Reserve Advisory Council member profile

Cynthia Hunter

Cynthia Hunter
2001 – present

"I am interested in contributing to a better understanding of how coral reef ecosystems function and sustain themselves, particularly within the context of natural and anthropogenic stressors. "
– Cynthia Hunter, Research Representative

Q: What drew you to participate in the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve Advisory Council?
A: In 1995, on contract to quantify the area of coral reef habitat in the NWHI, I painstakingly measured the areas marked as “Coral” around each island and atoll using available maps and navigational charts. Even though I’d never been to the kupuna islands, I became a bit enchanted with the place. When I heard about the formation of the RAC, I jumped at the chance to apply and do whatever I could in that capacity to protect these vital resources.

Q: What are your personal thoughts on the place and why it deserves such dedicated protection?
A: Uncle Buzzy’s stories really sealed the deal for me in realizing how vulnerable the fisheries were and how much pressure there was to harvest up there.

Q: What do you see as the Reserve Advisory Council’s greatest achievement during the time you have been directly involved?
A: Bringing the place to the people! Learning that you can’t really appreciate what you don’t understand made it of foremost importance to allow the world to visualize these coral reefs without paving a road to their ruination.

Q: As a member of the council, what is one of your most memorable experiences?
A: Sitting with the kupuna---Uncle Buzzy, Izzie Abbott, Isaac and Tammy Harp, Bobby Gomes, Bill Gilmartin, Linda Paul---and being part of the sausage-making exercise with the whole RAC team, including the public, as we put together the Management Plan.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the council and/or monument today?
A: Global climate change is by far the biggest challenge to reef ecosystems everywhere.

Q: Why should people care about protecting the monument?
A: Because it’s the last intact coral reef ecosystem in the United States.

Cynthia Hunter is a Professor of Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi Manoa.

Past and present council member profiles