Keahelaumakanimaikahuaomali'o "Keahe" Silva
Tell us about your work/ research. What kinds of things do you do?
Currently I'm a student at Honolulu Community College which is based on Oʻahu, an island in Hawaiʻi. I'm working towards my Associate of Science in Natural Sciences degree, and once I complete it I plan on attending University of Hawaiʻi in Hilo, Hawaiʻi to obtain my bachelors and masters. I am a student worker, so I also work part-time at Hulili Ke Kukui Hawaiian Center on campus. My title is Program Assistant III, which means that I help with new student registration events, the upkeep of Hulili Ke Kukui, and assisting our staff at the center with anything they need. While balancing my schoolwork and work, I'm also the team lead on a research project that is investigating the effect of genki balls in the pond water at Niuhelewai Loʻi Kalo Park. With this project, my team and I are hoping to create a baseline of data that includes water quality, bacterial, and nutrient measurements to observe how the genki balls change the dynamics of the pond, and therefore, the crops that are being grown around it. This upcoming semester I also plan on doing another research project that falls more into marine biology, but I haven't fully worked everything out yet.
What sparked your initial interest in the ocean / your career?
Growing up in Hawaiʻi, the ocean is hard to miss. It's at your every turn, and no matter how far you travel you always end up coming back to it. My family was particularly accustomed to the sea because my grandparents owned a boat; we spent every weekend out in Kāneʻohe Bay at the sandbar swimming and spending time together. I would often go off to explore seaweed patches and marvel at the various plants and animals that lived there. I think that due to this upbringing I've always been fascinated by the ocean, but what really solidified my path into marine biology was my seventh grade science teacher, Mrs. Walton, who introduced me to the vast world of plankton. After learning a bit about them, being allowed to collect samples with my teacher, and looking at those samples, I decided that I was going to pursue marine biology in the future as my career. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to be or do (to be truthful, I still don't), but I knew that I wanted to learn about and explore the ocean.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I'd like to say that my parents have always been my number one supporters, but the various teachers and mentors that I had throughout middle school and high school also heavily influenced me and encouraged me into the path that I'm on today. My teachers in middle school, Catherine Walton and Shelley Deakins, kindled my curiosity and fascination with plankton while my high school teachers and mentors, Gail Ishimoto and Robert Hutchison, pushed me to go beyond and challenge myself throughout high school by helping me to create my own research project that focused on sustainability in fishponds in Hawaiʻi (while also allowing me to indulge in tying in plankton into my research).
What element of your work/ study do you think is the most fascinating?
Honestly, I think that field work will always be the most interesting, I love working in the field and obtaining samples but having to process them later is an entire ordeal. Of course it can be entertaining at times when you're able to find something interesting or draw connections, but ultimately I think that having to do any work in the field/outside is the most fascinating and fun.
How did you get involved with Ocean Exploration Trust? How did you become part of the expedition team?
I heard about an internship with Ocean Exploration Trust aboard the Nautilus and I simply applied. I made it through the application process and the interview and they accepted me onto the team. Here's a bit of unsolicited advice, apply apply apply. I admit that I was doubtful that I would be accepted because it seemed too ambitious for where I am in my career path, but if you don't apply, you'll never know if you can make it. Even if you don't get accepted, don't be discouraged, try again and again. Work for those opportunities you want to be a part of because that's the only way they'll ever happen.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I haven't really had any other jobs, so I can't really offer an answer to this.
What are your degrees and certifications?
As I mentioned earlier I'm working towards my Associate of Science in Natural Sciences, but I graduated high school from Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. I currently have my scuba license.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy reading and drawing but my main hobby is probably gaming. I just recently built my first pc with the help of a friend, so I spend a lot of my time in the evenings playing video games with my friends.
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
I don't exactly have a career quite yet as I'm still a student, but from my personal experience, you should actively search for opportunities and apply to the ones that interest you the most. Even if you don't think you'll get into those internships or programs you should still apply because there's always the chance to get in. Maintain connections with the people that you meet on those excursions because those relationships can often lead to other exciting things for you to have the chance of doing.