Diving into research
and ending up with advocacy
Lukas Sheild, a UMD graduate (biology 2005), works in the Hawaii archipelago for the Pacific Whale Foundation, an organization that conducts research to assess the impact of human beings and other environmental factors on marine life. He started his work on the foundation's boats in the summer of 2005. At the end of the whale season, he began his work, but as Sheild said, "several close encounters [with whales] and I was hooked." Top: Sheild. Center: False killer whales. Bottom: A green sea turtle. Photos by Lukas Sheild.
Sheild conducts passive research to use in advocacy and public education. He is a naturalist on a boat and also in charge of the conservation committee. The foundation focuses their research on coral reef ecology and other cetaceans such as the Hawaiian spinner dolphin, false killer whales, and pan tropical spotted dolphins.
Sheild has taken the plunge into advocacy since he joined Pacific Whale Foundation. He has started a conservation committee and has been involved in several efforts to help protect marine life such as publicizing the dangers of a proposed high-speed inter-island ferry system among the Hawai'ian islands. The ferry system will bring super ferries through critical humpback whale breeding habitat.
Sheild is using his science background. "I was able to swim with a pod of over forty spinner dolphins. I could hear and feel their echolocation! I was truly captivated," he said. He is one of the researchers for REEF, a non-profit foundation that gathers research using thousands of divers. The foundation conducts an ongoing survey of fish species along coral reefs. Sheild works with a group of people at REEF to educate young students and the public about the ocean and their work.
One of Sheild's projects was to participate in a clean up effort and survey of the unnhabited island of Kaho'olawe. The island is home to over 3,000 archaeological sites, and rare plant and animal species.
From spending months in a hostel, to living on the beach alongside scorpions and centipedes, to living in a quaint jungle cottage on the north shore near the town of Haiku, living in itself has become a learning experience. Although as Sheild says, "needless to say, amidst the pangs of growing and living, I am finding solace in this insular life."
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