 percent women and 82 percent men. One argument regarding women’s lower income on a national level, is the idea that if you were to remove all of the male CEO’s earnings, maybe women would actually be making wages comparable to men’s wages. However, this only opens up another question; why are there so many more male CEO’s than female CEO’s and are their wages the same or are they being paid more? Catalyst (2015) did a statistical overview of women in Fortune 500 Companies and found that only 14.6 percent of executive officer positions were held by women and Fortune 500 board seats actually occupied by women were 16.9 percent (Knowledge Center, 2015).

Leadership and Mentorship

Women are reportedly often-times viewed as ‘risky’ investments to employ in typically male dominated roles. For example, the Harvard Business Review (2015) states that women are twice as likely to be hired from outside of a company as opposed to being promoted internally. They went on to claim that, “This finding might suggest that women are very likely not emerging as winners in their firms’ own CEO tournaments (Ibarra, Carter, & Silva, 2015, p. 6).” Aside from that, they cited a study conducted in 2008 of more than 4,000 full-time employed men and women. These were individuals who were considered high potentials and had graduated from top MBA programs worldwide. The study revealed that the women were paid $4,600 less in their first post-MBA jobs. They also occupied lower-level management positions and reportedly had less career satisfaction as compared to their male cohorts (Ibarra et al., 2015).

Another factor to consider is mentorship. According to one study, more women actually have more mentors than men do. However, the same 2008 study suggested that women’s mentors have “less organizational clout (Ibarra et al., 2015, p. 4),” and a follow up survey conducted in 2010 shows that men received 15 percent more promotions than women did. Something that could be considered quite interesting, is that 67 percent of the people involved in the study found their mentors on their own (Ibarra et al., 2015). So, does this mean that women aren’t picking mentors that can help them advance? Are women actively sabotaging themselves? Or are there vast differences in how women are mentored vs. men?

There is of course the dilemma of the double standard. Men who are mentoring or working with other men can go out for a drink together and no one thinks twice about it, whereas if a male co-worker, mentor, or boss goes out for a drink with a female co-worker, things are often viewed differently by society and sometimes by the individuals involved. Aside from that, real or perceived interests may be the responsible underlying motivation rather than professionalism.


These are all things that women should consider keeping in mind. Overall, there is a lot of work to be done as far as women’s equality in the workplace is concerned, but as individuals we are also responsible for our own reality. There are a few exceptions to this rule as our world is dominated by freewill, however, if we remain diligent our goals and ambitions can be reached. This is being clearly demonstrated as the steady increase in percentages of women CEO’s and females in the job market, in general, rises.

Women should not be discouraged, angry, or become indignant but rather, be as pro-active in their own lives as possible. In the end, you are your own leader. Rather than putting yourself down, raise yourself up, and even more importantly, raise up those around you, and you will succeed.


Anderson, Melissa J. “Why Do We Need Male Mentors and Sponsors? The Glass Hammer.” The Glass Hammer RSS. N.p., 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

Borzelleca, Daniel. “The Male-Female Ratio in College.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.

Francis, David R. “Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College?” Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College? N.p., 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

Ibarra, Herminia, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva. “Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 01 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

“Knowledge Center.” Knowledge Center. Ed. Catalyst. N.p., 03 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Feb. 2015.

“LEDBETTER v. GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO., INC.” SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (2007): n. pag. http://www.supremecourt.gov. The Supreme Court, May 2007. Web.

“Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.” National Women’s Law Center. N.p., 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 05 Feb. 2015.

“Median Weekly Earnings by Sex, Marital Status, and Presence and Age of Own Children under 18 in 2012 : The Economics Daily : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

Office of the Press Secretary. “NEW WHITE HOUSE REPORT: The Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage on Women and the Importance of Ensuring a Robust Tipped Minimum Wage.” The White House. The White House, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

U.S. Dept. of Labor. “In-Demand, Higher-Paying Occupations (2010-2020).” Women’s Bureau (WB) In-Demand Occupations (2010-2020). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

U.S. Dept. of Labor. “Latest Annual Data.” Women’s Bureau (WB). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.

U.S. Dept. of Labor. “Leading Occupations.” Women’s Bureau (WB). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

U.S. Dept. of Labor. “Women, Work & The Work Ahead.” 50 Years Later N.P., n.d. Web. 2012.

International Monetary Fund: Comparing the Perspectives of Tom Friedman and Naomi Klein

Introduction: The International Monetary Fund and Its Policies

The International Monetary Fund, or the IMF, governs the use and exchange of money around the world and between countries. Each country has its own currency and the international monetary system governs the rules for valuing and exchanging these currencies. There are policies that the IMF advocates to help fund struggling developing nations that include promoting international monetary cooperation through a permanent institution, the facilitation of expansion and balanced growth of international trade, exchange stability, assistance in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments through the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions which hamper the growth of world trade, making the general resources of the Fund temporarily available to countries under adequate safeguards, and to shorten the duration and lessen the degree of disequilibrium in the international balances of payments of members (Carpenter & Dunung, 2017).

In short, they advocate for deregulation, privatization, and cutbacks. These things could manifest as lower tariffs and barriers to international capital flows, privatization of state owned firms, balanced budgets, the elimination of social subsidiaries, tax cuts for the rich, and foreign direct investment and exports (Calton, 2016). These policies also propose no minimum wage, free trade by corporations, privatization of post offices, education, and retirement pensions, among others. Many of these policies are not yet implemented in developing countries and it can be a massive adjustment for them from their current economical and governmental model.

 Naomi Klein

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein argues that these policies are deliberately implemented after a time of massive change, or a shocking event. Sometimes this “shock” is orchestrated by the governments, or agencies and global corporations, to manipulate developing countries and their governments into acting the way they want, for the benefit of the foreign agencies and corporations (Klein, 2007). It has been viewed as electroshock therapy on a country, which is implemented in order to create a form of social amnesia that inevitably enables the introduction of a new way of thinking. The Shock Doctrine follows the evolution of these ideas through history, and illustrates how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberately orchestrated in order to exert a high level of shock on a country, and bring about the introduction of a new economic government. According to Klein, the IMF has even supported dictatorships and military coups. Examples of this include Indonesia’s coup in 1965 and Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973.

 Tom Friedman

Tom Friedman, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, praised these same policies as a “golden straight jacket” because they help to bring about positive change and economic growth for countries, if they decide to “wear the jacket.” The idea is that the jacket is tight, therefore there is not room for corruption or rule breaking, and there are standards and rules that a country must adhere to in order to wear the jacket, so it can be uncomfortable (Calton, 2016). However, it is golden because, if a country chooses to wear the jacket correctly and abide by the standards demanded by investors, they will be rewarded in gold and economic riches to be showered on them by global corporations and the electronic herd.

Friedman argues that the policies advocated by the IMF increase transparency and standards, decrease corruption, promote freedom of the press, introduce stock and bond markets, and push forward democratization. These things will all be brought about out of necessity to demonstrate a country’s soundness and stability to the electric herd. The electric herd is essentially a global collection of long-term and short-term investors, bringing capital to a country through direct investment and the stocks and bonds market (Friedman, 2000). They are given the fitting titles of “long-horn” and “short-horn cattle.” Because of a country’s self-interest to do well economically, the herd can help with that by providing investment funds. But the herd will only invest in a country that is stable, transparent, and demonstrates a move toward democratization and higher standards. If the herd is spooked by dishonesty and an exaggeration of the facts, as it happened in 1997 in South Korea when the country claimed to have currency reserves of $30 billion but was later revealed to only have $10 billion, then the herd will take off and take their investment funds with them (Friedman, 2000).

Since countries wish to encourage investment, then they will naturally seek to maintain transparency. The same goes for living and working standards. A great example of this are factory workers in Sri Lanka producing garments for Victoria’s Secret being given clean work spaces, better wages, air-conditioning, and state of the art computerized systems to track their work with pregnant women being required to produce less. Because consumers in America are concerned with the treatment of the people producing their garments, the factory has had to raise the bar on its standards. Friedman purports that other benefits follow in a similar fashion, thus increasing the overall wealth and economic sanctity of the countries wearing the “golden straight jacket.”


The IMF can have a negative world impact when analyzing the implications of its policies from the standpoint taken by Klein. Shadow maneuvers like coups and support of dictatorships, as was seen in Chile, are certainly detrimental to a nation’s people, identity, and development. As with Chile, many people stand to lose their lives when IMF-fueled governmental overthrows threaten to overturn a country. It is possible to see how more developed nations and the IMF are taking advantage of developing countries, considering they do not have the resources, education, or where-with-all to outmaneuver a superpower like a global monetary fund or the United States. However, the IMF and the development of up-and-coming nations can be positive for the citizens of those nations and their economies.

If we look at Friedman’s discourse, one can see how countries would want to make use of the IMF and the possibilities it holds. Democracy and functioning capitalism must follow a process of development, and for-whatever-reason there has been blood shed over their implementation and introduction in new areas. It is reasonable to agree with Friedman that there are self-serving reasons for a country to find it convenient to slap on a golden straight jacket and feel compelled to follow and seek attainment of certain standards and transparencies, however it is also reasonable that a moderate amount of government regulation needs to be in place, in all countries and on an international level. This needs to occur so that things like military regimes are not encouraged simply because it will benefit a larger more economically lucrative end for more developed nations and their corporations.

As with the Tragedy of the Commons in England, people when given freedom to use an economically important asset without regulation will take advantage of said asset until no one is able to use it any longer, because it has been depleted. This can be seen as demonstrated through Klein’s arguments and examples of various overthrows and coups by the US and its agencies over the course of contemporary history, where outside influences, like other governments or corporations, misuse a resource or country since there are no known regulations. However, the IMF has its advantages and an ability to encourage better standards of work and life in developing nations. Therefore, to reap the benefits of aiding developing nations to become more economically sound, there should be a middle ground. International laws governing the IMF and limiting its ability to meddle in a country’s internal affairs should be enacted and other modes of encouraging countries to adopt a more capitalistic and democratic form of government should be brought about, even if they take longer to enact. A country and its identity and people are important and should be treated as thus, regardless of systemic and economic differences, and great care needs to be taken when bringing such countries into the global marketplace.

Rather than forcing democracy and capitalism on a nation through shock treatment, first make requirements of the country to be carried out in good faith by said country, before being allowed to join the global marketplace, and layout a plan of action that the government can seek to enact in its own way and with help from the IMF.


Calton, J. 2016. Class Lectures: Management 333 Course. UH Hilo, Hawaii.

Carpenter M. & Dunung S. 2017. International Business: Opportunities and Challenges in a Flattening World. Flat World Inc.

Freidman, T. 2000. The Olive and the Lexus. Anchor Books.

Klein, N. 2007. The Shock Doctrine. Knopf Canada.

Advancing Humanity’s Knowledge About Merging Galaxies and Their Blackholes

Derek Hand and Andreea Petric in their office at the Institute for Astronomy, UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology.

Derek Hand and Andreea Petric at the Institute for Astronomy, University Park of Science and Technology, UH Hilo campus. Click to enlarge.

A budding scientist double majoring in physics and astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has helped make an astonishing discovery about merging galaxies.

After receiving a bachelor of science in astronomy last fall, UH Hilo senior Derek Hand is now finishing up his second baccalaureate degree, this one in physics. He is a NASA Space Grant Fellow who joined forces with astronomer Andreea Petric when she was a science fellow at Gemini Observatories. She now serves as resident astronomer with the Canada-France-Hawai‘i-Telescope.

Together, student and mentor have been working to analyze data that will advance humanity’s knowledge about merging galaxies and the growth of the central black holes they encompass.

While conducting analysis of their observations, Petric and Hand made a surprising discovery that, once verified, will be a new contribution to science.

They found that Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), or as Petric describes, “super massive black holes that are eating,” can have a dramatic impact on the matter from which galaxies make their stars. This is surprising because the transfer of energy ranges from the very small physical scale to the very vast galaxy-wide scale.

Derek Hand working on his research project.

Derek Hand working on his research project. Courtesy photo.

The project is an independent research process. Hand came up with the research proposal and does the research while Petric provides guidance. Hand gives this scientific description of the work:

Our CO data comes from the Herschel satellite in the far Infrared (~200 -700) microns. We will be observing transitions of the 12 CO carbon monoxide (CO molecule). The CO molecule has rotational kinetic energy, proportional to its angular momentum. Quantum mechanics tell us tells us that the angular momentum and hence the rotational energy are quantized such that the rotational energy is proportional to angular quantum number J as J (J+1), with higher J at higher energy levels.

So the upper-level energies Eu for CO transitions are proportional to J(J+1). The corresponding minimum temperatures for J upper = 13 are on the order of a few hundred K and so high – J lines are weak in cold molecular gas but strong in regions of star-formation or when there is AGN heating the gas.

So for this project with Herschel we observed warm CO, transitions J=4-3 to 13-12, to compare see if and how the CO excitation conditions change in LIRGs as a function of merger stage and AGN contribution to the IR.

In addition I performed a long and tedious literature search to obtain all the CO 1-0 measurements, as this probes the coldest CO an the one that is most closely associated with star-formation. I found measurements for (168??) but there is a small hitch. These observations were performed with single dish observatories and results in these objects being observed differently while the SPIRE/FTS beam size varies between 20 and 40′′, and to correct for this, we must scale this data. To do so, we will employ Herschel Far Infrared observations to estimate the CO(1-0) that may be present in the Herschel aperture (that is, go from a 1-2 arcminute scale to about a 30 arcsecond scale).


The mentorship of Petric has been invaluable to Hand’s start as a serious scientist. Petric, a member of the physics and astronomy faculty at UH Hilo, received her doctor of philosophy from Columbia University and was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology, where she worked on infrared and millimeter observations of interacting galaxies and galaxies hosting Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN).

In order to make their recent discovery about AGN, Petric and Hand collaborated with scientists from the University of Virginia, the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, the Institute for Astronomy at UH Mānoa, and groups in France and Japan. Working together, they used multiple data sets to study the properties of the molecular gas in Luminous Infrared Galaxies.

Petric and Hand are currently using different methods and data from other sources and telescopes to verify the discovery. Once that is done, they have a plan in-the-works to write and publish a paper on their findings.

Applied learning

All of this may not have been possible without the opportunities provided at UH Hilo where students can apply their knowledge gained in the classroom to real life experience.

Petric and Hand met through the Akamai Internship Program. The six-week program offers college and university students an opportunity to gain a summer work experience at an observatory, company or scientific or technical facility in Hawai‘i. Akamai offers training, skill acquisition and first-hand experience working alongside mentors, managers, and fellow interns. Promising college and university students who excel in their chosen industries are given a jump start into their careers.

After Petric and Hand were matched through the Akamai program, they found shared interests and formulated the research idea that would eventually lead them to new discoveries about the role of interacting galaxies on star formations and black hole growth.

This led Hand to pursue a highly competitive Space Grant from NASA. Funding was awarded and the rest may, quite possibly, go down in history.

Becoming an astronomer at UH Hilo

Derek standing in front of observatory dome

Derek Hand on the summit of Maunakea. Courtesy photo.

Hand, who hails from Bemidji, Minnesota, and graduated from Mount Ayr Community High School, Iowa, in 2012, says, “I came to Hawai‘i because the (UH Hilo) astronomy and physics department does have its own observatory.”

The observatory is currently closed for maintenance, but is scheduled to be up-and-running in about eight months. In the meantime, Hand felt he had enough class work and experience to apply for an internship.

“I wanted to work with real data, with real people, working on real research, that’s where I learn the best,” he says.

Hand feels that it helps to apply the tools acquired in the classroom and believes that the application emphasizes their importance.

He says that one of the most valuable lessons he has learned, thanks to his internship and subsequent NASA fellowship working with Petric, has been the independent research process. In the past people had told him what to do, but Hand is grateful for Petric’s approach.

“Andreea more-or-less says ‘this is what needs to happen, you should figure out how to do it,’” explains Hand.

Petric says the long time period of the grant played a large role in the work.

“We had a long time, that’s why I think the Space Grant is a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “A lot of UH students have classes and they also have jobs. On top of that they want to be involved in research, but it’s quite difficult, there isn’t enough time. That’s why the Space Grant is great, it provides extra funding and time.”

Petric also points out other benefits, such as skill development through specific literature searches, computing faculties and technical language acquirement.

The team will continue their research this semester, looking at other founts that will help them understand whether their discovery is in fact confirmable. They plan to write and publish a paper discussing their findings, should they be successful.

Hand will be graduating this May, completing his double major in astronomy and physics. He has applied to graduate school.

The Chemistry of the Universe

UH Hilo undergraduate Jasmin Silva started her journey into astronomy research when she received a NASA Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium fellowship in 2015.

Jasmin at computer, fronting several screens with data on desk and wall.

Jasmin Silva

Jasmin Silva, a junior at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is working alongside mentor Kathy Cooksey, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, conducting research contributing to the understanding of the gaseous structures surrounding galaxies and how they evolve over time. It is a way of understanding the chemistry of the universe and what has been created by stars.

Silva, a double major in physics and astronomy with a minor in mathematics, started her journey into research and discovery when she received a NASA Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium fellowship for the spring and fall 2015 semesters. This fellowship allows undergraduate students enrolled in fields relevant to NASA’s goals to do research alongside a mentor who is typically a faculty member.

Silva has been working on her project, “Understanding Galactic Evolution through Absorption,” under the guidance of Cooksey, a highly accomplished astronomer who arrived at UH Hilo in 2014. Cooksey researches the large-scale gaseous structure in the universe to understand how various elements cycle in and out of galaxies over cosmic time. Her specific area of expertise is the intergalactic medium (IGM), the gas surrounding and between galaxies.

From Waiakea High School to astronomy research

Silva is using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to construct and analyze quasar absorption-line spectra of the cosmos. Some of this work is done remotely at the UH Hilo campus. Silva was also able to observe with the 10-m Keck II Telescope, which is located on Maunakea but data collection is done remotely at the headquarters in Waimea.

The initial interest in the fellowship was sparked by a classroom encounter. Silva was enrolled in one of Cooksey’s classes already having taken physics at Waiakea High School, and this proved helpful.

Cooksey notes, “She was more advanced at some levels and focused on getting her astronomy degree.”

Silva says, “Kathy asked me to do research with her, but before that it was definitely in my head that sometime in my career I would do research. If you want to go to graduate school a lot of it is research. I figured I would want to get that kind of experience, then Kathy gave me a good opportunity.”

It was the first applied learning experience for Silva as a student.

The boost of applied learning

Something that Silva really appreciated about the fellowship was the fact that undergraduates were able to have the experience of writing their own research proposal and organizing a time scale in which to carry it out.

She explains, “It’s important for the future, when you are applying for grants or fellowships, to know how to do that.”

Silva also feels that the applied learning experience encourages students and allows them to see what they are capable of— “It helps me be more confident that I can do graduate school in the future.”

Cooksey herself conducted many research projects as an undergraduate and feels that the experience gained in applied learning is necessary for those wishing to continue on to graduate school.

She says, “Computer skills, thought processes… grad school wants you to hit the ground running. It’s great that the UH System is a Space Grant Institution that is allowed to get this NASA (funding) to pay for interns to get them started. Jasmin is now in a better position to get into more prestigious programs.”

Silva just finished her final semester of research with the fellowship but has continued to work independently with Cooksey. She is also applying to other internship opportunities and grants, including a summer internship with Gemini Observatories.

She feels that her undergraduate education has been supplemented by the fellowship. Silva believes that the experience has helped prepare her to educate the public about the science community (she serves as an astronomy educator in the Hilo-Waiākea Complex Area) and she encourages other university students to apply for similar opportunities.

She plans to continue on to graduate school.

Originally published at UH Hilo Stories

Wēkiu Bug Research Atop Maunakea

Jessica Kirkpatrick’s research examines wēkiu bug habitat restoration possibly needed after decommissioning of three observatories on Maunakea.

Jessica and Jesse

Jessica Kirkpatrick, a graduate student with the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is conducting research on the native wēkiu bug found only on the summit cinder cones of Maunakea.

Kirkpatrick’s research, under the tutelage of Jesse Eiben, an assistant professor of applied entomology at UH Hilo, involves understanding wēkiu bug habitat in order to provide information for possible habitat restoration following the scheduled decommissioning and removal of three observatories on Maunakea.

Kirkpatrick is studying the requirements needed for wēkiu bug habitat such as the mineral composition, temperature and slope of cinder cones, and is correlating those requirements with wēkiu bug dispersion patterns to find habitat that is most closely associated with stable, high density wēkiu bug populations.

This information can be used to recreate habitat that is most favorable for the bugs and can help estimate population densities.

“You can use that same kind of data to then measure the success of restored populations,” explains Kirkpatrick. “This study is kind of like a baseline of wēkiu bug habitat before restoration activities.”

The budding entomologist also is making recommendations to the Office of Maunakea Management regarding the best methods for monitoring wēkiu bugs.

Applied learning at UH Hilo

Kirkpatrick graduated three years ago from UH Hilo with a bachelor of science in environmental science and credits the applied learning experiences she had as an undergraduate with preparing her for the current research she’s doing.

“As an undergraduate I really enjoyed the classes and a lot of my friends were in the graduate program,” she says. “I always told myself that this (graduate program) is where I am going to end up.”

Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science

Jessica Kirkpatrick during her internship
Jessica Kirkpatrick

While in the UH Hilo undergraduate program, Kirkpatrick was able to intern with the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science (PIPES) and worked with the Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Program at Volcanoes National Park.

“It was the best summer of my life,” she recalls. “We got to hike down to all the cool beaches and monitor for turtles. It would be all night long, but it was a good experience. I have really good friends and really good connections from that internship.”

After graduating with her bachelor of science degree, she again joined PIPES and worked with Prof. Eiben. It was here that she got her first introduction to entomology, examining arthropod biodiversity on Maunakea alongside an expert in the field.

Office of Maunakea Management

Kirkpatrick interned with Eiben and the Office of Maunakea Management at the same time. Upon completion of her internship, the office hired her to be a resource management assistant. Kirkpatrick stayed in that position for three years and helped write the Maunakea Invasive Species Management Plan.

These experiences helped peak her interest in the wēkiu bug and encouraged her decision to enter into the UH Hilo tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program.

Teaching and Research Arthropod Collection

Kirkpatrick attributes much of her interest in the wēkiu bug to the enthusiasm that Prof. Eiben shared with her during her undergraduate internship. Eiben is now her mentor and adviser for the master’s program, and in addition to the wēkiu bug habitat research, he has welcomed her assistance in the development of the recently established Teaching and Research Arthropod Collection lab at the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management.

Goals for the lab include creating a functional space for students and researchers to be involved with arthropod research and education, and to make the numerous arthropod specimens in the university’s custodianship available as an informational resource for the community.

Future plans for Kirkpatrick include continued work with arthropods on Maunakea and the possible pursuit of a doctorate in forest entomology.

Originally published at UH Hilo Stories