I was born and raised on the small, remote island of Fais in the outer islands of Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. According to legend, Fais was pulled up from the bottom of the ocean by “Motigig.” Interestingly, Fais is the closest landmass to the deepest part of the ocean floor, the Challenger Deep. Fais is a raised limestone island of approximately 1 square mile in size and is home to about 300 people that live a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Fais people traditionally depend directly on their natural environment for their food, medicine, housing, arts, trade, and means of transportation. Like most cultures across the Pacific, Fais does not have a written language, so oral traditions are an essential educational tool for passing down family history and knowledge from one generation to the next. As a child, I learned stories, legends, and family history through oral storytelling by my grandparents and family elders, and I have passed on this knowledge to my children. My experiences growing up on Fais are a big part of who I am and have taught me about the values of community and respect for cultural spaces and our natural environment.
I began my professional journey in 2000 and have since worked on a number of solo and collaborative projects. I take pride in the work that I do and in the long-term relationships that I’ve built with my clients. I am a firm believer in working hard, working together, and having fun along the way! Explore my portfolio, and feel free to get in touch with any questions.
Sept. 2016 - Current
Hawai'i Native Forest Specialist with Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project_DLNR, PCSU.
I help plan, coordinate field projects, and perform field activities pertaining to the protection, perservation, and restoration of Mauna Kea's High elevation native forest ecosystem. Such activities including native seed collection and seed processing, coordinating with nursery staff to ensure they have enough to grow and that seedlings are ready on time for planting. During the planting season, I coordinate volunteer events and lead volunteer groups in the field to plant native seedlings and ensure quality control of planting plots. I also built the project's streamlined data collection and visualization system to make our data processing faster and more efficient. My proudest accomplishments include being able to plant 4o,000 trees and over 150 acres by myself and creating a streamlined data collection and analyzation system for the project at the heights of the COVID-19 in 2020.
May 2015 - Current
The Melai Mai project was founded by my wife, Amanda Uowolo, and myself with the support of our local Remathau community leaders and members on the Big Island. While it began as a Hawaii-based community project to promote breadfruit agroforestry, food security, and sustainability in the islands of Fais and Ulithi Atoll of Yap, it has since expanded to include other islands across Micronesia through partnerships with the USDA Forest Service, Yap Division of Agriculture and Forestry, Council of Tamol (traditional Council of Chiefs of the Outer islands of Yap), Breadfruit Institute, Geoliteracy Education in Micronesia, Palau Community College - Cooperative Research Extension, and the Palau Bureau of Agriculture. The project promotes breadfruit agroforestry by supplying trees of new productive varieties to communities at no cost and through engagement with communities to encourage tree planting and the preservation of existing local breadfruit varieties unique to each island. The mission of the Melai Mai project is to support long term food security, mitigation for climate change impacts, and promote the perpetuation of sustainable breadfruit culture and traditions in island communities across Micronesia.
June 2012 - May 2014
President, Vice President, and on Board of Directors
I initially volunteered as a board member and later served as the organization's president for over ten years. As President, I facilitated board meetings, organized and coordinated community events, and collaborated with community leaders, government agencies, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on behalf of the local Micronesian community on the Big Island. This experience allowed me to expand my leadership skills and build strong relationships with my Micronesian community, the larger Hawai’i community, local government agencies, and the other NGOs I have worked with over the years.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors as the Vice President (since 2019) and have previously served as the President (2011 -2019) for the 501c3 non-profit organization.
I work with the Board of Directors to accomplish the annual goals and objectives of the organization, ensure our team is accountable for accomplishing the organization’s mission, make decisions that cover a long range of issues concerning the local Micronesian community on the Big Island of Hawai’i, represent the organization and the community in public hearings, and conduct public outreach and presentations to help advance the concerns, needs, and aspirations of the Micronesian community in Hawai’i.
My experiences in outreach efforts have included working directly with the Office of Community Services of the County of Hawai’i, the County of Hawai’i Prosecutor’s Office, the County of Hawai’i Mayor’s Office, the County of Hawai’i Research and Development Office, State of Hawai’i Office of Immigration, State of Hawaii Child Protective Services, University of Hawai’i at Hilo, social service providers, school principals and teachers, health care providers, immigration officials, and natural resource managers.
I manage the nonprofit’s social media presence and website.