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TCBES Research Symposium Abstracts

10th Annual TCBES Research Symposium

Thursday, April 5th 2018

Keynote Speaker
Chad Wiggins, The Nature Conservancy

1st Session: 5min talks

Australia's Traditional Dugong Population Management: Implications for Modern Conservation Practice

Gina McGuire, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

The current state of Australia’s dugong population reveals that modern resource management is not sustainable, with large habitat loss and degradation. The dugong, Dugong dugon is an herbivorous marine mammal found from the northern coast of Shark Bay in Western Australia to Moreton Bay in southern Queensland. The Yanyuwa and Noonucal languages and hunting traditions [use of previous research as well as interviews with Noonucal community members], as well as past and current government policies were analyzed to better understand how indigenous tradition and knowledge can guide management of Australia’s dugong population. Findings of this study support management of dugong populations that should be conducted jointly—bringing the value of indigenous language, spiritual connection to the environment, and wealth of traditional knowledge to the table of management decision making in a respectful and inclusive manner: it is critical that indigenous knowledge is not appropriated by these institutions. It is also critical that consistent standards are applied in order to build a “fair” system that community members can trust.

The Hawaiian Blue Octocoral, Sarcothelia edmondsoni, as a pollution indicator species

Ashley Pugh, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Groundwater and river discharge carry pollutants from urban and agriculture runoff into nearshore marine ecosystems where the contaminants alter water quality and ecosystem functions. Changes in water quality, especially eutrophication, can lead to severe alterations in the species composition of benthic communities. Indicator species are desirable as reflections of water quality because of their cost-effective ease of measurement. The endemic Hawaiian species of blue soft coral, Sarcothelia edmondsoni, has been observed in high abundance outside of the Hilo breakwater and at Honokohau Harbor area around Hawaiʻi Island. S. edmondsoni has been suggested as a potential pollution indicator species because of its high abundance and suspected preference for these regions that are subject to anthropogenic nutrient pollution through groundwater and sewage treatment discharge. The proposed project will assess the growth rate of S. edmondsoni in response to nitrate concentration in order to determine if there is a pattern of increased growth rate under greater nitrate condition. This study offers novel characterization of this endemic Hawaiian octocoral species and will further infer the potential of S. edmondsoni as an indicator species.

TCBES Undergraduate Student Individual vocalization variation and repertoire size of the endemic Hawaiian thrush ‘oma‘o (Myadestes obscurus)

Eirlys Tysall, UH Hilo

Studies looking at song variation at the level of the individual are rare given methodological challenges of recording individuals over time, particularly for tropical species. Knowing the repertoire size and extent individuals may vary in vocalisations is key to understanding song diversity within populations. In this study, we quantified individual variation in vocalisations of ‘oma‘o (Myadestes obscurus), an endemic Hawaiian thrush, using a novel transmitter technology. We recorded vocalizations of male ‘oma‘o using a transmitter fitted with a miniature microphone which broadcasts all sounds emitted from the individual to a radio receiver connected to a song recorder. The song broadcast transmitter has a range of 100 to 200 metres and a battery life of 3-4 weeks. This novel methodology, which to-date has not been used in a field setting, allowed for the unique opportunity to record the same individual at different times of day over a month time period. We addressed four main questions related to individual song variability: (1) individual repertoire size; (2) the number of different syllables per song; (3) variation between songs measured as the coefficient of variation (CV) in the number of unique syllables per song, and (4) day to day song variation measured as CV in the number of unique syllables per day. This study represents the first comprehensive analysis of ‘oma‘o vocal repertoire, and at a broader level the results of this study provide insight into whether a snapshot of song recorded in most studies is a true representation of an individual’s song.

Studying the effect of helicopter noise on bird assemblages in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Karen Gallardo Cruz, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate

In birds, anthropogenic noise has been linked to decreased breeding success, increased flushing behavior, and changes in vocalization. Helicopter noise in Hawaiʻi’s forests could be another stressor native birds face in addition to disease, habitat loss, and non-native species. The number of helicopter overflights in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) is one of the highest in the National Park system, but the effect of helicopter noise on native birds within the park has not been assessed. Our primary objective was to determine if helicopter noise affects the acoustic behavior of native bird assemblages within HAVO. We placed automated acoustic recorders in two forested areas with similar environmental conditions that are known to differ in helicopter traffic. We recorded the soundscape at each location from 6am - 6pm for two consecutive months during peak breeding season, analyzed bird vocalizations using RavenPro 1.5 sound analysis software, and used soundscape indices to analyze the effect of helicopter noise on the biotic soundscape (biophony). Based on our data, we will address the following questions: 1) Does helicopter noise affect biophony? 2) Is there a threshold at which helicopter noise affects vocalizing behavior of birds? 3) Does response to helicopter noise vary among bird species? 4) And do bird assemblages in areas of high helicopter traffic respond differently to helicopter noise than bird assemblages in areas of low helicopter traffic? Results can serve as the foundation of an air tour management plan for HAVO that considers potential effects of air tours on native forest birds.

Graduate Student Behavioral landscape of ʻŌmaʻo (Myadestes obscurus) vocalizations in a naturally fragmented landscape

Erin Netoskie, UH Hilo TCBES

Habitat use has long been studied by ecologists to understand how organisms utilize their ecosystems. As humans continue to alter the environment, the effects of impacts like fragmentation on species' behavior are still relatively unknown. In this study we will assess how vocalizations are distributed within an individual's core area to understand vocalization resource selection in a population of ʻŌmaʻo (Myadestes obscurus) that occur in a naturally fragmented landscape. Using automated telemetry towers, we will collect precise individual-level location data from radio transmitted ʻŌmaʻo to establish core zones and movements across different habitat types (i.e. kīpuka and matrix). In addition, we will record individual bird vocalizations using a new transmitter technology, which broadcasts all sound emitted from an individual through a miniature microphone attached to a bird's transmitter. By combining the movement and vocalization data, we can then create a behavioral landscape model of different vocalization types (i.e. song, call or whisper song) to identify where ʻŌmaʻo vocalizations most frequently occur across the landscape, and the underlying habitat features associated with these locations. Such a study has not been done to date on any Hawaiian birds, and provides a comprehensive methodology to document the relationship between habitat use and vocalizations, which can be applied to many taxa across different ecological landscapes.

A revised dichotomous key for adventive bees in Hawai‘i with special focus on a recent invader: Megachile policaris (Megachilidae)

Kristina Montoya-Aiona, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student & Dr. Jonathan Koch-Uhuad, Adjunct Faculty & Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Biology & TCBES Graduate Program

Hymenopteran species in Hawai‘i include both native and non-native bees and wasps. There are currently 63 known species of the genus Hylaeus (Colletidae) which represent the only endemic bees in the Hawaiian archipelago. In addition to the endemic Hylaeus bees, Hawai‘i is home to a number of adventive and introduced Hymenopteran species from families Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae and Megachilidae. Recent accounts of a newly introduced species, Megachile policaris (Megachilidae), add to the number of non-native species that may have negative effects on native Hylaeus species. Therefore, identifying and determining native from non-native Hymenoptera is an important activity for land management and conservation in Hawai‘i. Dichotomous keys are necessary to identify and differentiate between adventive and endemic bee species. However, published dichotomous keys are static, and newly introduced species require key revision. In this study, we present a revised dichotomous key of the adventive bees of Hawai‘i, inclusive of M. policaris. Ultimately, we aim to create a key that updates and consolidates current keys, distinguishes between native and non-native bees and will be useful for making informed conservation and management decisions."

Is biological nitrogen fixation strategy tied to invasive success for non-native woody legumes in Hawai‘i?

Angalee Kirby, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

In Hawai‘i, invasive plant species have been shown to disrupt nutrient cycling and out-compete native flora. Many invasive trees have a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, allowing them to utilize nitrogen that is not biologically available and contribute excess nitrogen to Hawaiian ecosystems that have evolved to survive in nitrogen limited conditions, facilitating further invasion by exotic plants that can utilize the nitrogen surplus. The spectrum of biological nitrogen fixation strategies includes over-regulation, obligate, facultative, and under-regulation. The present study investigates whether nitrogen fixation strategy is tied to the invasiveness of approximately twenty non-native woody legumes (Fabaceae) found in Hawai‘i, using the Hawai‘i/Pacific Weed Risk Assessment system to categorize trees as either high risk or low risk for invasion. In a greenhouse experiment trees are being treated with three levels of isotopically labelled nitrogen fertilizer, whose signature is distinct from atmospheric nitrogen, in order to calculate the percent of nitrogen derived from fixation. These data and relative growth rate data will explain which strategy each species uses in order to evaluate relationships between strategies and risk assessments. Results of this study will give insight into which plants should be monitored more carefully on the islands and which should have limited or restricted introduction to the islands, as well as contribute to the limited but growing knowledge of nitrogen fixation regulation in several species that have not yet been documented.

Is albizia compost a climate-smart alternative to fertilizer use in agriculture?

Joanna Norton, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Alternative methods in agriculture have the potential to increase soil health and provide climate change mitigation and resistance. This research compares compost from the N-fixing albizia tree to chemical fertilizer as an amendment to crops. The research question and implementation of the trial have been developed with the input of invasive species managers, community members, and local farmers. I’ll discuss how collaboration across stakeholder groups and disciplines can help generate actionable science, and also some of the challenges that have arisen and how they’ve been addressed.

2nd Session: 15 min talks

Genomic diversity in the “extinct in the wild” Hawaiian Crow, ‘alalā, (Corvus hawaiiensis)

Geneviève Blanchet, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

In small bottlenecked populations, genetic diversity is often reduced, which can lead to problems like inbreeding depression and reduced adaptive potential. One example of a bottlenecked species that is experiencing negative genetic consequences is the ‘alalā (Hawaiian crow; Corvus hawaiiensis). The ‘alalā suffered a century long bottleneck, and became extinct in the wild in 2002. After decades of captive breeding, 11 individuals were successfully released back into the wild in October 2017, representing the first step in a long-term reintroduction effort. To aid conservation and reintroductions, we have begun assessing genome wide diversity in the ‘alalā. In this study, we used a SNP-capture approach to test for loss of allelic diversity and heterozygosity between two sets of samples; museum and modern. Museum specimens were collected in the early bottleneck period (circa 1890), and modern individuals were sampled during years in which the population reached its smallest size (circa 1990). Preliminary data analysis suggests that there was no loss in overall genetic diversity (SNP number/per bird) between groups, but that there is genetic structuring between museum and modern samples. These preliminary results suggest that the ‘alalā population may have been relatively small with low genetic diversity before the bottleneck event, like some other island populations.

Important plants for Nectarivorous Birds in a Continuous and Naturally Fragmented Forest on Hawai‘i Island

Kathryn van Dyk, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

The availability of food resources for nectarivorous birds can be a vital component of their survival and influences several aspects of their behavior, including general health, territoriality, and movement. However, little information is available on the nectar resources utilized by nectarivorous birds on the Island of Hawaii, other than the widespread ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha). It is also unknown how food resources may differ between fragmented and continuous forest and bird species. My project will strive to answer these questions by analyzing pollen samples collected on bird species at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, a continuous forest located on Mauna Kea, and kīpuka that form a naturally fragmented forest on the northern slopes of Mauna Loa. My study, by identifying important nectar plants, will provide information on food resources in intact and fragmented habitat, which should help in conservation of Hawaiian birds and aid in determining how birds in other tropical areas will respond to forest fragmentation.

DNA barcodes fail to accurately differentiate species within Hawaiian plant lineages

Jeff Stallman, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

While DNA barcoding has been largely successful in differentiating animal species for over 15 years, the search for the most effective loci and evaluative methods for plants continues. DNA barcoding could be useful to conservationists in Hawaii, and elsewhere, where overlapping geographic ranges and morphologies of endangered and non-endangered plant species occur, preventing rapid and reliable identification for anyone other than taxonomic experts. Floras of young, oceanic islands are a particularly severe test of the utility of DNA barcoding, because rapid speciation often results in short time periods for diagnostic mutations to occur. However, recent molecular character-based (versus genetic distance-based) methods including geographic range data have shown some success in differentiating plant species in the Canary Islands. Utilizing this approach, in addition to distance methods, we used four common DNA barcodes to test 18 lineages of Hawaiian plants at the nuclear ITS2 locus, and eight lineages at each of the plastid loci matK, trnH-psbA, and rbcL using newly generated DNA sequences and sequences downloaded from Genbank. Results show low discrimination success within the same lineage with both methods of analysis. These results highlight the continued importance of taxonomy based on morphology, and point to the need for additional genomic resources if DNA barcodes are to be used to accurately differentiate plant species derived from recent speciation events.

3rd Session: 15 min talks

Hydrology of Loko Iʻa

Cherie Kauahi, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Wai, freshwater, plays a key role in the function and success of loko iʻa, Hawaiian fishponds, in Hawaiʻi. However, few studies have documented the freshwater inputs of these dynamic coastal ecosystems. In this study, relative groundwater flow and chemical composition of groundwater springs will be examined within three loko iʻa. The data gathered within this study will be used to create a model to assess change within these processes and provide a forecast in how these processes will be altered in the face of climate change. Findings from this study will provide baseline hydrology and water quality information that can be used by fishpond managers to contribute to restoration efforts and aid in planning for environmental changes in the future.

Soil sources of Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), and fecal indicator bacteria concentrations in a Hawaiian watershed

Tyler Gerken, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

In the United States, Hawaiʻi is recognized as having the highest rates of Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections-almost twice the national average. Community-acquired outbreaks of MRSA have been increasing globally. Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA are opportunistic and pathogenic bacteria that are found increasingly prevalent in the environment. These infections are thought to be associated with recreational water uses. Studies in Hawaiʻi have shown that S. aureus and MRSA concentrations increase in streams and estuaries following storm events suggesting watershed sources; these sources have not yet been identified. In tropical soils, fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) can survive and multiply; it is likely that S. aureus and MRSA are able to do so as well. Soil samples were collected from native forest and urban land uses within the Hilo Bay watershed on Hawaiʻi Island and analyzed for S. aureus, MRSA, and FIB (Enterococcus spp., Clostridium perfringens). We found bacterial concentrations were significantly different between forest and urban soils. Concentrations of S. aureus, MRSA, Enterococcus spp., and C. perfringens were 1-2 orders of magnitude different between land use types. It is expected that elevated concentrations will be found in agricultural soils too. Results suggest soils within urban land uses are a potentially significant source of microbial pollution entering streams and coastal waters through surface water runoff.

Phosphate fluxes to the water column from sediments at five marine locations of Hilo, Hawai‘i, USA

Justyne Shope, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Organic and inorganic phosphate, a limiting nutrient in marine ecosystems, cycle throughout the water column through biological activity. Various binding properties of phosphate may allow that phosphate to stay in the sediments, if the surface area and iron concentration of the sediments are large, or stay in the water column. Phosphate fluxes are important to measure in order to understand the rates of phosphate release into the water column or adsorption to the sediments. Cores of sediments and their overlying water column from five different locations were incubated. Study sites included the Wailoa River mouth, the Wailuku River mouth, Hilo Bay, Richardson's Ocean Park, and Onekahakaha Ocean Park. Cores were incubated for seven days, and water samples were drawn every twelve hours to measure the change in phosphate concentration in the water column using the external standard method through a spectrophotometer. The sediment mean grain size and type (carbonate vs. basalt) of each core were also analyzed to assess any correlations with phosphate fluxes. Knowledge of phosphate fluxes from sediments in tropical coastal systems is important in understanding sources of phosphate by comparing fluxes of the seafloor with fluxes of rivers, ground water, or other major sources.

Assessing the photochemistry of healthy and diseased Porites lobata coral tissue in Hilo, East Hawai‘i Island

Julia M. Stewart, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Hawaiian corals have substantial ecological and cultural importance. Unfortunately, the prevalence of coral disease in Hawai‘i has detrimentally affected coral reef ecosystems. Certain diseases, such as Growth Anomaly (GA), can affect the morphological development of corals. GA is a calicoblastic epithelioma which causes the aragonite skeleton to develop in abnormal patterns and produce irregularly shaped calyces. The photosynthetic endosymbionts of the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium provide important photosynthates to Porites lobata (Lobe coral) for its metabolism and skeletal growth. Abnormal growths, such as GA, may detrimentally impact metabolic efficiency of the coral host by both decreasing the abundance of Symbiodinium and impairing the photochemical efficiency of these physiologically important symbionts. This study utilized microscopy and Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) fluorometry to investigate how coral disease affects Symbiodinium photochemical efficiency and density. PAM measures changes in fluorescence associated with reductions in the function of the photosystem-II reaction centers, an outcome caused by high levels of light stress in diseased tissue. Results of this study show that there is a difference in photochemical efficiency between healthy and diseased tissue, which suggests that the GA are deleteriously affecting coral metabolism and health.

Changes in obligate coral-feeding reef fish populations after mass coral bleaching at Lisianski Island, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Roseanna Lee, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

The abundance and distribution of many reef fishes is dependent on the availability of live coral resources. Many fish are important bioindicators of healthy reefs, including obligate corallivores that depend on healthy coral polyps as food. Natural and anthropogenic disturbances can dramatically alter coral reefs, making them unstable ecosystems. Mass coral bleaching events caused by prolonged temperature stress can result in coral mortality. In 2014, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) experienced the largest mass coral bleaching event on record for the archipelago; some shallow water sites experienced 90% corals bleached. The effects of mass coral bleaching on corallivore abundance and distribution in the Hawaiian Islands is currently unknown. This study is the first to explore the effects of the 2014 coral bleaching event on the abundance and diversity of obligate corallivorous reef fish in the NWHI. A series of diver-based fish and benthic surveys assessed correlations between bleaching intensity and corallivorous fish abundance and diversity at Lisianski Island, one of the most severely impacted islands in the 2014 coral bleaching event. Significant variation in both the abundance and the composition of corallivores was observed in relation to coral bleaching. This research presents the first evidence of cascading effects resulting from mass bleaching events in the NWHI and will contribute to future management and conservation efforts within the NWHI and the Hawaiian Archipelago as a whole.

Tracking long-term shifts in Hawaiian reef fish assemblages: A 17-years view

Anna Baker Mikkelsen, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Understanding responses of reef fish assemblages to anthropogenic disturbance, such as climate change and fishing pressure, is crucial for developing effective conservation strategies. However, spatially- and temporally-limited data, gaps in long-term monitoring, and a lack of a centralized data repository make identifying changes in reef fish assemblages challenging. Changes in fish assemblages were evaluated at windward and leeward sites off Hawai‘i, Maui, O‘ahu, and Kauai during 2000-2017 using a large fish survey database (n=15,159 surveys) collected by citizen scientists. In addition, belt transects were re-surveyed in 2017-2018 at Puakō, Hawai‘i, and changes in fish assemblages were analyzed by comparing scientific data previously collected in 1979 and 2007. Reef fish assemblages significantly differed among islands, between windward and leeward sides of each island, and by depth. The degree and trajectory of change in fish assemblage structure during 2000-2017 varied among islands and between windward and leeward sides of each island. However, the greatest changes in assemblage structure through time tended to be associated with depths ≤ 7 m and changes in the abundance of herbivorous surgeonfishes, particularly Zebrasoma flavescens, Ctenochaetus strigosus, Acanthurus triostegus and corallivorous butterflyfishes, such as Chaetodon lunulatus and Chaetodon ornatissimus. Hawai‘i Island had the most distinct species assemblages and the largest temporal change, which suggests that some factor on Hawai‘i Island is influencing reef fish assemblages, but is not present elsewhere. Citizen science can provide broad spatial and temporal data that can help track long-term changes of reef fish assemblages—valuable information to understand complex coral reef ecosystems.

Invasive Species on UH Hpus: The Problem and Potential Solutions

Rebecca Ostertag, Ryan Perroy, Timothy Sullivan & Jonathan Price, UH Hilo Faculty

Invasive plant species are a worldwide problem that impacts ecosystem functioning and economies. This is particularly true for Hawai‘i, which currently has more non-native plants than native ones due to its isolation, unique biota, and land use history. The Hawai‘i Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) is a system that evaluates plants in Hawai‘i for their likelihood to become a pest, based on their life history characteristics. Using a list of planted trees on the UH Hilo campus, approximately 28% of the species have scores greater than 6, which indicates that they are likely to be invasive. In addition, many areas of campus have unplanted vegetation that is aggressively colonizing, and the majority of species in these areas are pioneer species with high WRA scores. To address the invasive species issue on campus, we make several suggestions. First, we propose a comprehensive survey using small unmanned aerial systems to develop a high resolution orthomosaic of campus. This image layer can be used by UH Facilities, undergraduate and graduate classes, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, and others to assess the degree of plant invasion, determine locations of hazardous trees, and support additional applications. Second, we suggest the formation of a landscape committee that would examine landscaping plans, especially for new building construction. Finally, removal of hazardous trees could open up opportunities for restoration projects using native and Polynesian introduced plants, both supporting the initiatives to indigenize the university and to create a more sustainable campus environment.

Modeling plant species densities in Hawai‘i

Andy Cole, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

In support of the “How Much is Enough” (HoMIE), and other, projects, we are working to come up with density figures for native plant species. To this end, we are working to develop a regression model, to predict expected density of woody plant species, in Hawaii. We are using data from 1,295 vegetation survey plots, across the state, as a basis for the model. These plots were selected for being the best representatives of as close to undisturbed conditions, as possible. This was accomplished by removing plots in locations with known agricultural histories, those with high relative cover of non-native plant species, and other conditions known to change the composition of and densities of the plant assemblages. These plots were geolocated into ArcMap along with several environmental factors. This data was then imported to MiniTab 18, where it was regressed. Regression equations were then fed back into ArcMap’s Raster Calculator tool. The outputs from this sequence resulted in a statewide model of species density. Initial modeling was done on the most common native woody species, Metrosideros Polymorpha. Modeling for M. polymorpha was highly successful; however, when applied to less common and less wide spread species, modeling was much less successful. We are continuing to work to improve the results for more species.

Poster Session & Pau Hana Reception

Genetic underpinnings of beak morphology in birds

David Arakawa, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Antibacterial efficacy of Hawaiian plants

Tyler Jo Branco-Hedke, Tiana Enos-Dano, Ericka Terra Reff, Rebeceida & Stan T. Nakanishi, UH Hilo

The Hawaiian archipelago is an ecologically rich and diverse environment that is home to many interesting plant species, and has a deep history of traditional Hawaiian plant based medicine. With the growing concern of antibiotic resistant superbugs evolving and spreading worldwide, there has been an increased interest in turning to plants to find novel antibacterial compounds. Plants used by traditional herbal practitioners that indicated an antibacterial purpose such as plants applied to wounds or burns were of interest in this project. Three plant species were selected for this project which include Artocarpus altilis (ulu), Scaevola taccada (beach naupaka), and Solanum americanum (pōpolo). Extracts were created by combining the plant material with the solvent. An antibacterial assay was performed using the disk diffusion agar method to determine the potential antibacterial property of each plant extract. The zone of bacterial growth inhibition around each disk was measured and the results were compared against a positive control (ampicillin), and a negative control (vehicle alone). Preliminary results suggest that a subset of the tested plant extracts effectively suppress bacterial growth, and further studies will be aimed at identifying the specific molecular components associated with the growth-suppression effects.

No evidence for horizontal transinfection of Wolbachia from Aedes albopictus to Culex quinquefasciatus following a lab-based feeding trial

Jesse Leavitt, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Investigating the effects of rare variants in concurrent drug usage: An association analysis approach

Rebekah Loving, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

The influence of rare variants in the concurrent drug usage on the outcome of interest has not been analyzed in-depth. The standard method of analysis has only encompassed testing of the significance of common variants in concurrent drug usage, comorbidities, and genetic markers. This study proposes the application of state of the art association analysis tools: Combined Multivariate Collapsing (CMC)[4], Kernel-Based Adaptive Clustering (K-BAC)[3], and Weighted Sum Statistics (WSS)[6] algorithms, for testing association of patient drug usage description data to drug treatment outcome. We demonstrate the usefulness of this novel approach in detecting significant rare descriptive data sequences with an analysis of a pharmacology dataset, featuring patients treated with Warfarin. This manuscript presents an examination of the association of comorbidities and concurrent drug usage with reaching stable dosage levels of Warfarin. Statistically significant results will reveal important, undocumented associations between concurrent drug usage and a patient’s ability to reach stable dosage levels of Warfarin. We consider rare variants in self-governed medical decisions, which lead to significant difference in dosage stability outcomes. Significant results are found both in rare variants of concurrent drug usage which provide higher probability of either reaching or not reaching stable dosage levels of Warfarin.

Elucidating the effects of native Hawaiian plants on planarian regeneration

Michael Ryan Morrissey, Tyler Jo Branco-Hedke, Tiana Enos-Dano, Matthew S. Geddis & Stan T. Nakanishi, UH Hilo

Native Hawaiian plants have had a significant impact on Hawaiian life both culturally and medicinally. Documented accounts of successful treatments by the Kahuna La’au Lapa’au have provided insight into the plants that might play a role in current medicinal needs such as neuronal disorders. Based on these reports, hibiscus (Hibiscus brakenridgei), Taro (Colocasia esculenta), Sleeping grass (Mimosa pudica), Petra (Codiaeum variegatum), Perfume Tree (Fagraea berteriana), and Ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha) were collected, ground and extracted in laboratory solvents (EtOH, DMSO) and more traditional solutions (ocean water, amylase). These extracts (1.5mg/ml) were then assayed for their effect on Planarian regeneration. Planaria have the remarkable ability to self-regenerate all body tissues through the use of an extensive network of neoblast cells located in the mesenchyme. These neoblasts are pluripotent adult stem cells that continuously divide, and are able to differentiate into all Planarian cells. Self-renewal of the nervous system, and eyespots were observed by transecting the worms bilaterally, and allowing them to regrow new head and tail portions. Worms were imaged at specific intervals over a period of 15 days (average self-renewal time) and analyzed for overall growth, eyespot formation, and movement in the presence of extract or appropriate control. Of the plants assayed, hibiscus, showed the most substantial average growth when compared to its control. Our results suggest that native Hawaiian plant extracts may alter Planarian regeneration and future experiments are ongoing to elucidate the role of these extracts as well as assay additional plants. This research was supported in part by research funds to MSG (BMCC-CUNY) and STN (SHARP).

Investigating the variance of a PCA analogue for phylogenetic trees

Michael Pamatat, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Quantitative and qualitative assessment of underwater video annotations

Nikola Rodriguez, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Developingework for functional ecology to be used to predict extinction risk in Hawaiian forest birds

Ashley Romero, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

The Marine Option’s SeaSTARS

Julia M. Stewart, Roseanna Lee, Matthew Connelly, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

The Sea Surveying, Training, And Response Squad (SeaSTARS) is a group of trained undergraduate science divers in the University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s Marine Option Program (MOP). This survey team was conceived in response to the global mass coral bleaching event of 2015-2017. In Hilo Harbor, a reef that maintains sustenance fishing, more than half the corals surveyed in November and December 2015 had some level of bleaching. Surveys performed in October 2016 and March 2017 revealed a bleaching occurrence of less than 20% across all species. Sea temperature data from the Hilo Bay Water Quality Buoy showed a decrease in temperature in 2016-2017 in comparison to October-November 2015, when thermal stress was at the highest level. Since the fall of 2015, SeaSTARS has performed nearly 200 benthic and fish surveys in Hilo Bay and Honaunau, as well as surveys to assess sedimentation on the reef due to the 2016 dredging in Hilo Harbor. This group hosts surveying calibration events to maintain surveying accuracy, provides undergraduates with the opportunity to record water quality at the survey sites and to learn survey methods used by resource management agencies. The SeaSTARS has reached out to school groups and the Mokupapapa Discovery Center to educate the community and future ocean science leaders on current coral bleaching levels. SeaSTARS aims to inspire and provide tools for future science divers, to continue surveying Hilo’s reefs, and to share their findings with the community.

Investigating the effects of freshwater input on coral community composition and 3D structure at Honokoa, Hawai‘i

Jessica Talbot, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Investigation of phosphorus levels in Hawai'i island coastal waters and agricultural soil

Veronica White, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Friday, April 6th 2018

Keynote Speaker
Roxane Stewart, Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo

4th Session: 5min talks

Detection and impact of sewage pollution on a south Kohala coral reef

Devon Aguiar, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Puakō is considered to have some of the richest coral reefs in the state of Hawai'i. However, recent studies from the Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources and The Nature Conservancy estimate that prior to the 2015 bleaching event, coral cover at Puakō has decreased 35-40% in the last 30 years. Sewage pollution from nearby cesspools and other on-site sewage disposal systems may be contributing to declining coral cover. Fecal indicator bacteria (Enterococcus spp., Clostridium perfringens, human associated Bacteroides molecular marker) and stable isotope nitrate analyses (δ15N and δ18O-NO3- ) are being used to determine if sewage is present on Puakō's reefs. Benthic and coral health surveys are also being conducted to better understand how land-based inputs are affecting the benthic community. Our continued monitoring efforts will also include measurements of water motion and the creation of a benthic mixing model, to determine the sources and percent contributions of nitrate on the reef.

From the sky above to the dirt under your feet: Mapping biological soil crusts in the Pelekane bay watershed

Eszter Collier, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Biological soil crusts, also known as biocrusts, are assemblages of photosynthetic organisms that grow together in the top most layers of soil. These communities are often abundant in arid regions where water scarcity limits the growth of higher-order plants. Biocrusts are resilient to erosive forces and contribute significantly to soil stability, although they are easily damaged by mechanical compression (for example, by walking or from equipment placement). My project will analyze the relationship between biocrust presence and soil stability in the Pelekane Bay watershed, where erosion has caused significant damage to the landscape and to off-shore coral reef ecosystems. Biocrusts have been found in the Pelekane Bay watershed, but there is currently no information on their distribution or the extent of their soil-stabilizing abilities. I will use high-resolution, sUAS-derived data and perform image analysis techniques to map biocrusts across my study site, and then validate the detection methodology with field data. I will also collect soil stability field data and use statistical analyses to test the strength of the relationship between biocrusts and soil stability in this watershed. I am currently performing a pilot study to optimize the image collection methodology; in this presentation I will be sharing some preliminary results and discussing my further research plans.

Alalā 'Ohana: using genomic methods to estimate relatedness and its effects on fitness in the endangered Hawaiian Crow

Jeremy Schrader, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Inbreeding depression constitutes a challenging problem for conservation that is of particular concern for populations of small size, low genetic diversity, or both. Inbreeding often results in fitness decreases from increased homozygosity for rare deleterious alleles, a consequence of breeding between close relatives. Because inbreeding is especially likely to occur in small populations, its negative effects on fitness present a serious concern for the management of endangered species. The ʻalalā (Hawaiian Crow; Corvus hawaiiensis) is a federally and state-listed endangered species of cultural importance that is extinct in the wild, with fewer than 150 individuals in captivity. While the genetics of the ʻalalā have been explored for the effects of inbreeding depression on juvenile fitness, the fitness consequences in adulthood and in future generations remain unknown. By analyzing a panel of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using next-generation sequencing, we will generate a genome-based estimate of inbreeding that will improve our ability to accurately determine inbreeding coefficients over pedigree-based methods. This investigation will help to immediately improve ʻalalā husbandry by further minimizing inbreeding, and will more broadly illuminate the insidious effects of inbreeding accumulation across life history stages and generations, contributing to the long-term management goal of establishing a healthy population of ʻalalā in the wild.

Movement Diet and Survival of ʻŌmaʻo in the Kīpuka System

Bret Nainoa Mossman, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Avian frugivores have been shown to be important dispersers of plant seeds. Differences in movement patterns based on habitat size and bird age can influence the spread of seeds throughout an ecosystem. Fragmentation is another key pattern emerging in the world’s forested ecosystems in response to anthropogenic habitat loss, however, there is little information about how natural fragmentation impacts species movement. Understanding how age and fragmentation impact movement and diet of important seed dispersers is helpful for understanding how plant communities maintain connectivity on the landscape. ʻŌmaʻo (Myadestes obscurus) are the last native frugivore in the Hawaiian Islands that occur in large enough populations to have a functional influence on forest communities. ʻŌmaʻo are also known to be highly sedentary and do not often move over large distances, however, juvenile movement patterns have not been examined. This project will aid in the understanding of the life history traits that limit the ʻōmaʻo’s survival and create management information for planned translocation efforts. In addition, it will expand knowledge of juvenile avian dispersal patterns in fragmented ecosystems providing relevant data for the conservation of at risk species.

Evaluating the Seed Dispersal Efficacy of Hawaiʻi’s Last Functionally Extant Frugivore

Koa Matsuoka, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

On islands worldwide, mass avian extinctions related to anthropogenic activity have allowed smaller exotic generalist species to fill ecological niches left vacant by larger native specialist. Consequently, ensuring the survival of the ʻōmaʻo (Myadestes obscurus), Hawaiʻi's last functionally extant native frugivore, may be integral in preserving seed dispersal function and promoting the vigor of Hawaiian forests. In lieu of settling on introduced birds as proxies for native seed dispersers, recent management strategies by conservation agencies have proposed utilizing ʻōmaʻo reintroductions to refill empty niches left open by localized ʻōmaʻo extinctions. Previous studies suggests that ʻōmaʻo and other exotic frugivores vary in foraging patterns and may have different effects on seed dispersal. In light of this, this study will compare the degree to which non-native and native birds affect the recruitment success of Hawaiian fruiting plants in a fragmented forest landscape. To compare seed dispersal efficacy between native and introduced birds, seeds will be collected from seed rain traps and fecal samples of ʻōmaʻo and Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus) to answer the following questions: 1. How do ʻōmaʻo and Japanese White-eye differentially affect seed germination rates? 2. How does the microhabitat that seeds land in affect germination success? The results from this study may substantiate the use of 'ōmaʻo reintroductions as a strategy to increase the ʻōmaʻo range while simultaneously promoting the regeneration of native Hawaiian fruiting plants. Moreover, the results may give insight into how the native plant community composition will change if ʻōmaʻo are extirpated and replaced by non-native frugivores.

Developing an underdominant gene drive in Culex quinquefasciatus

Jared Nishimoto, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Since its initial introduction to Hawaii, avian malaria has decimated native Hawaiian forest bird populations. The main vector for avian malaria, the mosquito species Culex quinquefasciatus, continues to threaten the native birds and will become an even larger threat with global warming expanding the range in which both the vector and disease can develop. We propose to develop an underdominant gene drive system in C. quinquefasciatus to transform wild mosquito populations to carry an avian malaria refractory gene in order to mitigate the decline of native Hawaiian birds. An underdominant gene drive has safety measures in that the spread of the transgene is resistant to migration and the transgene can be removed from the population. In this study we aim to develop the first step in creating an underdominant gene drive system which is to integrate and express the phiC31 integrase construct in C. quinquefasciatus. We will microinject the phiC31 integrase plasmid into wildtype C. quinquefasciatus and rear viable transgenic individuals to create a colony that is homozygous for the synthetic gene. Once we show success in this first step, we will finish the underdominant gene drive construct by adding the construct that engineers the underdominance and adding an avian malaria refractory gene. Successful integration and expression of the underdominant gene drive in C. quinquefasicatus will open up many different possibilities to control wild mosquito populations, whether it is to control for animal or human diseases.

5th Session: 15 min talks

Understanding relationships of primary productiong three Hawaiian fishponds at Honohononui and Waiuli, Hawaii

Kamala Anthony, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Along the coastlines of the main Hawaiian Islands, there is a valuable and critical resource known for its brackish water habitat – lokoi’a. They are dynamic systems dependent on the balance between fresh groundwater inputs from uka (uplands) and landward flow of kai (seawater), which all vary depending on the behavior of our climate, including rainfall, tides, and storms. This nutrient rich groundwater meeting the seawater at the coast allows for an abundant growth of limu or primary productivity attracting many of Hawaii’s favorable native brackishwater and herbivorous species. Having an intimate relationship with this natural coastal nursery, Hawaiians effectively modified these coastal habitats into lokoi’a (Hawaiian Fishponds) to provide a sustainable food source for the communities in which they reside. Honohononui to Waiuli, located in the Ahupuaʻa of Waiākea on the east side of Moku o Keawe (Hawaiʻi Island) is a stretch of coastline that encompasses many historic lokoi’a. Amongst them all are three lokoiʻa that are currently undergoing restoration to create invaluable estuarine habitats. To maximize the productivity of lokoi’a today, and plan for the future, lokoi’a communities would greatly benefit from methodologies to quantify the variability of environmental changes through time and specific impacts of climate phenomena, changes in rainfall and sea level. These factors have the potential to interfere with primary productivity and alter lokoi’a systems interactions entirely. This study will focus particularly on the abundance of primary productivity within different salinity regions of each lokoiʻa. The objective is to provide lokoiʻa practitioners with a baseline analysis of the relationship between primary productivity and salinity in lokoiʻa ecosystems of Honohononui and Waiuli. In collaboration between lokoiʻa practitioners, coastal resource managers, Waiākea Ahupuaʻa community members, and University of Hawaiʻi scientists, the objective of this project is to better understand and quantify the interactions of primary productivity within lokoi’a throughout various environmental changes over time.

Coral immunity: characterization and phylogenetic analysis of Toll-like receptor genes in Montipora capitata

Julia M. Stewart, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student (Co-authors: Martin pf & Misaki Takabayashi, UH Hilo Faculty)

Coral reefs are diverse, highly productive ecosystems that provide wave action dissipation, support sustenance fisheries, economies and cultures across the globe. The reef-building corals, driven by millions of years of evolution, hold keys in their genetic constitution to their past success and future resilience. The innate immune response of scleractinians has been the primary mechanism of resistance against microbe-induced disease by initiating defense pathways, beginning with Toll-like receptors (TLRs). Different trans-membrane TLRs recognize the peptidoglycan layer of Gram-positive bacteria, foreign lipoproteins, and the lipopolysaccharide membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. This study focuses on the TLRs present in the genome and transcriptome of the Brown Rice Coral, Montipora capitata, a dominant reef-builder around Hawai‘i. The results of the genomic comparison revealed the presence TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, TLR6 in M.capitata, similar to the receptors found in the two branching species, Acropora digitifera, and Stylophora pistillata. In the transcriptome of health and Growth Anomaly-afflicted M. capitata colonies, only TLR1, TLR2, and TLR6 were present. Continued analysis will fill the gap in knowledge of the innate immune response capacity, and the role microbes may play in coral health and resilience.

Spatial distribution and sources of land-based nutrients at coral reefs in South Kohala

Jazmine Panelo, UH Hilo Technician

Forensic Files: DNA sequencing of Ruppia maritima in Hawai‘i

Brandie Colwell, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Ruppia maritima, commonly known as wigeongrass, is one of the few native Hawaiian brackish water flowering plants. Ruppia provides habitat, shelter, and nesting material for native Hawaiian arthropods, mollusks, fish, and waterfowl. This indigenous seagrass also has a role in sediment stabilization, organic material generation, nutrient recycling, and habitat rehabilitation. Morphological variability of R. maritima may be related to its tolerance to a wide range of shoreline habitats from fresh to subsaline water at sea level to 10m elevation, including fishponds.Three separate populations were sampled on Hawaiʻi Island, genetically sequenced, and compared to determine genetic variability among populations within Hawaiʻi and worldwide.

6th Session:15 min talks

Genetic variation, population structure, and morphology of an endemic bat, Lasiurus cinereus semotus (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) across the Hawaiian Islands

Corinna Anne Pinzari, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate

Describing 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) 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 evidence of past bottleneck events. I also conducted genetic sex determination tests on bat samples from both live and desiccated specimens as well as examined morphological characteristics of bat skull and wing size. This study contributes significant demographic material, and the banking of diverse DNA samples for future conservation genomics research, to support management and recovery of an endangered species. Results from this research are informative to state and federal agencies tasked with balancing the demands of sustainable wind generated energy and wildlife conservation in Hawaii.

Ecological selectivity of extinction risk in terrestrial vertebrates

Maya Munstermann, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Current rates of species loss exceed background intervals and estimates from the fossil record meet or exceed those of the "big five" mass extinction rates. Ecological trait characteristics can predict extinction risk of a species and estimate which types of species are in decline. Extinction selectivity is the categorization of traits that organisms possess paired with the likelihood of extinction. All terrestrial vertebrates from the modern with a total of 34,093 species (10,550 birds; 10,499 reptiles; 7,628 amphibians; 5,416 mammals) will be assessed. Each species will be assigned to an ecological mode of life, defined by the combination of the habitat tier, motility, and feeding mode it occupies-all of which will be acquired by evaluating the published literature on the respective species. These ecological modes of life, at a basic level, describe the species' functional ecology. With conservation status assessments for each species classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, extinction risk will be matched with ecological modes of life. While previous studies have explored extinction selectivity in the modern; my thesis is novel because the basic ecology of clades at the species level has never undergone a systematic evaluation for all terrestrial vertebrates. The main question of this proposal is: can an association be made between ecological modes and risk of extinction? This type of global analysis of extinction selectivity is important in understanding the types of species that are most at risk and guiding management plans that require the prioritization of species.

Automating weed detection from sUAS-derived imagery with machine learning, using convolutional neural networks

Rebekah Loving, UH Hilo Undergraduate Student

Resources for the control and eradication of weeds are limited, while current detection and removal efforts are expensive. To increase the effectiveness of available resources, we have designed and implemented a prototype automated weed detection software system for use with sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial System)-derived imagery. sUAS platforms can produce fine resolution imagery adequate to detect invasive plants, but current approaches require hours of manual classification and processing. We have developed two key technologies to help solve the difficulties faced by weed detection efforts. For the first component, we developed a convolutional neural network for detecting weeds of interest within imagery. Creating the convolutional neural network requires manually building a database of classified segments of images which contain the different weeds of interest. The second component is an algorithm which calculates the GPS coordinates of the identified plants. A land manager now only needs to load the imagery from a sUAS onto a computer and select the weeds of interest. The output is the location of the target weeds within each image. Our training set currently includes 376 images of Miconia calvescens from a variety of locations and altitudes. This training set can be expanded to include other species of interest. Our classification specificity and sensitivity for miconia are currently 88% and 83%, respectively. Hundreds of sUAS images can now be processed in under an hour, generating a display highlighting weeds of interest and a text file of plant coordinates.

Quantifying shoreline change at three unique coastal geomorphologies on Hawai‘i Island

Rose Hart, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Hawai‘i Island, bounded by nearly 430 km of diverse and dynamic coastline under various levels of zoning and development, has never had a comprehensive assessment of coastal vulnerabilities or any systematic monitoring of long-term shoreline change rates to enforce sustainable coastal development. Consequently, Hawai‘i Island’s coastal communities are in a weak position for adapting to the potential impacts of sea-level rise (SLR), coastal erosion, and subsidence. To better predict and manage coastal vulnerabilities, this project quantifies shoreline change rates from the present and recent past for three different geomorphic coastal settings on Hawai‘i Island. We use shoreline records from historic aerial photographs and three-dimensional datasets systematically collected from small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) and other survey platforms, to quantify shoreline change at a calcareous beach (Hāpuna State Beach Park), a sea cliff (Honoli‘i Beach Park), and subsiding coastal lava field (Kapoho Tide Pools). These data are merged with SLR and subsidence projections using GIS to estimate and visualize impacts at our three sites. Results from this study can provide insights to the chronic, seasonal, and episodic coastal processes that threaten adjacent communities and resources along Hawai‘i Island’s coast and help Hawaiʻi County planners develop necessary adaptations to coastal management strategies.

Mechanisms of the possible host shift of Teleonemia scrupulosa between Lantana and Myoporum stellatum

Dominique Zarders, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Teleonemia scrupulosa _(Lantana lace bug) was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1902 as a biological control agent for the invasive plant, _Lantana camara. Understanding the causes of non-target attacks by biocontrol agents is essential for improving the predictive power of host-specificity testing for insects. This project focuses on investigating the rare case of a non-target attack of T. scrupulosa on Hawaiʻi native Myoporum stellatum through 1) understanding feeding preferences through insect-plant host bioassays and 2) population genetics to investigate possible intraspecific genetic variation within T. scrupulosa populations that may be associated with feeding preference of different plant species. This knowledge may aid in the determination of a possible host shift of T. scrupulosa in Hawaiʻi due to possible co-adaptive traits developed after being introduced or if there was genetic variation allowing certain T. scrupulosa populations to utilize other plants species.

Further investigation into the dendrochronological potential of Sophora chrysophylla on Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i

Shea Uehana, UH Hilo TCBES Graduate Student

Located in the central Pacific, the Hawaiian Islands provide researchers with an excellent opportunity to extract useful paleoclimatic data from one of the most reliable terrestrial proxies: tree rings. Previous studies suggest that mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) from the subalpine woodlands in Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaiʻi Island form annual rings and that growth is limited by rainfall, making this species a candidate for use in dendroclimatology. Our aim in this study was to i) create an independent mamane chronology from a new site that extends farther back in time, and ii) investigate the growth-climate relationship of mamane at this new site. We collected additional mamane samples from a site on the western flank of Mauna Kea and used classical dendrochronological techniques to construct a 182-yr long chronology spanning the years 1827-2012. Correlations between climatic variables such as monthly rainfall and temperature yielded unclear results, suggesting that further investigation using different methodology may be required to model past climate on Hawaiʻi Island.