Malia's Open Road


    Hawaii Roadtrip


Sanctuary Superintendent
NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

“More than ever, the problems that need to be solved now have to be done with a whole new way of thinking...I'm very optimistic about human ingenuity and the ability to use science to tackle some really important problems.”


Science Environment & Nature


Goals Passion Community Transitions Choices Opportunity Support & Encouragement Societal Pressures Struggle


Problem Solving


  • She grew up in the Hawaiian Islands, but she left to go to college.
  • She went to college at the University of Washington and got a degree in biology; she thought she wanted to be a doctor.
  • When she applied to medical schools, counselors looked at all the research she’d done and said, “Why don’t you pursue that?”
  • She realized they were right; she truly loved doing biological research, so she kept going after it.
  • Earned her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania, then did a few postdoctoral fellowships.
  • She was studying mammalian systems, but she knew if she wanted to get back to the islands, she had to study marine biology.
  • She was brought back to Hawaii to set up a research lab studying fish connectivity throughout the islands.
  • After years of doing research, she realized to be effective, she had to go into policy; now she has a foot in both worlds.

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