Snail Extinction Prevention Program

Snail Extinction Prevention Program

An image of a Partulina mighelsiana (kāhuli) on an `ōhi`a leaf on Moloka`i.

This ‘ōlelo no‘eau, ke kāhuli leo le‘a o ka nahele, is a saying in Hawai‘i used to compliment a sweet-voiced individual. The kāhuli, pupukanioe, or pololei have long been revered by Hawaiians, often appearing in mele, hula, mo‘olelo, oli, and in this case ‘ōlelo no‘eauTheir ornate shells once blanketed the trees of Hawai‘i with a presence so abundant some believe the kāhuli’s song was composed by the wind swirling through their shells. 

Their adaptive radiation of approximately 750 species across the Hawaiian islands is an ecological spectacle, elucidating theories of evolution and island biogeography. Unfortunately, scientists estimate up to 90% of this diversity has vanished as a result of introduced invasive predators, habitat loss, over collection and climate change.

Since 2012, the Hawaii Snail Extinction Prevention Program has been working diligently to reverse the extinction of this species and return healthy populations to Hawaii’s forests for future generations to enjoy. 

An image of an Achatinella lila linking to the "About SEPP" page.
An image of an Achatinella lila linking to the "Meet the Staff" page.
An image of an Achatinella sowerbyana linking to the "Our Work" page.

An image of a Partulina virgulata linking to the "Meet the Snails" page.

An image of a Jacksons chameleon linking to the "Threats to Snails" page.

An image of a Newcombia cumingi linking to the "Kāhuli in Hawaiian Culture" page.

An image of an Achatinella decipiens linking to the "Found a SEPP Species?" page
An image of an Achatinella livida linking to the "Help Save Our Snails" page.
An image of an Achatinella lila linking to the "Learn More" page.

About SEPP

The Hawai‘i Snail Extinction Prevention Program (SEPP) is a partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the University of Hawai‘i. Our program has ambitious goals of securing rare and endangered snail species through the integration of novel captive rearing methods, on the ground management of wild populations and coordination with partner groups to align rare snail conservation objectives and management techniques across islands and entities.  

We are guided by an advisory committee comprised of conservationists, academics, and personnel from partner organizations and agencies with experience working in Hawaiian ecosystems and especially with Hawaiian snails. Our advisory committee, the Hui Kāhuli, meets annually to guide conservation efforts.  

What We Do 

A graphic of various species of Achatinella in a petri dish linking to the "Captive Rearing" page. A graphic of Achatinella lila on an `ōhi`a seen through binoculars linking to the "Field Work" page.

A graphic of various species of tree snails crawling in a circle linking to the "Learn More" page.


Meet the Staff

Program Coordinator

An image of the SEPP program coordinator, Dr. David Sischo.

David Sischo – SEPP Coordinator

David is a wildlife biologist specializing in the conservation of rare and endangered terrestrial mollusks from the Hawaiian and Mariana Islands. After receiving his bachelors degree in ecology and evolution from the California State University of Fresno, David earned is masters and doctorate in Zoology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. David has worked with endangered species for over 10 years and has coordinated the Snail Extinction Prevention Program since its founding in 2012.

Field Crew

Keahi Bustamente – Maui Nui Field Coordinator

Lilly Thomey- Maui Nui Field Technician

Lilly Thomey is an invertebrate program technician concentrating her efforts on contemporary remote field surveys of  native kāhuli across Maui Nui. Prior to Lilly’s work across the ridges, valleys, gulches, and slopes of Maui Nui, she worked for the East Maui Watershed Partnership, maintaining and monitoring protected watershed sections of east Maui. What started the invertebrate focus was a two year Kupu AmeriCorps service position with the O’ahu SEPP team, partaking in field operations for extant populations and in the captive rearing lab setting. Lilly graduated from Pomona College in 2019 with a degree in Biology. Originally from Minnesota, she misses the snow and ice but wouldn’t trade the sun, waves, and open water for anything!

Kūpaa Hee – O`ahu Field Coordinator

An image of one of the SEPP field technicians, Sidney Stiefel.

Sidney Stiefel – O`ahu Field Technician

Sidney’s contributions to SEPP are primarily field focused, her days are typically spent in the forest monitoring extant native snail populations, controlling for predators and maintaining predator proof exclosures. After receiving a bachelors degree from Boston University where she studied Biology with specializations in Ecology, Evolution, Conservation Biology and Marine Science, she returned home to Oʻahu to pursue a career in conservation and serve the land that nurtured her upbringing. Through Kupu’s Conservation Leadership Development Program, Sidney worked with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife Native Ecosystems Protection and Management admin team, where she was first exposed to SEPP and grew to love Hawaii’s endemic snails and their native habitats.

Captive Rearing Crew

An image of the SEPP captive rearing laboratory manager, Genevieve Blanchet.

Geneviève Blanchet – Captive Rearing Laboratory Manager

Geneviève is the SEPP captive rearing lab manager. Her and the SEPP team rear and breed close to 40 species of rare Hawaiian snails species. Days at the lab consist of cleaning snail vivariums, feeding snails and recording every population’s census. Geneviève also oversees the selection and release of snails into predator proof exclosures.  

Geneviève came to Hawai‘i in 2016 with a dual background in environmental and molecular sciences after completing her undergraduate degrees at McGill University and at the University of Montreal in Canada. She then focused her studies on rare species population management using molecular tools, and obtained her M.Sc. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo studying the genomics of the ‘Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis). Geneviève enjoys working with rare Hawaiian species and was thrilled to join the SEPP team in 2020, where she hopes to make a difference during this critical time in the conservation of Hawaii’s endemic snail species. 

An image of a UH Mānoa student hire, Riley Nakasone.

Riley Nakasone

Riley started with SEPP as an undergraduate assistant while attending the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He recently graduated with a B.S. in Animal Sciences and now works with SEPP full time! His work is primarily focused in SEPP’s captive rearing lab, where he is studying the relationship between the strength of our snails’ mucus seals and their biogeography. Riley also collaborated with the Honolulu Zoo to create an education station highlighting the conservation of our SEPP species and other native invertebrates.

AmeriCorps Kupu Members

August Sullivan

Hailey Yessis

Hailey recently graduated in the Spring of 2023 with a B.S. degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management, specializing in Community and Cultural Resources Management at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Originally born and raised in Kailua-Kona, she currently lives in Honolulu. When she isn’t out hiking, she enjoys photography, spending time with loved ones, concerts, diving, and traveling. She looks forward to protecting and caring for the Kāhuli at the lab and in the field with SEPP!

Marsha Ho

Marsha graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2023 and after volunteering as a student assistant at the SEPP lab during her last undergraduate semester, she decided to join the team working full time as a CLDP KUPU member. In her free time she enjoys hand embroidery, painting, and learning more about the world of invertebrates! During her KUPU term she hopes to help in saving these beautiful snails from extinction. 

Mina Lam

Mina Lam

Mina is a first-year Americorps and Conservation Leadership Development Program (CLDP) member of KUPU. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she came to Hawai’i in 2022 after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, Evolution, and Environment from the California State University of Los Angeles. Mina found her passion for conservation when she became the Team Leader for Molokai and mentored a team of youths for KUPU’s Hawai`i Youth Conservation Corps (HYCC) – Summer Program. After the summer program ended, she has been devoting her time to serving at her host site on O`ahu, the Snail Extinction Prevention Program. Her service term consists of helping both SEPP’s lab and field teams.

UH Mānoa Undergraduate Assistants

Bella Vallesteros 

Ysabella grew up in O’ahu and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Hawai’i- Leeward Community College majoring in Biology. Since June 2023, she has been passionately caring for kāhuli in SEPP’s captive rearing lab. In her spare time, she loves crocheting, dancing, and spending time with loved ones. Her favorite species is Achatinella lila! 

Chasity Bae Profile

Chasity Bae

Chasity is an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa pursuing a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management.  Her work is predominantly lab focused, but she also thoroughly enjoys field work. During her free time, Chasity enjoys hiking, surfing, gardening, and volunteering at various conservation sites across Oʻahu! 

Justin Chan

Justin is from Pearl City and is an undergraduate majoring in Biology. He is currently conducting research on reptile and amphibian evolution and ecology at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. In his free time he enjoys getting out into nature, hiking, surfing, and spearfishing. His favorite snail species is Laminella sanguinea!

Kaci Stokes Portrait

Kaci Stokes

Kaci grew up in Mililani, Oʻahu and is currently an undergraduate student majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She started working at SEPP’s captive rearing lab in August 2022. Kaci’s favorite species is the Achatinella concavospira, but she loves caring for all the different kāhuli!

Ku`ulei Wong

Lizzie Dennis

Malia Splitstoesser

Malia grew up on Kauaʻi and got her start in conservation through Kupu’s Conservation Leadership Development Program. She served two terms with Limahuli Garden and Preserve, where she developed a passion for native ecosystem protection. She is now pursuing an undergraduate degree in Botany at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.


coming soon

Contact Us

For any media inquiries please contact:

Hawai`i DLNR Communications Office
[email protected]

For more information regarding the SEP program please contact:

David Sischo, Snail Extinction Prevention Program Coordinator
DLNR – Division of Forestry and Wildlife
1151 Punchbowl Street, Rm. 325, Honolulu, HI 96813
Contact via email