Part of the Conservancy staff for over 25 years, Sam has brought his expertise to the organization in a variety of capacities. As the Ecologist for the Hawai‘i Natural Heritage Program of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i from 1986 - 1999, he conducted biological inventories and produced biological reports and management recommendations for The Conservancy, our partner federal, state, and local agencies, and for private organizations. As the coordinator for the Hawai‘i Natural Heritage Program from 1992 to 1994, Sam managed a staff of 15 and an annual budget of over $1 million. As Director of Science he guided the science behind the vision and operations of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i. In his current role as Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor, Sam maintains his science guidance, and adds his cultural expertise to enhance the mission of The Conservancy.
Sam has over 35 years of experience in Hawaiian ecology. This experience includes biological inventories and research, field ecology, entomology, arachnology, ethology, natural community classification, ecological modeling, and biological database management. He also is versed in Hawaiian culture, history, and language. Sam is instrumental in many facets of the Conservancy’s work. His knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history are an important asset when working with local communities. He has applied his island conservation expertise in cooperative projects and workshops in the Galapagos Islands, the Philippines, Pohnpei, Palau, Jamaica, Okinawa, Amazonia, and Rapanui. As an excellent public speaker, Sam often lends his knowledge to conservation agencies, educational institutions, community groups, donors, and important visitors.
Sam is an active member of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i and served on the Advisory Committee member for the ‘Ōhi‘a Project (Hawaiian natural history curriculum development). Additionally, he serves as a Hawaiian natural history and culture consultant for the Moanalua Gardens Foundation (and its evolving status in the Papahana Kuaola Hawaiian Education Center), sits on the steering committee of the ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi (Hawaiians for the preservation of native ecosystems), and on the Restoration Advisory Group for the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission. He has served on panels of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the topic of traditional management of natural resources, and sits on the Hawaiian leadership committee advising the Hawai‘i Life Sciences Consortium. Sam serves on the Board of Trustees for the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program (NHCAP), the Bishop Museum Association Council, and as an at-large member of the Hawai‘i State Board of Land and Natural Resources.
For over 12 years Sam studied oli (traditional Hawaiian chant) and hula with Kumu John Keolamaka‘āinana Lake, a master of Hawaiian religion and cultural protocols; training that culminated in his ‘uniki (traditional rite of passage) in February 2003 as a kahuna kākalaleo, practitioner of Hawaiian chant and protocol. In that capacity he serves as a Kahuna Pule (prayer master) at the heiau (temple) of Puʻu Koholā at Kawaihae, Island of Hawaiʻi as part of Nā Waʻa Lālani Kāhuna o Puʻu Koholā. Kumu Lake, before his passing, gave Sam the kuleana (responsibility) to continue teaching oli for the hālau (traditional learning group) on Oʻahu, a heavy but joyful responsibility. Sam strives to blend the richness of unique Hawaiian ecosystems with the equally rich culture that developed here.
Sam received his bachelor’s degree in Zoology at the