ALB's Nature Journal

Aloha! Welcome to ALB's Nature Journal. I hope that this site will become useful for both you and I. Throughout the spring 2006 semester, I hope to become excited and intreged about the world of science. I look forward to this class sparking an interest in this field and help me to learn new fun and enjoyable ways of teaching science.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ciguatera in Hawaiian Waters


This past weekend we went camping and my brother caught a type of fish called a Roi (Roy). This type of fish is known to have Ciguatera; so should we eat it or throw it back? What is Ciguatera and what can we do to prevent it?

Ciguatera is a foodborne illness poisoning in humans caused by eating marine species whose flesh is contaminated with a toxin known as ciguatoxin, that is present in many micro-organisms living in tropical waters. Many species and families of reef fish can be involved in ciguatera poisoning. Families include moray eels, red snappers, groupers, coral trout, coral cod, emperors, tuna-like fishes, jacks or trevallies and barracudas.

On the Big Island, ciguatera is found anywhere from North Kohala down to Milolii. This is in the area of presistent ciguatera outbreaks during the months of January through March.
Ciguatoxic fish cannot be detected by appearance, taste or smell. Raw and cooked whole fish, fillets or parts have no signs of spoilage, discoloration or deterioration.

Prevention is most effective by not eating these fish. You can buy a test kit at the store for $30 and you can test 5 fish. If it's not contaminated eat it, if it is...trash it. FYI, we throw the Roi back.

(MAP: The blue is low risk of ciguatera and the red is high rish.) As you can see, Hawaii is high risk.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Staph Infection

A couple weeks ago my father was hospitalized for a week. We initially thought that it was a bite from a brown recluse spider than later found out that he had gotten bit by something and turned into a staph infection. So what is staph infection and how do you get it?

Staph is short for Staphylococcus (staf-uh-low-koh-kus). When the skin is punctured or broken, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections, which can lead to other health problems. Staph can spread through the air, on containated surfaces, and from person to person. A child can carry staph bacteria from one area of the body to another on dirty hands and under dirty fingernails.

Staph infection can be simple and localized, such as with impetigo of the skin. It can, however, become widespread, by infecting the blood. It can thereby seed to various areas of the body, such as the bone, kidneys, or heart.

Monday, April 03, 2006

DA KUKUI


Last night I was eating Poke with inamona (ground kukui nuts) and I was curious as to what else the Kukui nut tree is used for?

The kukui nut tree or the candlenut tree (Aleurites molucanna) is native to Asia, it has been spread by people thought the tropical Pacific because its seeds are rich in oil. The valuable oil expressed from seeds is used as a light source and as a mild cathartic. Seeds are strung together and burned like a candle.

The seeds of candlenut contains about 50 percent oil. The ancient Polynesians brought this tree to the Hawaiian Islands where it has become naturalized. The Polynesians also used them for candles and extracted the oil for many other uses: to shine and waterproof wooden bowls, to mix with charcoal to make black canoe paint, to burn as torches, and to burn in stone lamps for light.

The nuts can not be eaten raw because they contain a strong purgative. Roasted seeds are eaten, but only in small quantities because of the laxative effect (which could be used as medicine). Inamona is made when roasting the nut, pounding them into a paste that is mixed with salt. Nuts are also polished and made into shiny dark brown or black bracelets and lei.

According to the United States National Herbarium, the official state tree of Hawaii is the kukui nut. Unlike the state flower, Hawaii's official state tree is not native to the Hawaiian Islands. The kukui nut was legislated in 1959 because of its historical significance in the colonization of Hawaii by native Polynesians.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Dam?

After hearing about the tragedy that struck Kaua'i on Tuesday, I began thinking what is a dam and why are they used?

A dam is a structure built across a river to hold back water for a variety of reasons, including protecting areas from floods, storing water creating a lake or reservoir, and generating power. Most dams have a section called a spillway which is intended that water will flow either sparitically or continuously.

Based on the structure and material used, dams are classified as timber dams, embankment dams or masonry dams (either of the gravity or arch type), with several subtypes.

TYPES OF DAMS
A diversionary dam is a structure to divert a portion river.
Timber dams were used in the early part of the industrial revolution and in frontier areas due to ease and speed of construction.
Embankment dams are made from compacted earth, and have two main types, rock-filled and earth-filled dams. Embankment dams rely on their weight to hold back the force of water, like the gravity dams made from concrete.
Earth dams are made of rolled-earth and earth-filled dams, are constructed of well compacted earth.

SPILLWAYS
A spillway is a section of a dam designed to pass water from the upstream side of a dam to the downstream side. Many spillways have floodgates designed to control the flow through the spillway. Any cavities or turbulence of the water flowing over the spillway slowly eats the dam. This is exactly what sounds like happened at the Koloko dam in Kaua'i.

HAWAII
According to an article that was posted on October 23, 2005, civil engineers reported 22 of Hawaii dams as having deficiencies that raise safety concerns. Nearly all of Hawaii's dams are earthen structures erected early in the past century. They were build before federal standards existed and long before Hawaii created a state office for assessing dam and levee safety.

According to the infrastructure report card 2005, Hawaii has 22 state-determined deficient dams and 77 high hazard dams. A high hazard dam is defined as a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage.

High-hazard dams include Nuuanu Dam on Oahu, Lakalea Reservoir on the Big Island, Homer Reservoir on Maui and Lower Kapahi Reservoir on Kauai. Interesting....nothing about the Koloko dam!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Deadlocks

This morning I was in my sisters room and she had a poster of Bob Marley. As I was looking at him, I asked the question what are dreadlocks and how do you make them? Living in Hawaii we see many people walking around with dreadlocks. The cool thing is that people of all races and ethnicities have them. FYI: Not to worry, this is not something I would do! This would take some guts!

Deadlocks are matted hair. I found a website that gave 9 different ways to create dreadlocks. The most common one is: Backcombing

You will need:
Dread Wax
Residue Free Shampoo
Metal Comb
Rubberbands
The site recommends using the DreadHead Supa Dupa Dread Kit: It has everything you need and they guarantee your hair will dread.

1. Wash your hair with a residue free shampoo and let it air dry.
2. Section your hair into sections that are 1 inch by 1 inch. You can use rubberbands to hold the sections while you section the rest of your hair.
3. Start in the back of your head, remove the rubberbands and start teasing the hair towards your scalp. Only backcomb about a half inch of hair at a time, this will keep your dreads from forming loops.
4. Once you have finished backcombing the that section of hair, put a rubberband on the tip and one on the root. Add about an M&M's worth of wax to the dreadlock and palm roll it.
5. Do this to all the sections of hair.

If your interested in learning about the other 8 methods of making dreads visit this link.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Airborne.....


A new health substance on today's market......Airborne. My parents take it before they go on trips and others take it when they feel a cold coming on. Recently Wal-Mart had a whole shelf full of these Airborne pills. What are they, do they work, what are they for? I've heard of them before but what are the facts?

Airborne was developed by an elementary school teacher (what a coincidence) who was sick of catching colds in class and on airplanes. Victoria Knight-McDowell, along with a team of health professionals spent over five years developing this product. Airborne is made up of seven herbs (each with a specific function in Eastern medicine), a patented extraction process, combined with amino acids, anti-oxidants and electrolytes. As an effervescent (to escape as bubbles), Airborne is delivered to the system immediately.

To date, there are no known bacterial, viral, or fungal "resistance" to complex herbal formulas. Each herb has many complex plant alkaloids making it too much for the "sick bugs" to process, rather they adapt. Certain health experts say that traditional herbal medicines may soon be our only weapon against bacteria, which most are currently cured by antibiotics but are becoming resistant.

You can purchase Airborne at Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, and a few other stores that we don't have in Hawaii. Currently it is the No. 1 cold and flu remedy at Drugstore.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Living here in Hawaii, we become accustomed to receiving lei for graduation, birthday's, weddings, etc. As a hula dancer, I am used to not only wearing lei but making them as well. Looking back on my elementary and high school days, I recall looking forward to May Day which is a ceremony or event put on by the school that involves a (Hawaiian) royal court, flowers, lei, hula, and other Hawaiian cultural rituals and performances. Along with the saying May Day I would frequently her "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii." What does that really mean? Come along as we explore the culture and science of this wonderful event in Hawaii.

"May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii" is a song, a custom and a festival. On the first day in May, everyone wears lei, schools hold a festival or assembly giving away prizes, hold contests for the most beautiful or creative lei, a Queen is crowned in the royal order and hula competitions are held. Most of this comes with a concert or the sound of Hawaiian entertainers strumming the Ukulele and singing Hawaiian mele (song).

The true origin of this festival is credited to a poet and artist named Don Blanding who in 1928 noticed that most of the flower lei were bing distributed at the Aloha Tower pier where boatloads of tourists were arriving on what they called "Boat Day." He wrote an article in a local paper suggesting that a holiday be created centered around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. It was fellow writer Grace Tower Warren who came up with the idea of a holiday on May 1. Warren is also responsible for the phrase, "May Day is Lei Day."

The first record of anyone using a lei dates back to Captain Cook's crew in 1779. Early on, Blanding noticed that islanders were adorning visitors with lei but not themselves. Because of this, on May Day, he suggested, they ought to place the lei around the givers own necks just as their ancestors did. The first May Day was so successful that the following year it was made official and since then Hawaiian Islanders have been celebrating this special day. Today in the islands, May Day is celebrated in different ways and on different days of May or the last week in April; dependent on the island you live.


As far as making lei, it is a science in its self. The flowers you use, the time of day you pick them, the rituals you must do all need to be taken into account. When making lei, my kumu (teacher) would remind us of three things; take only what you need (don't be greedy), don't leave the tree bare (leave some behind), and always thank and take care of your source (be grateful, you never know when you'll need more).