Island of Water buffalo

Don Heacock is a lot of things. He’s just retired from 40 years as an aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. He’s an advocate for sustainable agriculture that cultivates things like yerba mate, awa and taro alongside tilapia aquaponic projects on his 25-acre Lihue farm, called Kauai Organic Agroecosystems.

It’s a long drive down a steep, dirt road to get to KOA Farm. A high, wooden bridge takes visitors out to the kalo, or taro, lo‘i, and to the food forest-style collection of avocado, rambutan, Thai longan, ulu, papaya, coconuts, macadamia nuts, banana — just to name a few.

Walk through the taro, past some fruit trees and habitats for Muscovy ducks and free-range chickens, and you’ll find Heacock’s new pride and joy, though: three water buffalo calves.

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New kind of litter

Gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment are accumulating on Kaua‘i shorelines, as well as places around the world. Surfrider Foundation’s local Hawai‘i chapters have joined the nationwide organization in a campaign to bring awareness to the fact that discarded PPE is adding to the plastic pollution on the world’s shorelines.

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Internationally studying seals

Understanding fertility is paramount to understanding the real status of the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, researchers say. And new research out of Scotland could help inform ongoing projects in Hawaii.

Led by the Seal Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews, the newly released study was done on two populations of gray seals in the United Kingdom, one near North Rona and one at the Isle of May.

Basically, it helped fill in missing data on breeding patterns by tracking body-mass changes in captured pup-and-mother pairs.

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Kauai’s Koloa going strong

Strong wetland management on Kauai has led to a preserved population of pureblood Koloa maoli ducks, according to new research.

These little brown ducks are unique in that they only exist in Hawaii, but the ducks have been crossbreeding with introduced or feral mallard ducks, resulting in hybrids on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii Island.

Kim Uyehara, a biologist who works with the ducks at the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex, was worried the Koloa ducks on Kauai were starting to intermingle as well.

So she teamed up with Caitlin Wells, postdoctoral fellow and researcher at Colorado State University, to investigate. Recently, the duo published a study using two decades of research and detailing their findings — that the population is still pure.

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crumbling coastlines

Kauai’s multi-use path, Ke Ala Hele Makalae, is being threatened by coastal erosion, triggering community concern and some government action.

In the area in front of Pono Kai Resort in Kapaa, the ocean is creeping closer and closer, eating away the shoreline and creating sharp drop-offs just feet away from the path that is popular for seaside walks and bike rides.

Now, caution tape and orange cones block off that area next to the path, courtesy of the County of Kauai, which is working with the state on a sand-replenishment project in the area.

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