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Dr. Javier Cotin

Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management

University of Hawaii at Manoa. 
Email: jcotin (at)

Javier studied biology in Spain and Norway, and was awarded his PhD at the University of Barcelona in 2012, titled “Birds as bioindicators of pollution in terrestrial and aquatic environments”. Within it he mainly studied the trophic ecology and pollution levels of land and waterbirds, with a particular focus on how human activities affect bird populations and dynamics.

Through research and conservation, Javier has followed his interest in birds and nature by participating in several projects, which have taken him to isolated islands and remote archipelagos across the globe. Columbretes islands and their Eleonoras Falcons in the heart of the Mediterranean, Tasmania, Heligoland in the North Sea, Tromsø in Norway, the Seychelles archipelago and their graceful White-tailed tropicbirds in the Indian Ocean, Costa Rica or the Galápagos islands and their impressive landscapes and fauna are just some examples where Javier had the chance to learn, research and protect wildlife.

With his work at Oahu within the Price’ Lab and all the help from the local community, Javier has decided to unravel the mysteries of the Pueo or Hawaiian Short-eared Owl.

Javier Cotin
Laura Luther3.jpg

Laura Luther

Graduate student

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management

University of Hawaii at Manoa. 
Email: lrluther (at)

Laura Luther is a graduate student in the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab advised by Dr. Melissa Price, pursuing a MSc. Degree in the Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM) Department at University of Hawaii-Manoa. Her research is focused on varying aspects contributing to the conservation of the Pueo, Hawaiian Short- eared Owl which includes an analysis of pueo mortality source and location on the Hawaiian Islands and a diet pellet analysis of pueo on farm and ranchlands on Maui and Oahu.


She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Concordia University- Portland. Since graduating she has been a Wildlife Technician for Glacier National Park monitoring ‘Species of Concern,’ she also trained the public to assist with baseline data collection as citizen scientists. She spent a winter season as a member of the wildlife team at Haleakala National Park monitoring nesting success of the Hawaiian Goose and Hawaiian Petrel. Laura has a passion for the conservation of native flora and fauna and hopes to become an effective land manager raising awareness of conservation needs while making proper sustainable management actions to preserve and protect native ecosystems for the continuing benefit of future generations.

Thesis Research

Multiple factors influence the selection of foraging habitat in raptors. To conserve energy, many raptor species tend to hunt in areas with reduced cover for ease of prey detection and capture, but prey type and availability varies across the landscape and also influences distribution. The pueo, or Hawaiian short-eared owl (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), occurs across the Hawaiian Islands in diverse habitats, including forests, grasslands, wetlands, and shrublands, and consumes a variety of prey items including rodents, birds, and invertebrates. In my thesis research I evaluated which factors influence pueo occupancy on the island of Maui. I expected that the pueo would hunt in areas that were the most accessible (short vegetation and low ground cover) compared to areas with dense vegetation, and that the biomass of prey items most commonly found in pellets (mice and zebra doves) would play a greater role in predicting pueo presence than all potential prey items combined. Using a random stratified design to sample across environmental gradients, I conducted point count surveys for birds and bats, mark-recapture surveys for rodents, and sweep net surveys for insects (Order Orthoptera). Pueo were detected across a range of vegetation characteristics but were most often seen in mid to high elevation, using both open and forested areas. The detectability of pueo was influenced by vegetation height. The top single-season occupancy models indicated that bird biomass, relative total prey biomass, and ground cover were slightly negatively correlated with the estimated likelihood of pueo occupancy, while elevation, relative insect (Order Orthoptera) biomass, and vegetation height were slightly positively correlated with the estimated likelihood of pueo occupancy. Given the weak correlations observed in this study, factors other than vegetation complexity and prey biomass are also likely influencing occupancy. However, the number of detections of pueo in the study were low (n=11) and may have decreased my ability to detect stronger correlations. Future studies should investigate seasonal differences, home range size, and available nesting habitat, in relation to occupancy. As individual pueo may exhibit preferences for particular prey types and vegetation characteristics, further research tracking individual pueo for specific behaviors is needed to elucidate variation within and among island populations.

Stephanie Bell

Undergraduate student

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management

University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Stephanie Bell is an undergraduate student in the Biology program. She spent three years at Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz, California before transferring to UH to finish her degree. Over the past few years she has spent time working in both marine and terrestrial systems, and is particularly interested in using research to help make better conservation decisions. She values outreach, education and using community knowledge to bridge the gap between public knowledge and academia. She is currently studying mortality distribution of Pueo, in the hopes of finding trends that can better inform future management decisions to preserve such a beautiful and culturally significant animal.


© Stephanie Bell

Alba Izaskun Rípodas-Melero

Project Assistant

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management

University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Email: albarm (at)


© Melissa price

Alba is a wildlife researcher and environmental educator from Northern Spain.


Alba joined us at the Pueo Project in January 2019 with a grant from her country, Navarra, promoting international collaboration and early career professional development. She is particularly impassioned about translating science to the general public through education and outreach. She believes that science should not be an exclusive subject and that we must make a conscious effort to engage community members with science to foster positive relationships. Following her passion she studied Environmental Biology at the University of Navarra, Spain. She continued her environmental studies at the Napier University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, where she completed a Master's Degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation exploring the spatial ecology of Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix).


Applying her education she traveled to Romania working for the World Wildlife Fund with the European bison reintroduction effort in the southern Carpathian Mountains. After her return to Spain she worked as an environmental educator in the Pyrenees Mountain Range where she applied her knowledge about nature and wildlife conservation to educate children and adults about the natural wonders in their own backyards.


Alba believes that education is the main way to achieve her goal of protecting and conserving nature. So, when she received a grant from the Government of Navarra to facilitate early career growth working with scientists and environmental educators in Hawai‘i, she didn’t think twice.

© Chad Wilhite

© Chad Wilhite

© Javier Cotin

© Chad Wilhite

© Alba Izaskun Rípodas

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