Pacific Biosciences Research Center wins reprieve

Published On: Nov 12 2012 05:25:00 PM HST

Scientists at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory can once again start applying for research grants, something they ordered not to do since the plan was to shut the lab down July 2013.

Only in the last few weeks, has it become clear that the stay of execution has been lifted.

"I am committed to keeping the Kewalo lab open. It provides real opportunity not just for research, but for education and community outreach," said University of Hawaii Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.

The fight to save the money generating  program did not come with some losses, without an  earlier commitment, PBRC is losing two key people to the University of Florida, Professor Elaine Seaver, and Mark Martindale who accepted a new job heading as director of the Miami lab.

"If we closed the lab, we would be below Georgia and tied with lllinois, which has a lake. How in the world do you look at an ocean state in an ocean century, when we know, our resources are more valuable than ever before," said interim Kewalo Lab Director Bob Richmond.

That argument, which fell on deaf ears earlier under former Vice-Chancellor Gary Ostrander, now has the new chancellor’s attention.

"We are tremendously growing our research and that could be a valuable part of that," said Apple.

UH has a 20-year- lease remaining on the prime ocean point at Kewalo, not to mention a salt water intake pipe worth an estimated $3 million  that is key to the coral marine research underway.

Researchers have started a self-evaluation process, and in the spring an outside team will review of the units' strengths, weakness and threats that will help seal its future and mission.

"There are so many opportunities for collaboration and being able to jump start more of  the natural sciences and make this a regional place of learning," said Richmond.

Richmond said there is talk about expanding the center’s reach to grades K-12 with an emphasis on STEM programs which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Any future plans for the center will have to include a new landlord.

The land under the laboratory recently changed hands from the state to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.


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