M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Archived Announcements: 2017 and Prior years

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2017 News

Congratulation to TCBES student Jessica Kirkpatrick

Jessica won the 1st Place 'President's award' in her section, Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity - Hemiptera at the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting last week in Denver, CO.

Jessica's 8-minute talk was entitled:

"Demographic data informs a habitat restoration plan for Nysius wekiuicola on the summit of Maunakea Volcano, Hawaiʻi"

Jessica will receive a 1-year Membership in the Society, and a certificate.

ENTSOC Student Competition Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Section

Representing TCBES!

UH Hilo entomologist Jonathan Koch and his collaborators win runner-up award in national video competition hosted by the Entomological Society of America. View the full video and interview

Dr. Jonathan Koch is also being selected as a semi-finalist for the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program, Class of 2018. His proposal title is, "The nalo meli kama‘āina project: Characterizing population genomic diversity of imperiled Hawaiian Hylaeus bees to inform stakeholders on in situ breeding and habitat management strategies”.

Way to go Jon!

MS thesis defense by Hokuokahalelani Pihana


Effects of the Coral Disease, Growth Anomaly, on Exosymbiotic Invertebrate Community of the Coral, Porites lobata


Pohaku puna (Porites lobata, Dana, 1846) is a foundational coral species found throughout coral reef systems in Hawaiʻi that are of cultural and ecological importance. Local and global anthropogenic impacts to coastal environment make pohaku puna and other coral species vulnerable to diseases and other afflictions. Growth anomaly (GA) is a disease that has been identified on other coral species as abnormal tissue growth that increases mortality and hinders biological functions such as growth, digestion, defense, and feeding which results in reduced fecundity. This study developed a morphological definition of GA on pohaku puna colonies, in comparison to healthy (H) colonies, based on the difference in mean polyp density (H=4.1polyp/cm2, UA = 3.2 polyp/cm2, GA=2.9polyp/cm2), mean individual polyp diameter (H=1.2mm, UA=1.6mm, GA=1.8mm), and mean distance between coral polyps (H=2.0mm, UA=1.6mm, GA=2.7mm). Of these, the distance between coral polyps was the only parameter that showed significant difference between GA, UA, and H. Additionally, 12 pohaku puna colonies were examined over 6 months to determine any differences in exosymbiont species assemblage between GA afflicted and unafflicted pohaku puna colonies. No significant differences were found in exosymbiont species diversity (p-value > 0.05) and density (p-value > 0.05) between GA afflicted and unafflicted pohaku puna colonies suggesting that the presence of GA afflictions on pohaku puna does not impact exosymbiont assemblage. These results suggest there to be little impact to exosymbiotic community assemblage from this disease and the relationships amongst these host corals and their exosymbiont invertebrates are resilient to this particular disease. The size of the individual colonies and the proportion of the coral surface area occupied by GA could be a factor also and can be further investigated in future studies. It is important to note that this disease could potentially impact whole reef ecosystem structure by negatively effecting coral physiological processes and biological functions. In order to further eluciade the effects of coral GAs to whole ecosystem health and productivity future studies need to be more longitudinal and must examine the impacts to the physiological and ecological processes at the community and ecosystem levels.

YouTube Entomology Conference

Congratulations to Jonathan Koch, University of Hawaiʻi Hilo (TCBES), for co-producing with Ethel M. Villalobos, University of Hawaiʻi Manoa; Jonathan Wright, Hazard Design a YouTube video “The Odd Couples” that won the runner-up (2nd place) at the 2017 YouTube your Entomology Conference in Denver, Colorado!

View the full video narrated by Jon.

Since 2009, ESA (Entomological Society of America) has hosted its annual video contest, which has drawn submissions from a broad range of entomologists on a wide variety of topics, to promote the use of video to showcase the world of insect science. In 2017, 35 entomology videos were submitted for consideration. View the five finalist videos.

MS thesis defense by Corinna Pinzari


Genetic Variation, Population Structure, and Morphology of an Endemic Bat, Lasiurus cinereus semotus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) Across the Hawaiʻian Islands


Describing the connections between islands and assessing meta-populations are required to effectively manage an endemic, seasonally migrant bat species with an observed archipelago wide distribution. An innovative technique to characterize the connectivity among populations is to evaluate the genetic similarity between individuals sampled from among and within islands. By combining mitochondrial and nuclear molecular markers, we can identify how island groups may differ between populations, sexes, and estimate relative abundances. One mitochondrial and six nuclear microsatellite markers were used to explore genetic connectivity among and within three islands inhabited by the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus). Employing the resources of an existing collection of bat tissue samples (~140) from the four major islands (Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, and Oahu) and applying classical population genetics analyses, I tested for potential population structure; quantified levels of genetic variation, genetic distance, and gene flow in bats among and within the Hawaiian Islands; estimated both historical long term female effective population size, contemporary effective population size, and checked for patterns of past bottleneck events. In order to accurately measure degree of population structure and phenotypic variation with respect to sex, I conducted genetic sex determination tests on bat samples from both live and desiccated specimens. In addition to exploring potential island population structure, I also examined the morphological characteristics of bat skull and wing size, with respect to island, mitochondrial clade, and sex. This project offers the most complete and current data set of population level information, describing the genetic diversity and geographic structure of Hawaiʻi’s only endemic terrestrial land mammal. This study contributes demographic information, sex determination techniques, and banking of diverse DNA samples available for future genomic sequencing, to support management and recovery of an endangered species. Research results may provide support to state and federal agencies tasked with balancing the demands of sustainable wind generated energy and wildlife conservation in Hawaii.

MS thesis defense by Jorden Zarders

Title Invasive Arthropod Monitoring for University of Hawaiʻi Managed Lands and Facilities for Maunakea


This study documents the occurrence of non-native arthropod threat taxa collected during 2015-2016 at the summit region (2800-4000m elevation) of Maunakea, Hawai’i. I assessed and recorded sampling efforts, arthropod species and morphospecies diversities and trapping techniques at subalpine (Halepōhaku, 2800m) and alpine (Astronomy Precinct, 4000m) proposed astronomy facility construction related staging sites over an eleven month monitoring period. Potential invasive arthropod species detections consisted almost entirely of spiders for all sampling efforts, with the notable exception of a single ant species found at the 2800m Halepōhaku site. Sampling efforts appeared effective at detecting threat and non-threat morphospecies evaluated through species accumulation curves. Non-threat arthropod morphospecies accounted for approximately 50% of trap captures, and occasional new morphospecies detections continued throughout the duration of the sampling period. Baited sticky traps detected threats at greater rates than other trapping techniques and this method accounted for 80% of the total threat taxa captured, whereas non-threat taxa were captured more using baited sticky and yellow pan traps than other trapping technique. Evaluations suggest that regular monitoring throughout the year with the methods tested will be likely to encounter rare potential threat taxa so that mitigation efforts (via physical, chemical, or biological control methods) could be enacted to reduce the overall threat risks associated with invasive arthropods.

Regular inspection of facilities and locations directly associated with telescope or land management activities on Maunakea is limited to University of Hawaiʻi (UH) managed lands at the summit region and does not include sites elsewhere around the island. This study explores the presence of ant occurrence at support facilities and vehicle pathways associated with telescopes and land management activities on UH managed lands. To evaluate potential invasive arthropod threat introduction source point sites, surveys were conducted using baited vials, and vehicle pathways evaluations compared threat taxa incidence rates between washed and unwashed vehicles. Surveys of telescope support sites and facilities revealed ant presence existed primarily in developed urban locations in Hilo and Waimea, and was very limited at higher elevation sites at the southern flank of Maunakea. However, the ant species (L. humile that poses the greatest threat to the summit region (~4,000m) were only found between 2,000 and 2,150 m around areas along the route traveled to the summit. Vehicle pathway assessments revealed that vehicles subject to OMKM recommended decontamination procedures have fewer incidences of threats, and that threat Formicidae was detected using multiple distinct sampling methods, and these methods should be used to ensure detection.

MS thesis defense by Jessica Kirkpatrick


An Assessment of Nysius wekiuicola Distributions and Micro-Habitat Conditions on Cinder Cones of the Maunakea Volcano, Hawaiʻi.


The Hawaiian endemic wēkiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola) is a carnivorous scavenger species that inhabits cinder cones above ~3,500 m elevation on the summit of the Maunakea volcano, Hawaiʻi. Currently, there are 13 astronomical observatories on Maunakea with 8 facilities located on cinder cones classified as wēkiu bug habitat. Three of the 13 observatories are expected to be decommissioned within the next decade although, it is unknown how many of these facilities will be in wēkiu bug habitat. The Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan requires observatories to implement a habitat restoration plan for arthropod species. Baseline information on species habitat use through time and the environmental conditions in which arthropod species exist are necessary for a habitat restoration plan. Wēkiu bug activity, demography, and distributions were assessed on two cinder cones for 1 year using a stratified random sample design. Trap sites were stratified by cinder cone aspect, mineral type, and slope and were sampled 6 times from June 2016- 2017. Captured wēkiu bugs were recorded and released. Wēkiu bug activity and associated distributions were mapped, demography was compared, and a generalized linear model was used to assess the influence of habitat characteristics (aspect, mineral type and cone section) on wēkiu bug distributions. During each trapping effort, thermal micro-habitat conditions were measured on the North/ Northeast and South/ Southwest aspects of cinder cones with environmental data loggers. Temperature data logger sensors were placed at varying depths throughout the insects’ habitat space (at the surface, mid surface, and ash layers of the cinder substrate). Micro-habitat temperatures were compared within and between sites for all sampled months. Degree day accumulations of thermal development were also calculated to assess the relationship between captures and accumulated degree days. Our results suggest that wēkiu bugs captures (includes demography of ages of bugs) were variable between cinder cones and within cinder cones throughout the year. Wēkiu bugs were mainly distributed on the North top sections of the cinder cone in all months except January, where high densities of bugs were captured on the South slope. This suggests that the differing aspects of a cinder cones provide a habitat refuge for wēkiu bugs during snow events. Our model indicated that aspect and cone section influence wēkiu bug distributions. Specifically, bug captures increase as you move from the bottom section of the cone to the top of the cone, with the highest captures predicted to be on the Northeast aspects and the lowest captures on the Southwest aspects. No significant relationship was found between degree days and bug captures. Temperature data suggests that various microclimates exist throughout the cinder cone habitat at any given time. This provides the wēkiu bug with a wide range of temperatures throughout their habitat space. The ash layer appears to provide an important microclimate for the wēkiu bug, as temperatures rarely reach below freezing. The Southwest aspects of cinder cones recorded the highest maximum and lowest minimum temperatures than all other aspects. On average, the South slopes experienced slightly warmer and cooler temperatures than North slopes. We recommend that habitat restoration efforts focus on preserving 360-degree contiguous cinder cone habitats for the continued persistence of the wēkiu bug. Restoring decommissioned sites with diverse cinder substrates and ash depths can provide the insect with micro-habitats and thermal conditions that are similar to other areas on the cinder cone.

Rose Hart recognized at 2017 Math-for-Industry Conference

Congratulations to Rose Hart for her accomplishment and to Ryan Perroy for his mentorship
Rose Hart, recently won an "Excellent" Award at the 2017 Forum "Math-for-Industry" Conference: Responding to the Challenges of Climate Change: Exploiting, Harnessing and Enhancing the Opportunities of Clean Energy, held at UH Manoa this year, for her poster presentation, "Using small unmanned aerial systems to map shoreline change at Hapuna State Beach Park".

She has won a fully paid 2 week research trip to IMI (Institute Mathematics for Industry at Kyushu in Japan).

Congratulations to Rose!

Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program Research Expedition


The Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP) embarked a research expedition on NOAA Ship Hiʻialakai throughout the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument for 25 days. TCBES alumni John Burns, Keo Lopes and student Kailey Pascoe took park in the scientific party. The team visited French Frigate Shoals, Lisianski, Laysan, Pearl and Hermes, Midway and Kure Atoll to conduct various surveys including rapid ecological assessments, coral health and disease, 3D modeling benthic habitats, fish abundance and rebreather vs. scuba methodologies. All these surveys are used to better the ecological management and conservation of Papahānaumokuākea. On the way up the archipelago scientist and boat crew had the privilege to stop at Midway Atoll. John, Keo and Kailey got a chance to visit another TCBES student Kelly Goodale! She is now the wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife on Midway Atoll! Congratulation to all for their hard work! John, Keo, Kelly and Kailey

TCBES Pau Hana

The TCBES club is hosting a pau hana for all graduate students, faculty, and agency partners on September 22 at 4 PM at Onekahakaha Pavilion #4. Your families are also more than welcome to join!

TCBES club will provide burgers (and veggie burgers) and condiments. We ask that everyone RSVP to plan for food count, and bring a side dish. Field games and musical instruments are also welcome!

See the attached flyer for more details. Can't wait to see you all there!

TCBES Pau Hana

Rat Lungworm Research Featured in New Yorker

TCBES alumna Kathleen Howe and TCBES and College of Pharmacy faculty Susan Jarvi have their research on rat lungworm disease featured in June 2017 New Yorker article!

Congratulations 2017 Graduates

Congratulations to our Summer 2017 graduate:

  • Melissa Tavares

Congratulations to our Spring 2017 graduates!!

  • James Akau
  • Ronald Kittle
  • Keolohilani Lopes
  • Ashley Morrow
  • Timothy Sullivan
  • Corie Yanger

We are Proud of You!

Malama ʻĀina Certificate Winners

TCBES students win Malama ʻĀina Certificate as part of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo's Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Recognition Awards for the 2016-2017 school year. They were recognized for their collaboration and dedication in organizing the TCBES Symposium and other activities this year. Pictured are winners Erin Busch, Kailey Pascoe, Keolohilani Lopes, Jessica Kirkpatrick, and Rose Hart. Also pictured is alumnus Nathan Stevenson who was also involved in planning this year's Symposium.

Erin Busch, Kailey Pascoe, Keolohilani Lopes, Jessica Kirkpatrick, and Rose Hart, and TCBES graduate Nathan Stevenson

Congratulations to all!

2016 News

MS thesis defense by Blaine Luiz


Understanding Ceratocystis sp. A: Growth, Morphology, and Host Resistance


Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) is a new phenomenon that has been causing considerable damage to ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) on Hawaiʻi Island. Ceratocystis sp. A, one of two distinct, undescribed species of Ceratocystis responsible for ROD, is associated with widespread mortality and is believed to be the more virulent of the two. Thus, determining the biological and pathological characteristics of C. sp. A is vital to understand the etiology and epidemiology of the disease, and manage ‘ōhi‘a forests. Spore morphology, mycelial growth and spore production under various temperature and media conditions, and virulence were studied for three isolates of C. sp. A. Based on these data, one isolate was selected for resistance screening experiments utilizing plants of 4 varieties of ‘ōhi‘a found on Hawaiʻi Island: vars. glaberrima, incana, newellii, and polymorpha. Plants were grown in a growth chamber for 19 weeks and monitored for symptom development and death. Upon death of an individual, disease severity (the percentage of the plant that was discolored by the fungus) was measured. Vars. glaberrima and polymorpha had the highest mean disease severities and mortality compared with vars. incana and newellii. Log mean number of days to death was different only between vars. glaberrima and polymorpha, with var. polymorpha having the shortest log mean number of days to death. The data showed that the four varieties of ‘ōhi‘a responded differently to infection of C. sp. A, suggesting that there could potentially be resistance or tolerance found in natural stands of ‘ōhi‘a.

MS thesis defense by Heather Nahaku Kalei


Understanding Kūpeʻe (nerita polita) Gonad Development and Demography for Continued use at Two Sites on Hawaiʻi Island


Kūpeʻe (Nerita polita Linnaeus, 1758) is a cryptic, mostly nocturnal intertidal species of gastropod mollusc used widely in Hawaii for sustenance and cultural practices. Despite a long tradition of human interaction with this species, information is generally lacking regarding its reproductive ecology. Results of this study suggest that male and female individuals do not differ significantly in size and that the minimum shell length at maturity for both males and females is 14mm. Mature gonads were present in both sexes throughout the study period, and mating was documented throughout the same period, suggesting continuous spawning throughout the year. These results are consistent at both study sites, Kawaihae and Waiuli, Hawaii. Comparison of population size structure at the study sites with the desirable shell lengths, as denoted by the Bishop Museum lei collection and modern lei, shows that less than 5% of the population fits into the desirable size range.

Rat lungworm disease in the news

Relevant to UH Hilo research by TCBES student Kathleen Howe and advisor in College of Pharmacy, Dr. Susan Jarvi. Read the article here

Congratulations to our 9th Annual TCBES Symposium Winners!

Poster presentation

Julia Stewart, UH Hilo, 'Ike Wai Metagenomics and metatranscriptomics of the microbial community in diseased and healthy Montipora capitata

5 minutes talk:

Dominique R. Zarders, TCBES Student

  • Mechanisms of the possible host shift of Lantana lace bug from
  • Lantana camara to Myoporum sandwicense

15 minute talk:

Louise M. Economy, TCBES Student Rainfall driven shifts in Staphylococcus aureus in Hilo Bay, Hawaiʻi

Article on the TCBES program in the University Town special edition by Kirsten Johnson, Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald

Congratulations to Ann Tanimoto, a TCBES alumna, advised by Patrick Hart for their featured article in Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald by Kirsten Johnson!

Read more about their research on the calls of the 'Alalā and the Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology program at the National Science Foundation.

Congratulations to Heather Stever, a TCBES grad student advised by Dr. Jesse Eiben!

Heather was awarded first place in a graduate student oral competition at the the 25th International Congress of Entomology that was held in Orlando, Florida from 25-30 September. She was in a session focusing on Biodiversity, Biogeography, and Conservation of Arthropods and her talk was entitled: Arthropod biodiversity estimates for three native subalpine plant species on Hawaiʻi’s Maunakea Volcano.