Class of 2000
By Gloria Kobayashi
Anyone who loves the ocean and wants to work to preserve marine animals and clean oceans might want Cecile Walsh’s job. Cecile is a marine biologist whose specific title is Alien Invasive Species Research Associate with the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) with the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources. The DAR’s mission is to manage, conserve and restore Hawaii’s unique aquatic resources and ecosystems so that they can be enjoyed by present and future generations. It is responsible for managing commercial and recreational fishing and fisheries, and protecting and restoring aquatic resources and their habitats. Specifically, Cecile and her AIS team are trying to stop the spread of invasive alien algae that is threatening the health of our coral reefs. They study such methods as mechanical removal of the algae and experiments with herbivore fish and urchins.
She is also a scientific SCUBA diver and her office is at the Wailoa State Fisheries Research Station located near the mouth of the Wailoa estuary. This facility is fully equipped with a laboratory, multiple large fish tanks, a 17-foot Boston Whaler, and the Manini, a 12-foot pontoon boat, used for algae removal, and storage containers with survey equipment, including SCUBA gear. Currently, she is studying schools of manini, as part of a herbivorous fish feeding experiment to determine if native fish feed on alien algae more than native algae. This project is funded by the Research Corporation of the UH. Fish are first caught, experiments are conducted on them, then they are tagged and released. As the fish swim along Hilo Bay, receivers record data and track their whereabouts. Early detection and public education help prevent the spread of alien algae.
Cecile graduated from UH Hilo’s Marine Options program, which has a very good reputation among marine biology university programs. She participated in such MOP programs as beach clean ups, turtle tagging, sailing, camping and hiking. She even volunteered to paint an aquatic mural on the wall of the MOP office.
The best part of her job is that Cecile’s office is the ocean. The downside is being stuck in front of a computer interpreting data and writing up reports, but sharing results and findings are an essential part of the job. She encourages would-be marine biologists to study all the science and math they can. As more emphasis is placed on slowing global warming and conserving the earth’s resources, the field will continue to grow.
A 2000 graduate of Waiakea High School, Cecile was a member of the girls swim team and has served as an assistant water polo coach for the girls’ team. She remembers Mrs. Cherlyn Chong as the sweetest English teacher she ever had.
Cecile is shown with fellow marine biologist, Troy Sakihara, also class of 2000. They are standing in front of the tag and release fish tanks at the Wailoa State Fisheries Research Station.