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The Course

The Summer Marine Mammal Intensive Learning Experience (SMMILE) program is a 1-week course that will expose students to marine mammal science in a hands-on learning environment. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for high school students from historically marginalized groups to learn about marine mammal science, marine protected areas, and conservation.

This course will cover a variety of topics related to marine mammal research including:

  • Acoustics/Hearing

  • Animal Behavior

  • Population Health

  • Population Ecology

  • Stranding and Response

  • Innovative Technologies (e.g. unmanned aerial vehicles, 3D scanner, tags)

  • Conservation/ Management

The course will facilitate hands-on learning opportunities through:


Guest Lectures

If you could ask a marine biologist anything, what would you ask?

Invited speakers from MMRP and other local marine mammal conservation organizations will speak about what they study and describe their job and career paths.


Field Trips

Ever participated in a marine mammal survey?

Students will have the opportunity to visit local marine mammal related educational facilities and observe and study marine mammals in the wild.



Ever wondered how scientists use drones to study marine mammals?

Students will receive hands-on exposure to many different techniques and technologies used to study marine mammals.

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Thinking about going to college?

Students will engage in workshops with their peers to learn from current graduate students and professionals in the field.


Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live at a research institute alongside scientists?! Participants will live at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology on Moku o Loʻe (Coconut Island). Moku o Loʻe is a 28-acre island located in Kāneʻohe Bay. Participants will be staying overnight on the island in the Lanai Suites for the duration of the program. Students will be chaperoned by the instructors.


Meet the Instructors

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Kirby Parnell


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Brijonnay Madrigal


Together, Kirby and Brijonnay have over 14 years of experience in outreach and education with groups of students ranging from elementary to graduate level. Most recently, they worked together as Co-Coordinators for the Acoustical Society of America's Summer Undergraduate Research or Internship Experience in Acoustics (SURIEA) program for under-represented minority students. They love to create interactive curricula and lectures together and understand the importance of active learning in and out of the classroom. Developing and implementing SMMILE together last summer was an extremely rewarding experience and they are excited to offer this unique opportunity for students to become introduced to marine mammal science in paradise!

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