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Tag: Research

Chancellor’s Message: UH Hilo, a leader in environmental conservation on Hawai‘i Island

We are preparing students for careers in conservation, a new growth sector in Hawai‘i’s economy.

By Don Straney.

One of the top responsibilities of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is to provide stewardship for the natural and cultural environment. Our campus emphasizes respect for the ‘āina, or land, and we work in partnership with the local community and government agencies to study, protect, preserve and sustain the unique natural and cultural environment of Hawai‘i Island.

We approach this work on many fronts. We provide our students myriad opportunities to create careers in conservation. Our researchers are studying the island’s flora and fauna resulting in groundbreaking findings with potential to save vulnerable species from extinction.

Hawai‘i and the Pacific islands are at the leading edge of conservation challenges because of the highly unique endemic species, with the many threats to the species and environments from invasive species, diseases and habitat change, and now with the increasing climate changes.

Let me share with you some of the things we’ve done recently to meet these challenges.

Internships

PIPES
PIPES cohort. Click to enlarge.

The Pacific Internship Program for Exploring Science immerses students in applied learning internships for 10 weeks each summer, where the students’ work can immediately impact and help solve emerging problems. The program’s 24th annual Student Symposium was held in August, where 42 students presented their projects ranging from monitoring erosion on Maunakea to engaging the community in little fire ant control.

Pacific Climate Boot Camp

UH Hilo hosted the first Climate Change Boot Camp in August. The event showcased recent collaborative research efforts driven by local natural resource managers across Hawaiʻi Island in a new program entitled the UH Hilo Manager Climate Corps. Local managers have teamed up with UH Hilo faculty across a diversity of disciplines to address complex needs resulting from climate change and other natural resource challenges. The goal is to support communities as they tackle climate change, invasive species, land-use, and culture.

World Conservation Congress

Becky
UH Hilo Professor of Biology Becky Ostertag attended the World Conservation Congress and gave a presentation at the Species Pavilion. Photo by Katia Chikasuye, click to enlarge.

UH Hilo participated in the 2016 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress held last month in Honolulu. Held every four years, this conference brings together scientists and experts, policy makers, educators, politicians, non-governmental organizations, business interests, and community organizations from around the world to discuss conservation issues.

This was the first time this prestigious congress was held in the U.S., and UH Hilo played an important role highlighting our island as a model in environmental and cultural conservation. In addition to UH Hilo being a member of the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance—a group that was a driving force behind getting the IUCN to the U.S. and Hawai‘i and was involved with planning the event—UH Hilo researchers and students were engaged in many different activities across the diverse event.

Marty presents her research, standing with group listening.
UH Hilo researcher Marty Kawasaki (at right in floral dress) presents her work at the World Conservation Congress. Courtesy photo. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from the UH Hilo Hawai‘i Cooperative Studies Unit presented studies on the impacts of climate change in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, waterbird studies, and digital storymap techniques. Much of this work was done collaboratively with the USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center, located at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and the USGS Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, located at UH Hilo.

Partnerships such as these can be fast, responsive and have become a well-respected and trusted source of information by conservation managers. Findings from one collaborative study resulted in a resolution at the IUCN calling for the conservation of one of Hawai‘i’s highly endangered birds, the ‘i‘iwi.

Many of our faculty and students also attended the World Conservation Congress.

A biology professor and researcher presented a talk on a computer program developed in collaboration with UH Hilo computer science students. The project is entitled Restoring Ecosystems Services Tool (REST) and uses principal component analysis graphs to identify plants that are functionally similar to one another for the purposes of ecosystem restoration. (The students presented their project last year at the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in California.)

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Students and faculty from the Kūʻula Integrated Science Program performed at the IUCN Marine World Heritage Reception. Click to enlarge.

And students and faculty from our Kūʻula Integrated Science Program performed at the IUCN Marine World Heritage Reception. The Kūʻula students presented two chants and hula describing human relationships with the ocean and coral reefs.

Graduate Program

A core program in our efforts to meet the conservation challenges of our island is our Tropical Conservation Biology and Environment Science graduate program, now in its 12th year with 143 graduates to date. We are proud of our graduates, entering doctoral programs or going straight to work on local wildlife management, watershed projects, fisheries, integrated pest management and more, contributing greatly to conservation measures throughout our island and state.

We are preparing students for careers in conservation, a new growth sector in Hawai‘i’s economy. Having local people engaged in solving the problems of our precious local environment is vital to success.

Aloha,

Don Straney

Chancellor’s Message: UH Hilo’s role in the UH System

UH Hilo should be a responsible steward for this unique place—the people, the land, the culture—that is a role to which we can aspire.

By Don Straney.

Hilo sealWhat makes each campus in the University of Hawai‘i System unique? How can we work together to efficiently serve the people of Hawaiʻi? How are we each expanding access to higher education for the people of our state and region?

I’d like to share some thoughts on the UH Hilo’s unique role in the UH System.

Teaching and research

First and foremost, UH Hilo is focused on our students and their learning. In everything we do—not just in the classroom, but in our research and community outreach, too—our students are front and center, participating, engaging, gaining real-life experiences, working on real-life problems, contributing solutions to our communities. Everything we do is woven into the learning experiences of our students.

Within this context, UH Hilo attracts a diverse array of learners: undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, lifelong learners, recent high school graduates, first generation local students, returning students, professionals reinventing themselves, international students. We are a rich resource for all with our expert faculty and dedicated staff at-the-ready to engage, teach, research, share, help.

Everyone is welcome to come learn with us.

Further, we are a campus where faculty conduct place-based, applied research of benefit to the people of Hawai‘i Island and the state. For example, faculty do research on indigenous languages that helps promote the revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture. Environmental scientists are studying ways to mitigate climate change. Marine scientists are researching coastal pollution and the effects of recent major storm surge.

Diversity

UH Hilo seeks to better reflect Hawai‘i, its people, history, cultures, and natural environment in all that it does. As a member of the UH System, we embrace our responsibility to serve the indigenous people of Hawai‘i and to support Hawai‘i’s indigenous language and culture.

We are integrating the Hawaiian experience into many of the ways in which we teach, conduct research, and do outreach to the community. For example, cultural practitioners at our Uluākea program teach faculty in various academic disciplines an authentic and practical understanding of indigenous ways of knowing the world.

UH Hilo also is the most ethnically diverse four-year public campus in the country, according to a recent ranking. This creates a beautiful global community on campus and prepares our students well for an increasingly global society.

This place-based yet global campus community is of great benefit not only to the students from our island and state, but also to students from elsewhere, most notably the Pacific region. Students who hail from elsewhere in the Pacific are responding well to our invitation to come study with us. Pacific islanders can learn while immersed in our island community, and then return to their homelands highly skilled in their chosen field, ready to teach, start nonprofits, address health care, protect the environment and more.

In addition to ethnic and cultural diversity, Hawai‘i Island itself is one of the most geographically diverse places in the world. The land, sea and sky create an environment unsurpassed for exploration and inquiry, foundation blocks of learning.

With the combined ethnic, cultural and environmental diversity of our campus and island, we promise our students and our researchers a location that no other campus in the UH System can.

Stewardship

I believe UH Hilo should be a responsible steward for this unique place—the people, the land, the culture—that is a role to which we can aspire. We offer and expand access to higher education to the people of our island and region, we do applied research that is of benefit to the people and the place, and we reach out to strengthen communities where they need it most (think health care, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy).

We are a university where students are challenged to do their very best work, inspired to think critically about topical issues and to discover practical solutions, and nurtured to find meaning in their lives through community connection and response.

This is what we aim to be within the UH System. It’s a role I know we all take to heart and I look forward to working with you on ways to grow and strengthen UH Hilo in the new year ahead.

Happy holidays to you and yours,

Don Straney

Chancellor’s Message: Finding balance on Maunakea

University leadership looks forward to working with all stakeholders to address Gov. Ige’s Maunakea plan.

By Don Straney

Hilo sealAs I write this in late May, Gov. David Ige has just held a press conference where he outlined his position on the Thirty Meter Telescope and the University of Hawai‘i’s management of the Maunakea Science Reserve. In addition to supporting TMT proceeding with construction, he stressed the need for UH to do a better job in its stewardship of the mountain.

We at UH take the governor’s challenge to heart and we fully acknowledge that we need to do more. UH will be releasing a formal response to the governor’s requests, but as I write this on the day of the press conference, I can say without hesitation that we will work toward making the governor’s requests happen.

Among other actions, UH will move toward strengthening our commitment to the Decommissioning Plan for the Maunakea Observatories. The decommissioning plan, approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2010, states there will be no new development of observatories on undisturbed land following TMT and that any new development can only take place on an existing site. The plan also describes the future of astronomy over the next 15 years and anticipates fewer telescopes. We will now move forward to implement the decommissioning process and formalize our legally binding commitment to no new sites within the governor’s timeline.

We also will restart from the beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process for UH’s pending lease renewal request, including full consideration of a shorter term for the new lease as the governor has requested. Further, we will immediately begin work with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to satisfy the governor’s request that we return to their jurisdiction all lands not specifically needed for astronomical research.

In addition to implementing the governor’s requests, UH will strengthen its stewardship of the mountain, including public access, cultural resources, and natural resources protection, by building on our existing programs that promote safety and educate visitors about the special nature of Maunakea.

For example, Maunakea Rangers monitor daily activity on the summit, watch for unsafe or inappropriate activities, and respond to emergencies. Rangers are on duty 365 days a year interacting with all visitors — local residents, cultural practitioners, observatory personnel, about 300,000 each year — offering health and safety warnings and answering questions regarding the cultural, scientific, and natural resources of Maunakea. Together with the Visitor Information Station, we will expand our efforts to provide information on the cultural significance and natural environment of Maunakea, as well as the science conducted there.

We also will continue our stewardship of cultural and natural resources. This includes regular monitoring of cultural sites, including shrines, ahu, and burials, identified in the extensive archaeological inventory survey done for the Maunakea Science Reserve. Through this survey, we discovered six of the sites are located in the 525-acre Astronomy Precinct and none of these include burials.

We will continue monitoring plant life identified in the botanical survey of the road corridor, the Halepōhaku mid-level facilities, and the summit. In addition, regular surveys are conducted for the presence of invasive species, in particular ants. Our five-year study of the wēkiu bug, a species found only in the summit region of Maunakea and a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, is an example of detailed work UH can do as a steward of the resources on Maunakea.

The governor made a very important point in his remarks about the need to find balance in the way we treat the mountain. I share Gov. Ige’s belief that “the activities of Native Hawaiians, and of our scientists, to seek knowledge and to explore our relationship with our cosmos and its creation can and should co-exist on the mountain.” I look forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.

Aloha,

Don Straney

Fee waivers for grant workshop

Requests for fee waivers are now being accepted for the February class on Advanced Grant Writing.

Hilo sealThe College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) has reserved complimentary seats exclusively for University of Hawai‘i at Hilo faculty and staff as part of the college’s Spring Professional Development workshops.

As part of the initiative to address the UH Hilo Strategic Plan Goals 2, 5, and 6, the college has been granted funds from the Chancellor’s Professional Development Fund to service the university and promote collaboration.

Requests for fee waivers are now being accepted for the February class on Advanced Grant Writing. The class is scheduled for Feb. 21st, Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., to be held at 81-964 Halekii Street, Kealakekua, HI 96750 Building 5, Classroom 5C.

In this course, experienced grant writer, Jeani Navarro, will show how to research and write winning proposals that get funded.

Participants will:

  • Gain a more in-depth understanding of the criteria funders use to determine whether a grant proposal is funded or rejected.
  • Discover a number of finishing touches to give project the edge over others.
  • Become proficient in the proposal format used by the vast majority of public foundations.
  • Discover the quickest and most efficient ways to gather the information needed to develop a proposal’s attachments, including information on the organization’s structure, administration, and finances.

All interested individuals will need to complete and submit the information below for review by Monday, Feb. 9, 2015. Responses should be emailed to program coordinator, Luisa Castro, at luisac@hawaii.edu.

Include:

  • Name
  • Unit or department
  • Brief paragraph stating how attending the workshop will benefit the grant writer and unit.

Notification of the committee’s decision will be sent to applicant by Friday, Feb. 13.

Contact info

For more information contact Luisa Castro at 808-974-7664.

Chancellor’s Message: Modernizing UH Hilo facilities for the 21st century

Students, faculty and staff need and deserve well-maintained and up-to-date facilities that support modern teaching, learning, innovation and scholarship.

By Don Straney

Rendering of lab space in the future facilities of the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo.
Rendering of lab space in the future facilities of the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is committed to providing our students and faculty with the labs and equipment needed to move our island and state into the future. Last month, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the new home for the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy. This building establishes the pharmacy college as an integral part of the state of Hawaiʻi and is symbolic of the direction UH Hilo is going.

The $33 million, 35,000-square foot pharmacy building is an example of the progress the UH System is making with its 21st Century Facilities initiative to modernize facilities and campus environments across the state to be safe, sustainable and supportive of modern practices in teaching, learning and research.

Facilities and campus environments must support 21st century higher education expectations and practices. Students, faculty and staff need and deserve well-maintained and up-to-date facilities that support modern teaching, learning, innovation and scholarship.

We need to be sure our students are learning in the same type of modern environments in which they will be working. The university’s facilities must be fully digitally enabled, flexible in use, and be efficient with energy, water and waste.

Our labs, offices, and equipment must be able to support cutting edge research. New facilities like the upcoming pharmacy building open up possibilities for our students and faculty. The ability to do more pharmacy research will have a great impact on the state. Students will be ready to step into the health care jobs of the future because they will know what it’s like to work in a modern lab.

Moving our university fully into the 21st century also requires us to be supportive of deep collaborations with partners across the state, nation and the world.

For example, UH is currently updating the teaching telescopes on Maunakea to improve key facilities for training undergraduate and graduate students in astronomy.

In a historic collaboration, UH Mānoa, though the Institute for Astronomy, and UH Hilo, through our Department of Physics and Astronomy, are combining efforts to modernize the UH 2.2m and the UH Hilo Hoku Ke‘a observatories on Maunakea. These projects are state supported through capital improvement project funds and will result in stronger astronomy programs for both institutions.

In addition, having modernized equipment and labs means we can respond better to the needs of our community.

For example, when disaster strikes such as Tropical Storm Iselle, marine science researchers can respond better, do their analysis faster, and help a community in need more efficiently. The same goes for the UH Hilo geologists and geographers currently providing critical information about the Puna lava flow to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense.

The UH 21st Century Facilities initiative focuses on providing critical infrastructure for the university system. UH Hilo is committed to the task. It’s what a good university can and should do for its community, state and region.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Aloha,

Don Straney

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