Diane Pike dived into the Hawaiian monk seal world in 2008 when she volunteered to help locate a mom and pup pair that were spotted on Molokaʻi—a relative rarity at that time. Little did she know where that road would lead her! Later that year, she facilitated NOAA’s efforts to tag that pup—and in observing that process and learning about the important work happening in her backyard, she was hooked. Diane’s involvement in monk seal conservation expanded alongside the promising signs of recovery in the species itself.
In 2009, Diane launched into another monk seal operation. A monk seal pup, now well-known by his flipper tags as KP2, was found abandoned by his mother on the island of Kauaʻi. Diane was part of a small team that helped monitor this seal after he was rehabilitated and released back into the wild on the island of Molokaʻi. They spent countless hours monitoring his increasingly habituated interactions with people at the Kaunakakai Wharf. They also conducted outreach with the community. Through this series of events, Diane grew to understand what seals and people on Molokaʻi needed to coexist. That knowledge has made Diane an invaluable asset to our scientific and conservation efforts ever since.
Diane filled the role of marine mammal response coordinator on Molokaʻi for many years. For more than a decade, she was the go-to monk seal expert on Molokaʻi, an amazing asset to research and recovery efforts there. She has reliably responded to stranded seals, monitored injured and compromised individuals, helped to collect important health and stranding response data, and documented and retrieved carcasses for postmortem examinations. Her impressive contributions to monk seal population assessment data include recording thousands of sightings and engaging the local community in reporting them.
In 2019, Diane stepped in to assist at Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokaʻi during a period of significant staff transition. She worked hard to fill in gaps and bring new staff up to speed, all while assisting with monitoring and tagging a large cohort of monk seal pups born in the park that year. Her work in the field and in engaging the community in Kalaupapa—and island-wide—have contributed greatly to monk seal conservation. She has assisted with numerous field research projects and played an instrumental role in pup monitoring and tagging.
“[Diane’s] worn a million different hats. She's done whatever was asked, and she never asked for anything of any substance back. It was just, what can I give, and can I give more,” said Charles Littnan, Protected Species Division director, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, during a virtual recognition ceremony in January 2022.
PIFSC Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program lead and veterinarian Michelle Barbieri also applauded Diane at the ceremony as, “a friend, a mentor, an inspiration, and someone who has so much endurance and grit and tenacity and grace. And those things are really challenging to find all in one person.”
Diane’s boots have logged countless miles hiking the rugged shorelines of Molokaʻi to accomplish all of this and more. She has enriched the lives of those she encountered professionally and personally along the way, and we are delighted to name her as our 2021 Partner in the Spotlight.