After Dark in the Park: 
Tuesday, July 5: 2011 at Volcanoes National Park Visitor Center Auditorium:
the Hidden Secrets"
A lecture-presentation by Dr. Scott R. Santos
Assistant professor, Auburn University, Alabama

          Dr. Santos revealed a multitude of previous unknown information about Hawaii's most famous endemic shrimp, opae'ula (Halocaridina rubra).  The anchialine habitats of Hawaii are coastal "pools with no surface connection with the sea, containing salt or brackish water, which fluctuates with the tides."

          More than anyone else,  Dr. Santos understands anchialine pools and the geological factors that separates and differentiate the various opae'ula species. With the aid of DNA technology, he has been unraveling the factors and features of this amazing creature.  His presentation was very well received and presented a lot of new information.  Upon him publishing his findings, we will include a more extensive report on the Micro-Lobster website.

          Scott Santos and others including Thomas Iwai Jr., Mike Yamamoto, David Chai, John Maciolek, and others have assisted Fuku-Bonsai's private research projects that have produced the only successful opae'ula commercial breeding units currently on the market. 















         Following the Santos presentation, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park unveiled the newest Kilauea Visitor Center attraction --- a living Anchialine Pond Exhibit featuring native the endemic Red Hawaiian Anchialine Pond Shrimp known as opae'ula. The project was led by park ranger Dean Gallagher. 

         The interpretive educational panels featured the artwork of award winning artist John Dawson and aquascaping of the cylindrical unit was by David Fukumoto.  Scott Santos provided technical resource assistance and photographs of the Halape anchialine ponds within Volcanoes National Park which was used as the background for the tank exhibit.

         The exhibit is off the main center lobby just inside of the interpretive exhibit hall. The visitor center gets well over one million visitors per year.  The goal is to educate the general public as well as those visitors who plan to make the coastal hike to visit the anchialine ponds.  Signage will be erected at the ponds to further educate to discourage throwing trash, predators, or otherwise compromising the water quality of the largely pristine ponds.

           The evening presentation and exhibit was an extraordinary success!  Very few of the general public had even seen an anchialine pond and many do not favor publicizing the ponds for fear of predators being introduced. But the habitats are being lost as a result of coastal development and there is a growing sentiment that it is necessary to make more knowledge available to encourage that this unique Hawaiian heritage is preserved.

          Dean Gallagher deserves credit and appreciation for introducing the exhibit concept, following through to obtain the many approvals required, and leading the project to a successful conclusion.  There is discussion about possible additional exhibits at Puuhonua o Honaunau (City of Refuge) and Kaloko-Honokahau that are a part of the national parks system. 

         Charles Darwin developed the Theory of Evolution based upon observations on Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America.  In such isolated land masses, evolution proceeds at a much faster pace than on vast continental areas. Hawaii is the most isolated land mass in the world much more so than the Galapagos Islands and this could and should be emphasized.  Because of this evolutionary situation, Hawaii has the greatest number of species that are endangered and therefore should be the ecology leader.  This exhibit could be a continuation of that theme throughout the Big Island.    

         The presentation and exhibit unveiling was very well attended and received.  Dr. Santos and Dean Gallagher was in the midst of a number of people who asked many questions and were very interested in their work.  This was the first major Volcanoes National Park exhibit that featured live creatures and visitors were mesmerized by the active and continual swimming of the opae'ula. 

          Dr. Santos' presentation included a high resolution underwater video of an anchialine pond that clearly shows active opae'ula and the display was very effective as very few get to see an anchialine pond and almost no one gets an underwater view!  So visitors clearly enjoyed watching the opae'ula in the exhibit and I was honored to have been invited to be a part of the team putting together the display.

        The opae'ula are continually swimming laps and there's a lot of interest and questions.  The exhibits panels are being revised to address the questions that are most often asked.  There is hope that with increased public education, that the rare anchialine pond habitats will be preserved and that this unique endemic Hawaiian Red Anchialine Pond Shrimp will be more enjoyed and appreciated.



































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