Alexandra Van Pernis was born and raised in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, and graduated from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy in 2014. She currently attends Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and will be a sophomore in the fall. She plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science. Alexandra also runs on the varsity cross country and track and field teams at Brown and is having fun exploring the city she lives in! 

Home Island: Big Island
High School: Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy
Institute when accepted: Brown University

Determining the Cause of Abalone Mortality

Project Site: Big Island Abalone Corporation
Mentors: Cecilia Viljoen

Project Abstract

Big Island Abalone Corporation (BIAC) is a commercial aquafarm that grows abalone on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and sells it locally, in Canada, in Japan, and in the western United States. BIAC has seen periodic high mortality in their juvenile abalone (4-5 months old) mostly around the full moon of each month. This project’s purpose was to determine the cause of the abalone mortality and, if found, to devise an effective treatment method. An experiment with two methods of approach was designed. The first method was weekly sampling of tanks containing juvenile abalone to determine if any changes could be detected in the water and tanks. Dissolved oxygen, pH and cell counts from the incoming seawater were recorded, and bacteria from test tanks were cultured. This determined baseline values and determined if mortality correlated to a deviation in these values. The second approach was to test tanks and abalone that experienced mortality. Abalone mortality was observed on July 13th, 2015, and abalone were sampled and observed under a microscope. Organisms resembling the parasite Labyrinthuloides haliotidis were seen in wet mounts, but samples must be sent to an off-site laboratory for histopathology and PCR. If a parasite is confirmed as the possible cause of mortality, experiments to test treatment options will be conducted.