Raised on Kauai, in Kalihiwai, Mehana Blaich Vaughan is known as much for her work helping local and native Hawaiian families continue to live in a community coveted by the world’s most wealthy, as for her gracious, determined nature. Highly regarded around the state as an expert on community-led natural resource management, she is a natural teacher, community leader, ‘aina protector, devoted friend and mother.
A tenured professor at the University of Hawai’i, Mehana integrates interdisciplinary perspectives on natural resource issues with community based management solutions. Her courses (including the first college credit course on the North Shore of Kaua’i.) teach community-based natural resource management informed by traditional ecological knowledge.
In her community she is active with Kia’i Kāhili and Nā Kia’i o Nihokū, a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, private landowners and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to steward and restore knowledge and cultural history of the Kahili area. She is an active member of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, serving on the Kauai Island Council since 2011.
In 2017 she teamed up with Dominque Leu Cordy, Tina Aiu and Jennifer Luck to form Kīpuka Kuleana, a nonprofit dedicated to perpetuating kuleana and ahupua‘a-based natural resource management and connection to place through protection of cultural landscapes and family lands.
A strong believer in the importance of ‘aina based education, Mehana worked closely with Waipā and Kawaikini Hawaiian Language immersion Charter School to create curriculum focused on knowledge of place names, mo’olelo (stories), ahupua’a boundaries, lessons from Kupuna and ecosystem understanding and management. She is very active in statewide efforts to develop policy to support community/government partnerships for coastal management in Hawaii.