LIHUE — Tim Grabowski is most interested in the early life of fish — how they change and adapt to their underwater environment as they grow from an egg to an adult.
But the new head of the US Geological Survey Hawaii Cooperative Fishery Research Unit in Hilo has more on his plate than fish.
His job is to provide resources and training to local scientists and students in areas within the purview of natural resource conservation and management.
“The Unit provides for State research needs, and I will teach one grad, or split-level class each year (at University of Hawaii, Hilo),” Grabowski said.
He said he’s in Hawaii primarily as a fisheries scientist, with the purpose of conducting applied research that can be used for planning, implementation or assessment of the conservation and management of the state’s fisheries and watershed resources.
Grabowski is taking the lead of the unit after the position has been vacant for four years. His predecessor was Jim Parish.
“I was on the phone with Jim just about every day for the first six months of my job (as Kauai District Biologist),”said Don Heacock, Kauai District Aquatic Biologist.
Heacock was taking Grabowski on a debut tour of Kauai when the pair stopped into the TGI office Thursday afternoon. Grabowski has been in the state for six weeks and is settling into the new position.
His latest post was at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where he was an assistant unit leader.
“It was about a six-hour drive to the ocean and about a four-hour drive to the nearest freshwater source (in Texas),” Grabowski said. “Here in Hawaii, I have the opportunity to be very close to both fresh and saltwater.”
As a faculty member at UH Hilo, Grabowski will be guiding graduate or PhD students, with the goal of creating a next generation scientific community that is well-versed in the organization’s culture, as well as the Hawaiian culture.
“Our hope is to create future leaders and our students work with the state,” Grabowski said. “Ultimately, we’re forming a pool of people that’s worked with the state and understands the agency’s culture.”
He said the bulk of his research, both in the classroom and as a resource for state scientists, will be applied research.
That means using the little puzzle pieces discovered through research to help solve the bigger picture issues like global climate change or coral bleaching.
One of his goals as the new unit leader is to make the opportunity for neighbor islands to be included in fisheries research and learning opportunities by setting up some sort of distance learning program.
“It’s something we’re really working on and we’ll see how it pans out,” Grabowski said.
One possibility is for students to spend a semester in residence at the university and then incorporate distance learning from then on to completion of the program.
Grabowski also will be using his time to secure research funding.
“I won’t have a full teaching load so I have more time to look for funding,” Grabowski said.
Heacock said he wouldn’t mind if some of that money made its way to Kauai.
“After 35-and-a-half years, it’d be great to have an assistant,” Heacock said.