Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi and Palmyra program

In both her professional career and as Kumu Hula (cultural expert and teacher of hula), Ulalia Woodside is dedicated to the thriving lands, seas, people and culture of Hawaiʻi.  Ulalia is the Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi and Palmyra program, where across the Hawaiian archipelago and to Palmyra Atoll 1,000 miles south of Hawaiʻi, she and her team protect and restore native forests, collaborate with communities and researchers for healthy coral reefs and fisheries, and develop cutting-edge research and interventions.  In Hawaiʻi, they do this on 40,000 acres of native landscape preserves, in partnership with public and private landowners to protect the state’s watershed forests on 2.2 million acres, and with coastal communities to develop locally designed marine managed areas.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Ulalia was the Regional Director of Natural and Cultural Resources at Kamehameha Schools where she was responsible for a large portfolio of agricultural and conservation lands, and during her tenure she oversaw and expanded their place-based education, and natural and cultural resources management programs. Ulalia is also an author and invited speaker in the area of cultural ecosystem services and the unique relationship of indigenous peoples with natural resources management. She is a contributing author on peer reviewed journal articles with The Natural Capital Project, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and with fellow Nature Conservancy researchers.

The traditional Hawaiian practice of hula has always been a part of Ulalia’s life and under the direction of her maternal relatives, she completed the ʻuniki (formal graduation) rites of her family’s genealogical hula tradition.  Her mother Kumu Hula Leiana Long Woodside was her first hula teacher and she also trained with her aunt Kumu Hula Mae Ulalia Loebenstein. It was Ulalia’s grandmother, Ida Pakulani Kaiʻanui Long who was the first Kumu Hula of her mother and aunt.  Ulalia completed her Kumu Hula training through ʻuniki under the direction of her sister, Kumu Hula Hōkūlani Holt.  She has participated in competitions including the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.  Currently, she collaborates with other Kumu Hula to prepare dancers for competition, and to create, direct and tour recognized hula productions such as Kahekili: Maui’s Paramount Chief and Kūlanikākoʻi: Living Waters. Ulalia is also an invited judge and workshop presenter for various competitions in Hawaiʻi and Japan.

Volunteer leadership is an important part of community service, and Ulalia serves on the leadership boards for Hawai‘i Green Growth, Mālama Honua Public Charter School, Kauahea Inc. and the Lālākea Foundation. These organizations are dedicated to sustainability, education, the advancement of traditional cultural practices, and the preservation of the Hawaiian values and relationship to nature.

In her words Ulalia shares: “Hula (dance) and mo‘olelo (literature) are our expression of love and commitment for our home, Hawai‘i. We honor the tree that collects rainwater for us to drink, the ancestral wisdom of seasons, and the reciprocity of kinship and stewardship with ʻāina (nature). As we continue to live in balance, tell our stories, write songs and dance the motions of the mountains and seas, our promise to Hawai‘i and the planet lives for generations.”