Smith Lab urges solidarity with Maui communities in wake of wildfires

Three weeks ago, the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century swept through west Maui, decimating the historic city of Lāhainā. One week before that, members from my lab returned from our latest field expedition to Lāhainā, Maui, where we’ve been monitoring coral reefs for more than a decade. Every time we’ve gone to Maui, my team has stayed in Lāhainā, where the community has welcomed us with open arms. We’ve been invited into homes, slept on couches, worked in garages to jury-rig equipment, shared meals, and talk story. This community has made our science possible.

The confluence of fire and livelihoods is a tragedy wherever it occurs, but to our lab family, the fires in Lāhainā have felt particularly devastating. We know people who have lost everything except for their lives. Research partners have lost houses, boats, and all of their material possessions. Others beyond our sphere have indeed lost their lives or the lives of loved ones. Those lucky enough to have escaped loss of life or property are mourning the loss of their community, which will never be the same. Lāhainā is steeped in Hawaiian history, with many in the community living in generational homes that have been passed down since the time of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This is all gone, reduced to ash and smoke.

I know many members of the SIO community have personal connections to Hawaii, or at the very least possess a profound understanding of climate vulnerability and severe weather. Many people have asked me how they can help or which organizations to support in order to help those people, families and businesses who have lost everything. My team has gathered the information listed below in case any of you are interested in helping out. If you have already donated (as I’m sure some of you have), please pass this request on to others in your circle who would be amenable to offering their support. If you haven’t already gotten the chance to donate, please consider the following options:

General disaster relief (spread across the community):


Targeted disaster relief (for specific partners/groups who were impacted):

  • Venmo for Ultimate Whale Watch, the company whose boat we charter to survey our research sites. Three of their four boats were lost in the fire: @Ultimate-WhaleWatchandSnorkel

  • GoFundMe for Peter and Toni Colombo to pay their crew. Peter used to be our captain until he started his own snorkel business a few years ago. He and Toni lost their house and all of their boats in the fire.

  • Firefighter GoFundMe (funds go directly to the 17 firefighters who lost their homes while fighting fires):

Petitions to support:

Science is a community effort. We appreciate anything you can do to support our community in this difficult time.


Thank you for your support,

Jen and the Smith Lab