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About the Māpuna Lab

Hoʻi ka ʻoʻopu ʻai lehua i ka māpunapuna

Our Mission

The MĀPUNA LAB is a place of respite for those experiencing colonial trauma. Our work is naʻau centered and focused on health and healing. Guided by ʻōhiʻa lehua as our teacher, an endemic Hawaiian tree, we work in reciprocity and partnership in healing the chronic and existential pain of historical and intergenerational trauma with our Pacific Islander brothers and sisters.

Viewing the land as our communities and health as water cycle resilience, this series looks to the cloud catching, truth-telling, ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) for ways to hoʻi ka wai, to remove seen and unseen emotional blockages to restore waters (waiwai) stolen by trauma.

Aimed at creating safe spaces for co-learning, the Māpuna Lab convenes all those who believe that when Indigenous leadership is uplifted, wellness is accessible to all.

Our Vision

Hoʻi ka ʻoʻopu ʻai lehua i ka māpunapuna

The lehua-eating ‘o‘opu has gone back to the spring.
Said of one who has gone back to the source.
(Pukui 1034)

Mural Aunties

Community Centered

We create context around data disaggregation to center people, places and stories from across Oceania, especially the United States Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI).

Man with Net Mural


We work in servitude to the next seven generations. We resist sterile hierarchies and call out to those who know truth, to those who recognize and nurture ea in ways that are pono.

Mapuna Lab Logo in Black and White

Core Values

Culturally Grounded

We are ʻāina-based scholars and mauli ola practitioners for health equity. We make space for kānaka scholarship to grow and thrive and for our maoli to lead us in supporting the perpetuation of ʻike kūpuna Hawaiʻi and throughout Pākīpika for the survivance of our earth.


We offer open, safe and creative spaces for community engagement and social justice advocacy. We use our gifts to address cultural disparities, paradigms that no longer serve us, and move at the pace of consensus.

Canoe images from mural painting

Service Leadership

He aliʻi ka ʻāina; he kauwā ke kanaka
The land is chief; we are its servant. (Pukui 531) We strive for kuleana-driven leadership where the distribution of waiwai is accessible to all.

Our Team


Katherine Burke


Burke is a lecturer in Indigenous Health Sciences at the University of

Hawaiʻi – West Oʻahu. She currently teaches courses in the Bachelorʻs of Applied Science in Hawaiian and Indigenous Healing program. Her research areas include social determinants of health, health equity, cultural safety, social justice and ancestral connection which she pursues in the Department of Social Work at the Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she leads the Māpuna Lab in serving the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the Behavioral Health Administration of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. An evaluator by trade she holds a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavior from Mount Holyoke College and a master’s degree in public health, social and behavioral health sciences from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Community-Based and Translational Research. Burke is of Hellenic (Peloponnese), Irish (County Mayo), French (Île-de-France), Bavarian and Romanche ancestry and was given a love for the role of plants in public health by her grandfather and her great grandmother.  As a settler transplant she is passionate about our plant ancestors and how we can overcome plant blindness by connecting with our genealogy and caring for the land and water system that feed us through practices she learned on the ʻili ʻāina of ʻOuaua and Māluawai in the ahupuaʻa of Kalihilihiolaumiha from aloha ʻāina leadership at Ho’oulu ‘Āina.

Dr. Nicole Kau‘i Merritt

Assistant Professor of Indigenous Health Sciences

Dr. Merritt was raised in the ahupua‘a of ‘Aiea in the moku of ‘Ewa and lives in her family home that was built by her father and uncles. The ‘āina that feeds her spans from the mountains of ‘Aiea ridge to the waters of Pu‘uloa where she enjoys hiking on ‘Aiea Loop Trail and swimming at Fort Kamehameha Beach with her husband and their son. She walks in the professional footsteps of her mother, a social worker and pioneering supporter of culturally-based substance misuse and mental health treatment programs. 

At the University of Hawai‘i-West O‘ahu, she is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Health Science. Her current work draws on concepts and theories from medicine, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and public health to reduce Native Hawaiian health inequities within a social justice framework. Her work addresses how social and cultural environments are embodied within individuals and shows how they manifest as the unequal distribution of disease between populations. She is specifically interested in the prevention of cardiometabolic disease through community interventions that aim to address the cultural, historical, and social determinants of disease.

Dr. Merritt was a Queen’s Health System Health Equity Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine from 2017-2019. She earned a Doctor of Science degree in Society, and Human Development, and Health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Arts in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

 She is also the recipient of the Harvard University Native American Program’s 1665 Caleb Cheeshateaumuck Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Dr. Fang-Ching Sun Memorial Award for Work with Vulnerable Populations from the T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Carol Ann Carl

Carol Ann Carl

Research Coordinator

Carol Ann Carl is a daughter of the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. In 2020, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Raised in both Hawaii and Micronesia, storytelling and writing are personal forms of pedagogical healing. Professionally and creatively, Carol Ann leans into the intersectionality of her identity – indigeneity, science, health, and civic advocacy – to develop narratives of empowerment for the Micronesian community in Hawaii and the wider Pacific Islander community abroad. Currently, Carol Ann is a Research Coordinator with the Māpuna Lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where her work centers cultural reclamation as disaster response. Her poetry has been featured in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Celebrate Micronesia Festival, and the Why It Matters civic engagement docuseries for the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities. Carol Ann is also a current Spring 2023 Poetry and Senses Fellow with UC Berkeley’s Art Research Center.

Kauila Kauilanuimakehaikalani Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani headshot

Kauilanuimakehaikalani Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani

Education Specialist / Project Coordinator

Kauilanuimakehaikalani Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani was born and raised in Hawaiʻi. He is an Indigenous Hawaiian artist, designer, practitioner of Hawaiʻi life ways and māhū, steeped in the cultural practice of Hula ʻAihaʻa (Indigenous Hawaiʻi Dance) ritual, chant and dance through Hālau o Kekuhi (Dance School) for over 25 years. He is a member of Hui Mālama I Na ʻIwi Kupuna o Hawaiʻi under the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, repatriating Native Hawaiian remains and funerary objects back to Hawaiʻi. Kauila is a steward of ritual and ceremony of global cultural exchange (Kīpaepae) and a ʻUniki Graduate of Unukupukupu. A Kiaʻi ʻĀina Aloha and has stood in the protection of Mauna a Wākea (2019-2021). Kauila graduated with an Associates degree in Hula from Hawai’i Community College, a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and a Fashion Design degree from Parsons The New School for Design from New York City. Kauila is employed as an Education Specialist / Project Coordinator at Māpuna Labs, under the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa under the Department of health. He’s also a steward and continuing learner of Lonoa Honua under the direction of Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani – dedicated to connecting people, places, and energies in the universe to one another through Hawaiʻi Life ways.

Chanel Daluddung

Chanel Daluddung

Project Manager

Chanel Kapualeialoha Paresa Daluddung was born and raised on ‘Oahu and has attended Kamehameha Schools as a ‘lifer’.  She has since completed her Bachelor’s in Microbiology, Bachelor’s in Nursing, Masters in Business- Healthcare Administration, and a Doctorate in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner.  Since enrolling in Hawaiian and Indigenous Health and Healing courses, she has come to appreciate the cultural research more and more, prompting her involvement with the Māpuna Lab.  With a wide variety of professional interests and skills, Chanel has remained passionate about focusing on the mental and behavioral health of our community and hopes to contribute meaningfully for our Native Hawaiian community through this avenue. 

Kayla Oshiro

Research Assistant / Webmaster

Kayla is a recent Public Health student from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Born in Honolulu and raised in Ahuimanu, she is nourished by the Ko‘olau mountains. Kayla’s public health interests include education, health communication, and cultural competency. In her free time, she enjoys creating art and studying her genealogy reaching Laos, Japan, and Okinawa.

Kawena Villafania

Research Assistant

Kawena is a General Creative Media major at University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu, who is also set to graduate in the Spring (2024). Prior to her time at UHWO, Kawena obtained her AA in Liberal Arts at UH Pālamanui on the Island of Hawaiʻi, where she is originally from. Throughout her time at UH, Kawena has come to further appreciate her heritage, specifically her Hawaiian and Filipino origins. Similarly, through her creative media courses, Kawena has also taken an interest in film and UX design. In 2023, Kawena had the pleasure of assisting Marion Ano of Wahine Coder and the ʻohana at ʻAha Pūnana Leo in designing an ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi mobile app. In the near future, Kawena aspires to use all of her skills to bring life to the communities and causes that she finds deep value in.

Shary-Keani Likiak

Shary-Keani Likiak

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Shary-Keani Likiak is a daughter from the Island of Kosrae located in the Federated States of Micronesia. She is a freshman double major in Ethnic Studies and Public Health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, aiming to nurture the Micronesian youth of Hawaiʻi. Her roots stem from Oceania as a whole, and she seeks to decolonize the culture and the people of the Pacific through healing. Shary also works with the TIDES-AANAPISI (Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution) program at UH Mānoa who serve Pacific Islander and Filipino students from Kaimuki, Farrington, and Waipahu High School “to and through” college.

Carrie Jellings

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Carrie is a third year Applied Science major at the University of Hawai’i at West O’ahu. Born in Honolulu and raised in Nānākuli, she is sustained by the Palikea mountains. Set to graduate in Fall of 2026, Carrie plans to achieve her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy where she hopes to implement health promotion and prevention into the lives of others. When she is not working, you can find her drawing or writing poetry as well as spending time with loved ones. 

Felicidy Phimmasone

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Felicidy was born on the lands of the Miwok & Yokuts of Turtle Island (Stockton, CA.). A devoting daughter to survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia and The U.S. Secret War in Laos. She is guided by epistemologies of the Mekong River. Her Khmer and Phuan Lao genealogy remind her that engaging, reclaiming and perpetuating our respective languages catalyzes as a powerful portal to reconnecting us to cultural practices that become protective pillars of health. Currently a settler to the moku o Kona, Oʻahu ma Kaimukī, her gratitude goes to the rain of Leikokoʻula. She will graduate with a B.A. in Public Health at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa in May 2025. As a rising health disparities researcher, her interests are in the social and structural determinants of health impacting communities burdened by occupation and war. She loves surfing, fishing, and cooking. 

Our Partners


(c. 1540-1634)

Kākuhihewa is the 15th aliʻi ‘aimoku (ruling chief) of O‘ahu famously named in the mele “Kaulana Nā Pua.” Kākuhihewa was a kind and friendly chief who was born in Kūkaniloko and raised in the ‘Ewa moku. His primary endeavor was farming, and it is said that his abundant harvests on O‘ahu could be smelled from Kaua‘i.

Today, there is a state office building named after him in Kapolei.