Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Host BioBlitz 2015

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s diverse ecological zones provide refuge for many distinct plant and animal communities, including endangered endemic species such as the nēnē (Hawaiian goose), and the Mauna Loa silversword, which flowers only once in its life.

An endemic nēnē (Hawaiian goose) feeds on indigenous naupaka kahakai (beach naupaka) in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

An endemic nēnē (Hawaiian goose) feeds on indigenous naupaka kahakai (beach naupaka) in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

The fascinating geology and biology are vital components of the cultural heritage of indigenous Hawaiian people. To better understand, appreciate and protect this natural and cultural treasure, the National Park Service and National Geographic are hosting a two-day BioBlitz species count and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16, 2015.

Crater Rim Trail winds through the native rainforest surrounding Kīlauea caldera in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Jessica Ferracane

Crater Rim Trail winds through the native rainforest surrounding Kīlauea caldera in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo/Jessica Ferracane

Themed I ka nānā no a ‘ike (“By observing, one learns”), the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz is part scientific endeavor, part outdoor classroom excursion and part celebration of biodiversity and culture. It will bring together more than 150 leading scientists and traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners, more than 750 students and thousands from the general public. Together, they will be dispatched across the park’s 333,086 acres to explore and document the biodiversity that thrives in recent lava flows and native rain forests of Kīlauea volcano.

“We are honored to host BioBlitz 2015,” said Cindy Orlando, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s superintendent. “BioBlitz provides an unparalleled opportunity to work alongside leading scientists and cultural practitioners to discover, count and add to the park’s species list; to explore the interconnectedness of plants, animals, Hawaiian people and our daily lives; and to protect this amazing biodiversity and rich culture in our park.”

In connection with the BioBlitz opportunity, the park is moving its 35th annual Cultural Festival from July to May this year and expanding it to include biodiversity. At the two-day festival, visitors of all ages will discover how native Hawaiians lived closely to the land as its stewards, embodying “I ka nānā no a ‘ike” principles that continue today.

Hālau hula Ulumano o Palikū, shown here performing in the 2013 Cultural Festival, return to perform in the 2015 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival.  NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

Hālau hula Ulumano o Palikū, shown here performing in the 2013 Cultural Festival, return to perform in the 2015 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival. NPS Photo/Jay Robinson

The Biodiversity & Cultural Festival will offer hands-on science and cultural exhibits, food, art and entertainment, plus the opportunity to meet individuals and organizations at the forefront of conservation, science and traditional Hawaiian culture — and to learn how to join their efforts. The festival is free and open to the public.

The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz is the ninth in a series of 10 BioBlitzes co-hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service at different national parks across the country, leading up the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.

Keiki (children) examine insects with an entomologist in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo

Keiki (children) examine insects with an entomologist in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo

“Each year, the BioBlitz evolves,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of Research, Conservation and Exploration. “Last year we moved away from paper data sheets and used smartphones and the iNaturalist app to photograph, identify and map species finds, adding more detailed information to both Park Service and international species databases. This year, we are going to build on that and blend technology with Hawaiian culture. This exciting, holistic approach will enhance our appreciation for the amazing resources in this breathtaking park and establish a more complete model for scientific exploration in Hawai‘i and around the globe.”

A longtime partner of the National Park Service, the National Geographic Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. It has given many grants to create and sustain national parks across the United States and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.

The BioBlitz program is the latest successful collaboration between the two partners. The first BioBlitz took place in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. Others have been held at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009; Biscayne National Park in Florida in 2010; Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011; Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado, in 2012; Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve outside New Orleans in 2013; and last year in Golden Gate National Parks in Northern California. Smaller-scale events take place throughout the year at various national parks across the country. For more information, visit nature.nps.gov/biology/biodiversity/.

The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz has been made possible through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Rutherfoord Jr., the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, Edmund C. Olson Trust II, Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association. Additionally, generous corporate support for the event has been provided by Kona Brewing Company, KapohoKine Adventures, First Hawaiian Bank, Roberts Hawai‘i, Alaska Airlines and Big Island Candies. In-kind donations from local business and organizations have been received from Hawai‘i Volcanoes Lodge Company LLC, KTA Super Stores, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawai‘i Forest & Trail and Aloha Crater Lodge.

How to Get Involved:

Public registration is now open. To be part of a scientist-led inventory team, participants must register online at nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Participation on inventory teams is limited and spots will be filled on a first-come basis. Children ages 8 and older, accompanied by adults, may participate in the free inventory opportunities.

Everybody can enjoy hands-on fun at the Biodiversity & Cultural Festival. BioBlitz base camp and the Biodiversity & Cultural Festival will be located at the Kahua Hula overlooking Halema‘uma‘u Crater near the Kīlauea Visitors Center in the park. No registration is required for the festival.  Entrance fees are waived for both days. To learn more about BioBlitz and the festival, visit nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz or call (800) 638-6400, ext. 6186. For more information about the parks, visit nps.gov/havo.

14th Annual Feed-A-Thon Benefits Hawaii Island Food Basket

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching, the longtime ambassador of the Feed-A-Thon, a benefit for The Food Basket, will be at the Waikoloa Village Market and five KTA grocery stores on Hawaii Island collecting food and monetary donations from 8 am – 6 pm, beginning April 8th and continuing through April 17th.

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching collecting food at the 2014 Annual Feed-A-Thon

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching collecting food at the 2014 Annual Feed-A-Thon

Hawaii Island’s Food Bank, The Food Basket, serves 1 in 5 residents island-wide through a network of 80 partner agencies. The goal for the 14th Annual Feed-A-Thon is to bring in enough food and money to provide 100,000 meals to feed the county’s most vulnerable residents.

With 1 in 4 children on the island eligible for free and reduced school meals, this annual event provides delivery of emergency food to needy families throughout the challenging summer months when school is not in session.

En Young, Executive Director of The Food Basket said, “Tommy has been a friend of The Food Basket for a long time. We are very fortunate to have a partner like him who understands how our food and cash fluctuate within the year.

Although we’re very busy during the holidays with donations, most of our work is supporting the many organizations who want to give only during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tommy doing a drive in the middle of the year helps us so much to prepare for The Food Basket’s most critical need period; when children are getting out of school and do not receive their lunch.”

Donations of food and money will be accepted from 8 am – 6 pm at the following “Feed-A-Thon” locations, and dates:

  • KTA Kailua-Kona, April 8 – 9
  • Waikoloa Village Market, April 10 – 11
  • KTA Waimea, April 12 – 13
  • KTA Puainako, April 14 – 15
  • KTA Keauhou, April 16 – 17

For more information on ways to help feed the hungry on Hawai`i Island, please contact The Food Basket at (808) 933-6030, or visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org.

Virgin Launches Flight Service from West Coast to Hawaii – $199 Flight Deals

Virgin America, the airline known for reinventing domestic travel, today announces it will start flying from San Francisco to Honolulu, Oahu from November 2, 2015, and Kahului, Maui from December 3, 2015, with fares on sale as of today from $199 one way* (with taxes and restrictions applying).

Virgin Airlines

As the only California-based airline, Virgin America will offer Bay Area travelers a fresh and upscale new travel option to the Aloha state, the ‘most wanted’ destination by members of its Elevate loyalty program.  Hawaii continues to be the number one tourism destination from the West Coast, with over 3.2 million visitors in 2014. Virgin America’s service is uniquely tailored to the modern traveler and to the longer-haul Hawai‘i flight experience.

With new aircraft that offer three custom-designed classes of service, touch-screen personal entertainment and an award-winning on-demand food and cocktail menu on every flight – travelers departing from the stylish and convenient new Terminal Two at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) can kick-off their Hawai‘i vacation as soon as they step onboard.  Virgin America has been named the “Best Domestic Airline” in both Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards and in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for the past seven consecutive years.

In honor of the new route, Virgin America is celebrating with a nationwide ‘Now Serving Paradise’ fare sale and a complimentary ‘mai tai’ toast for travelers at its home airport of SFO today.

The new Hawai‘i flights are on sale now and can be purchased at virginamerica.com or 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN**.  As of tomorrow, Elevate members can redeem reward flights to Hawai‘i – with no black-out dates, for as few as 8559 points. Members can earn more points by signing up for the Virgin America Visa Signature Credit Card.

“As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawai‘i,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cush. “This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations.  With a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers who have long requested our expansion to the islands, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers the opportunity to fly in style to the ultimate getaway.  We look forward to bringing a new kind of flight service to the market and to building lasting community ties with the state of Hawai‘i.”

In a private call last month, Cush received permission from Hawai‘i Governor David Ige to bring Virgin America’s new flight service to the state.

“On behalf of the state, I would like to welcome Virgin America to Hawai‘i and congratulate the company on its new service to the Hawaiian Islands,” said Governor David Ige. “We are excited about the business and leisure travel opportunities the service will provide. We look forward to Virgin America’s success in serving both visitors to and residents of Hawai‘i.”

“We are pleased that Virgin America will launch inaugural service to Honolulu and Kahului this fall. These flights will boost air seat capacity to Hawai‘i from our core U.S. West market and attract new visitors through Virgin America’s vast flight network across the United States,” said David Uchiyama, Vice President, Brand Management of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency. “San Francisco is one of our top visitor markets and we look forward to welcoming Virgin America and its guests to the Hawaiian Islands. These flights will generate an estimated $138.6 million in annual visitor spending and $14.8 million in state tax revenue.”

Beginning November 2, 2015, Virgin America’s Honolulu service is as follows:

Beginning December 3, 2015, Virgin America’s Kahului-Maui service is as follows:

The daily, nonstop flights will be operated with new Airbus A320 aircraft that Virgin America will take delivery of this year, which will be equipped with fuel-saving, ‘sharklet’ wingtip devices, allowing the airline to operate flights more efficiently, especially over longer haul routes.  Virgin America is working with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) and Airbus to ensure that the airline’s new Airbus A320 aircraft are certified for Extended Operation (ETOPS).  ETOPS is the standard certification process carriers obtain for longer range over water flights.

In addition to a Main Cabin that offers custom-designed leather seating with a deeper, more comfortable pitch, Virgin America’s First Class cabin offers plush white leather ‘cradle sleeper’ seating with 55 inches of pitch, 165 degrees of recline and lumbar massagers.  The carrier’s Main Cabin Select service offers 38-inches of pitch, free food and cocktails, an all-access pass to media content, dedicated overhead bins and priority check-in/boarding.  The Red® in-flight entertainment platform offers guests their own seatback touch-screen TV, with more than 20 films, TV***, interactive Google Maps, videogames, a 3,000 song library and an on-demand menu, which allows flyers to order a cocktail or snack from their seatback any time during a flight.  With a full service First Class menu and a unique on-demand menu in the Main Cabin, Virgin America was named Travel + Leisure’s “Best Domestic Airline for Food” in 2014.

Since its 2007 launch, Virgin America has created more than 2,800 new jobs and expanded its network to include Austin, Boston, Cancun, Chicago, Dallas Love Field, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Los Cabos, Newark, New York (JFK and LGA), Orlando, Palm Springs (seasonal), Portland, Puerto Vallarta, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C. (IAD and DCA), Honolulu (as of November 2, 2015) and Kahului, Maui (as of December 3, 2015).  The new Hawai‘i markets will represent the 22nd and 23rd destinations served by the California-based airline.