The purpose of this fund is to provide continuous support for undergraduate or graduate
students pursuing a degree at HIMB, who are conducting research on impacts of climate change on coral reefs. Other areas of research may include coral reef ecology and coral reef monitoring. Funds shall be used for costs associated with attendance (e.g. tuition, books, fees, etc.) and/or research equipment, supplies, travel related to research, publishing or vessel costs, or conference registration fees and travel. The funds in this endowed scholarship are intended to continue the legacy and research of Dr. Paul L. Jokiel.

Ji Hoon Justin Han and Gabrielle Martineau – 2021 Scholarship Recipients

Justin jokiel scholarship 2021Ji Hoon Justin Han

Justin is working with the Nature Conservancy to determine the efficacy of different materials used as hybrid reefs. This includes a larval Settlement Preference and post-settlement survivorship of the native Hawaiian species Montipora capitata. Recruitment tiles made from each of the obtained concrete materials will be retained in chambers. Simultaneously, environmental factors (i.e., temperature, salinity, pH) will be measured. Chambers will be inoculated with collected larvae to determine settlement and metamorphosis. Simultaneously, growth and mortality growth and mortality assays will be determined for three Hawaiian coral species. Fragments acquired using a micro-fragmentation technique will be affixed to the planar side of recruitment tiles for select materials and photographed. Image analysis will be conducted to measure growth. Fragment health categories will be recorded using the Hawaiian coral health and bleaching assessment color card. A cost-benefit analysis and manufacture retail costs will be conducted. This approach will assess each material to maximize the benefit of restoration efforts and shoreline protection.

Gabrielle jokiel scholarshipGabrielle Martineau

Gabrielle is working on combining metabarcoding data with individual morphological identification and reference barcodes of sponges in Hawai‘i. Her main questions and objectives include: Are dominant species of the cryptic sponge community broadly distributed or regionally endemic? and Can the cryptic sponge fauna be used as an indicator of anthropogenic impact? Answering those fundamental biodiversity questions about this taxonomic group that performs critical ecosystem function will unlock the availability to answer broader questions. She is especially interested in understanding the functional roles of different sponge groups as community shifts, under the rise of sea surface temperature and ocean acidification. She plans on using meta transcriptomics as a tool to assess what genes are impacted or not impacted in different sponge groups as temperature and ocean acidification changes. The hundreds of new records and species that will be identified and metabarcoded during this project will reveal a new realm of marine sponge species that can be used for biotechnological applications to identify new sponges that are could be potentially useful in the microbial cultures or antibiotic compound production. Globally, this project would be the first survey of sponge diversity across the Hawaiian Archipelago and in the Indo-Pacific biodiversity gradient that includes the cryptobenthic sponges and their critical functions in ecosystem productivity and maintenance of coral reef biodiversity.

Anita Tsang and Mariya Rutenberg – 2020 Scholarship Recipients

Anita TsangAnita Jokiel scholarship 2020

The 2020 scholarship allowed Anita to complete and publish her thesis work entitled, “Evaluating the Potential of an Endemic Hawaiian Soft Coral, Sarcothelia edmondsoni, as a Bioindicator of Anthropogenic Influence.” She is currently working as a Sea Grant fellow at the Division of Aquatic Resources in the Marine 30×30 Initiative for Sustainability.

Mariya RutenbergMariya jokiel scholarship

As an undergraduate student at the University of Hawai‘i, Mariya has assisted graduate students in Josh Madin’s lab working with the coral nursery to label plates and fragment corals. This led to her own research project consisting of meta-analysis and coral fragmentation, and construction of 3-D models. This will lead to a better understanding of current coral populations to inform changes in the face of climate change.

Anita Tsang and Ji Hoon Justin Han – 2019 Scholarship Recipients


Anita Tsang

Anita’s research focuses on Sarcothelia edmondsoni as a bioindicator of environmental conditions. This endemic Hawaiian octocoral, has had unusual high abundances in heavily polluted or developed areas around the main Hawaiian Islands, however, inadequate empirical evidence of how octocorals respond to environmental stressors hinders their use as an ecological indicator for coral reefs here in Hawai‘i. To examine the temporal and temporal variation of S. edmondsoni she correlated environmental variables such as rainfall, temperature, stream discharge, and distances from shore to abundance data. Natural and human land use factors included precipitation, human population, density of underground injection wells, and percent coverage of agricultural land, development, and impervious surfaces. Significant positive correlations were found with human population, impervious surfaces, development levels, and distance from shore, which represents the extent of human impacts nearshore. In addition, S. edmondsoni meets indicator criteria as it is relevant to management concerns, is easy to incorporate into existing monitoring methodologies, displays a response gradient relative to level of stress, and provides a direct linkage to management decisions. This supports its use as a bioindicator of anthropogenic influences, which will be an important management tool for the conservation and protection of Hawai‘i’s coral reef ecosystems.


Ji Hoon Justin Han

Justin is researching the acclimatization/adaptation rates of Hawaiian corals exposed to elevated temperatures and nutrients. The effects of increased land-based nutrient pollution in concert with elevated temperatures on coral mortality, bleaching and growth are being determined in controlled experiments in replicated mesocosms under flow conditions. Historical elevation of inorganic nutrient levels (Nitrite + Nitrate, Phosphate and Ammonium) between 1951-1978 due to direct discharge of the secondary treated sewage effluent in the Kāne‘ohe Bay, Hawai‘i was replicated. He compared coral bleaching thresholds at increased temperatures 2oC above the summer thermal maximum in simulated 1951-78 high nutrient environments with bleaching thresholds in present Kāne‘ohe Bay nutrient levels for three species of corals.

Austin Greene and Yuko Stender – 2018 Scholarship Recipients

Austin Greene is a Ph.D. student in the Donahue lab. He is developing a low-cost, autonomous benthic monitoring platform, the CoralCam. The goal of this project is “understanding ecological processes and the natural history of organisms central to effective management or conservation strategies. Frequently these ecological processes occur across a range of temporal scales spanning hours or days to months. Collection of study data such as growth patterns, herbivory, or predation rates at daily scales is costly and logistically impossible in remote locations. For example, the cost or complexity of conducting daily surveys on coral reefs has led to a gap in our understanding of coral recruitment and post-settlement selection in-situ. CoralCam was developed as a low-cost alternative to commercial timelapse cameras, enabling the study of ecological processes in a wide variety of marine or terrestrial habitats. It is controlled by a simple electrical circuit and easy-to-program, open-source Arduino microcontroller. A real time clock is used to improve power efficiency and the repeatability of data collection. Designs for a custom printed circuit board (PCB) are freely provided in this repository to reduce build time to approximately 1 hour or less.” You can read more about this methodology and research tool at In his 50 years as a researcher, Paul Jokiel developed numerous methodology and research tools that have been instrumental in the Marine Biology field. Austin’s CoralCam is closely aligned with the innovations of the scholarship’s founder.

Yuko Stender is a Ph.D. student in the Coral Reef Ecology Laboratory. She worked closely with Paul Jokiel on the impacts of sedimentation on coral reefs. As part of her dissertation she is conducting research on the changes in the coral community assemblage 15 years after a major nearshore mudslide at Pila‘a on Kaua‘i. This examines spatial and temporal reef recovery. Her research involves sediment effects including metabolic and isotopic changes, coral recruitment, historical cores, and case histories from the individual to the community level at all life stages. Paul Jokiel conducted initial research on the impacts to corals and coral reefs at heavily sedimented sites including Kaho‘olawe, South Moloka‘i, Pelekane, Hawai‘i, Pila’a, Kaua‘i, Kāne‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu and the Pearl Harbor battleships Arizona and Utah. He conducted field and manipulative experiments on the effects of sediment to coral larvae, recruits, settlement, and adult colonies. Yuko’s work expands our understanding of sediment impacts and builds on the research of Paul Jokiel.

Stacie May – 2017 Scholarship Recipient

Suitably, Stacie May became the first recipient of the Paul Jokiel scholarship. Stacie was an undergraduate at Windward Community College when she joined the Coral Reef Ecology Lab as an Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) intern. Her research was directly in line with the goals of the scholarship.
Her project entitled, “Defining coral thermal tolerance changes over the past half century to determine acclimatization to increased global seawater temperatures” replicated the seminal thermal tolerance research conducted by Drs. Paul Jokiel and Steve Coles in 1970 that formed the basis for all subsequent coral bleaching research throughout the world. This groundbreaking research on the thermal tolerances of corals is still being used today by climate change modelers and government and state agencies for conservation purposes. There was currently conflicting research on whether corals have acclimatized/adapted to increased temperatures. Therefore, this 1970 experiment serves as an exceptional baseline from which to study the current state of the same species of corals from the same environment at the same lab following nearly 50 years of increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change.
This research published in 2018 in the journal PeerJ lead to a press release with the caption, “Scientists replicate landmark study to determine changes in coral sea temperature tolerance over time. In the three species of Hawaiian corals retested, bleaching occurred later, with higher survivorship and growth rates than the same species of corals in 1970. However, scientists warn that temperatures are rising faster than corals can change.” Over 15 media publications followed including the prominent media outlets Newsweek and Science Daily.

SL Coles, KD Bahr, KS Rodgers, SL May, A McGowan, A Tsang, J Bumgarner and JH Han. 2018. Evidence of Acclimatization or Adaptation in Hawaiian Corals to Higher Ocean Temperatures. PeerJ.

Donations can be made to the UH Foundation Paul L. Jokiel Endowed Scholarship Fund.