University Honors Program

University Honors Program

The Melting Pot of the Pacific: Physical, Biological and Cultural Diversity of the Big Island of Hawaii

The Melting Pot of the Pacific is a 15SS University Honors seminar with a study tour to Hawaii!

Meeting Time (TBD), BoK: DC, NS

**This seminar scheduled for 15SS has been cancelled due to high costs.**

Course description

Hawaii Island has four of the five the Köppen Climate Zones (all except for Cold-Continental) and 10 out of 13 sub-zones making it one of most diverse climate system on earth. Uniquely, this is all within 4,028 sq. miles from sea level to 13,796 ft. at the summit of Mauna Kea. The Big Island also has the most ethnically and racially diverse human population in the USA. First inhabited by the Polynesian people who navigated (way-finding) across the Pacific, today Hawaii has no ethnic or racial majority - all groups are in the minority. More than half of marriages and more than half of the children born in Hawaii are interracial. Students will learn about the island, the history of the Polynesian native Hawaiians, the Kingdom, Territory and State of Hawaii, the cultures of immigrants who settled in the islands, international telescopes and astronomy cooperative projects, impact of the volcanoes on the culture of the Hawaiian people, diversity and endangered species of unique flora and fauna, biological evolutionary changes, and have the opportunity to participate in research projects. Students will have the opportunity to experience a 9 to 10-day trip to Hawaii over the Spring Break for which they will keep a journal and write about their experiences, evaluations and impressions. They will participate in one or two ongoing or new research projects being worked on by Biology Department faculty or by institutions in Hawaii (e.g. University of Hawaii at Hilo, US Agricultural Station in Hilo).

Tentative Intinerary (Subject to Change)


  • March 12th - depart CVG, arrive in Hilo, HI. Check into dorms at University of Hawaii - Hilo
  • March 13th - study tour of the tidal pool at Richardson's Ocean Center, hula lessons in the evening 
  • March 14th - Imiloa study tour 
  • March 15th - trip to Hawaii Volcano National Park
  • March 16th - study tour of flora diversity, gecko hunting
  • March 17th - trip to Rainbow Falls
  • March 18th - trip to Captain Cook's Monument, snorkeling in City of Refuge
  • March 19th - trip to Mauna Kea, the Onizuka Museum and the NASA Observatory
  • March 20th - trip to Puako and petroglyph field
  • March 21st - trip to Farmer's Market, the Lyman House Museum and the Tsunami Museum; in the evening learn about immigrants and their contributions to Hawaii's mixed cultures.  
  • March 22nd - depart Hilo
  • March 23rd - arrive CVG

Course Information

Course details:

     •  Course number (TBD)

     •  Meeting times (TBD)

     •  Course Attributes: UR, T

     •  BoK: DC, NS

     •  Credit hours: 3 

     •  Honors Seminar

Course Expectations

Students are expected to meet the instructor's academic and behavioral expectations during the class time leading up to the travel component. Students who do not meet academic and/or behavioral expectations will not be permitted to travel. Students in this situation will not receive a refund.


Expected costs will be updated as final travel plans are made and are highly contingent upon airfare.

Total expected cost paid to UC is still to be determined. The final cost will be offset by a grant from University Honors. All participants will receive the grant. 

Costs include airfare, accommodations, visa fee (if applicable), insurance (if applicable), some meals, ground transportation, admission and tickets, and guides.

Costs do not include passport (if applicable), tips, some meals and snacks, vaccinations, personal supplies, souvenirs, etc. 

Application - **This seminar scheduled for 15SS has been cancelled due to high costs**

This seminar is not accepting applications. An interview with the faculty may be required as part of the application process. This seminar is capped at 20 students.

UC undergraduates who are not in the University Honors Program are welcome and encouraged to apply, provided the student has a cumulative university GPA of 3.4 or above. Graduate students are not eligible to enroll. Priority is given to University Honors students, but we are often able to offer spaces to other students as well. A waiting list will be maintained.

Information for those with CO-OP

If the dates of this study tour (March 12th - March 23rd) conflict with your co-op work dates, you must talk to your co-op advisor and fill out a "Petition for Program Irregularity" as described in the Co-op Handbook.

Where it says "I petition to" you should note that you wish to delay the start date of your co-op until sometime after your return from the mandatory travel to Hawaii.  Please note, you need a specific date that you anticipate beginning your work dates.

Where it says "My reasons for this" you should describe your interest in this seminar and study tour.  You should also mention that the travel component is mandatory.  Since you need to talk to your co-op advisor prior to starting this process, this is where you would note that your co-op advisor approves of this change.

Travel Documents

For U.S. citizens, a passport is not required for this trip. However, do be aware that when flying domestically you must have a valid government-issued ID in order to board an aircraft. Driver's license, state-issued IDs, military IDs, etc. are all acceptable forms of ID. Your UC student ID is not acceptable. International students traveling on this study tour will be required to travel with their passport. 


Not every health insurance covers you in every state.You are encouraged to talk with your health insurance provider to understand the type of coverage you have in Hawaii.


Please contact seminar professor Dr. Edna Kaneshiro or Neil Choudhury of the University Honors Program.


Dr. Edna Kaneshiro is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. A native of Hawaii, she has been teaching at UC since 1972. 

Dr. Kenneth Petren is an Associate Professor and Department Head in the Department of Biological Sciences. He has been teaching at UC since 2000. 

Dr. Theresa Culley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. She has been teaching at UC since 2002.