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Limu named after Kaua‘i marine educator

HONOLULU — A team of scientists recently published the scientific description of a new species of red algae from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument that was named after a widely-respected marine educator and scientist, Yumi Yasutake of Kaua‘i who passed away on April 30, 2021, at the age of 41.

The new species of algae, Calliblepharis yasutakei, was discovered by scientists using technical closed-circuit rebreatheres to dive to extreme depths in excess of 300 feet, states a release from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Affiliate.

These deep coral reefs, or so-called Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems, are virtually unexplored and host a wealth of undiscovered biodiversity.

“It’s wonderful to recognize someone who dedicated his life to educating Hawai‘i’s keiki about Papahanaumokuakea and the richness of our ocean resources,” said Dr. Monica Paiano, a University of Hawai‘i postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Alison Sherwood in the School of Life Sciences and the lead author of the scientific description paper. “Yumi’s history is an inspiration for me, and I’m sure for all the keiki that had the pleasure to learn from him.”

Yasutake was born and raised on Kaua‘i, graduating from Kapa‘a High School, and receiving a degree in marine science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He worked for many years in Hilo at the NOAA Mokupapapa Discovery Center that was established in 2003 to interpret the natural science, culture, and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that is encompassed by the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and the surrounding marine environment.

“Yumi was the kindest, most humble person I’ve ever met,” said Virginia Branco, the manager of the Mokupapapa Discovery Center who worked with Yasutake for many years. “He really poured his heart and soul into (educating) the young people of Hilo.”

From early in his career, Yasutaki, a marine scientist by training who was a certified scientific diver, participated in major NOAA research expeditions to Papahanaumokuakea. The opportunity to witness first-hand the amazing biodiversity of a pristine Hawaiian marine ecosystem was a life-changing experience, and he dedicated the remainder of his career to sharing these wonders with Hawai‘i’s young people.

Eventually, Yasutake moved back to Kaua‘i to be closer to family, and continued his career with NOAA by working with the many community and school groups, and government agencies on his home island. Living in Wailua Homesteads, Yasutake was also a farmer and fisherman and was instrumental in developing and coordinating the Hanalei Moon and Tide Calendar, pono fishing lessons, in-school aquaponic facilities, and new teaching aids.

“Given Yumi’s dedication to educating our community about this special place, it seems especially fitting that such a rare species from Papahanaumoku will now carry his name in perpetuity,” said Dr. Randy Kosaki, who was also a co-author on the paper and discovered the only-known specimen of this species on a 323-foot dive at Kapou, or Lisianski Island, in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. “He was especially fond of teaching students how to make beautiful pressings of limu that they found on local beaches.”

The specimen of C. yasutakei is deposited in the Bishop Museum’s research collection, where it is available for study by marine scientists worldwide.

Yasutake is survived by his wife, Tami Keakaokalani Mo‘ikeha Yasutake, children Kaison and Myla Yasutake, parents Leslie and Carol Yasutake, sister Lachelle (Mark) Rodrigues, brother Kobi (Hanna) Yasutake, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Source: The Garden Island

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