Apr 212017

The genetic research helps answer many conservation management questions, an important component to making the best decisions possible based on good information.

Jolene Sutton

Jolene Sutton

Jolene Sutton is an assistant professor in the biology department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Her research interests are in evolutionary genetics, population genetics, conservation biology, immunology, and genetic engineering. She received her master of science in biology from Acadia University, Canada, and her doctor of philosophy in zoology from the University of Otago, New Zealand. She did her postdoctoral research in the biology department at UH Mānoa from 2013-2015. She joined UH Hilo in January 2016.

Currently Sutton is doing two different research projects in her lab focused on improving conservation efforts of native Hawaiian birds.

“Together with our collaborators, our group has identified that two areas that we believe are important for protecting Hawaiian birds: 1) understanding the genetics of rare species, and 2) reducing the spread of the diseases that are causing their decline,” Sutton says.


One of the lab’s projects works directly with the ‘alalā, or the Hawaiian crow.

“We use conservation genomics to help the recovery of one of Hawaii’s rarest endemic birds, the ‘alalā,” Sutton says.

The ‘alalā has been extinct in the wild since 2002 and currently has a very small population at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center in Volcano. Without conservation efforts other Hawaiian bird populations will easily decrease dramatically over the years and eventually become extinct as well.

“We are determining how much genetic diversity the [‘alalā] species had historically compared to what it has now that it is extinct in the wild,” says Sutton. “We are also collecting genomic information to obtain accurate estimates of relatedness among individuals in the current population. These kinds of data will help us make management recommendations, such as choosing which birds to pair in breeding facilities to try to have the healthiest offspring, and choosing the most suitable individuals to release back into the wild.”


The second project done by Sutton’s lab affects mosquitoes and therefore also indirectly affects the native Hawaiian birds.

“We are developing techniques to control mosquitoes, and the diseases they spread to birds,” Sutton says.

Mosquitoes are not native to Hawai‘i. Since they were introduced in 1826, mosquitoes have killed off many native bird populations by carrying diseases such as avian malaria and avian pox. Native birds are especially susceptible to these diseases because of their limited exposure after living in isolation on the Hawaiian islands for hundreds of years.

To prevent further destruction of the native bird population, Sutton’s lab is making it harder for southern house mosquitoes (Culex quinquefasciatus) to reproduce by using what she calls a “technique like birth control for mosquitoes.” This technique has been successful in other places and uses a type of bacteria, called Wolbachia, which naturally occurs in many insect species.

“First we use an antibiotic to clear the bacteria from lab-reared southern house mosquitoes, and then we give our mosquitoes a different strain of Wolbachia that we isolate from another species of insect,” Sutton explains. “When male mosquitoes carrying one strain of Wolbachia mate with females that have a different strain, they can’t reproduce normally.”

If there is less offspring then there are no more mosquitoes to carry on the avian malaria and avian pox.

The Wolbachia work is a collaboration between Sutton at UH Hilo and Associate Professor Floyd Reed at UH Mānoa. The researchers recently received financial support from the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources for the project.

Lab team and collaboration

Sutton doesn’t do all this work on her own. She has students at many levels helping her, including undergraduate and graduate students. From isolating DNA, analyzing data, running experiments and maintaining mosquito colonies, students perform many different tasks.

“Recently, our hard-working team reached a significant milestone by clearing the Wolbachia from some mosquito colonies in the lab.” she says. “We are now preparing to introduce a different strain to these particular mosquitoes.”

Both projects have also had a lot of help from various organizations such as UH Mānoa, Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

“These projects are collaborations with several local, national, and international partners,” Sutton says.

“The types of research we do can help answer many conservation management questions, and it is important to make the best decisions possible based on good information,” Sutton says.

Conservation work is important because without it many more species of birds could be lost forever. However, Sutton is optimistic.

“[Conservation genetics] is an incredibly exciting and fascinating field to be in, as it uses cutting edge technologies to help protect threatened species around the world,” Sutton explains. “One day our mosquito research could potentially be adapted to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne human diseases as well.”

Sutton’s own message to students is this: “UH Hilo is ideally situated for the types of research that our lab focuses on, and there are many research opportunities for students within the university, right here on Hawai‘i Island. Time spent at UH Hilo is a great opportunity to find something that you are passionate about.”


-Story by Alyssa Grace, first published in Ke Kalahea, the UH Hilo student paper, reprinted with permission. Minor edits have been made to the original piece with the researcher’s input to add information and for clarification.

 Posted by on April 21, 2017  Tagged with:
Apr 262016

Assistant Professor Tao’s ultimate goal is to find an effective way to cure cancer.

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Li Tao. Photos by Claudia Hagan, click to enlarge.

Li Tao is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He is a biochemist and a cell biologist with expertise in using a combination of in vitro biochemistry and in vivo cell biology to understand the regulation of cell division, thus providing insights into the fundamental mechanism to control the growth of cancer cells.

He received his doctor of philosophy in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California at Davis, and his master of science in physiology from Nanjing University. He arrived at UH Hilo in 2014. For full bio, see Li Tao on LinkedIn.

“Understanding the mechanism of cell division and its control is the key to find cures for cancer,” Tao explains. “Cells use kinesins, a subfamily of mitotic motors, to drive cell division. My research is primarily centered on various kinesins and explores how these motors regulate cell division. By developing conditions to stably express full-length kinesin motor proteins, we explore the mechanisms driving the formation and functioning of the mitotic spindle.”

Cytokinesis is the final stage of cell division, hence, says Tao, it is the last chance for the cell to perform “quality control.” Any mistakes that escape from cytokinesis will cause severe human diseases including cancer. Recently, Tao found that a key motor protein for cytokinesis, kinesin-6, is regulated by Rho-family protein RacGAP.

“Originally, the widely accepted concept in the field is that all kinesins can move along microtubules by themselves,” he says. “However, we found that kinesin-6 alone is not active, meaning it cannot move on microtubules. Kinesin-6 has to bind to another protein RacGAP to activate its function. This finding provides a novel mechanism on the regulation of cytokinesis.”

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Tao’s team uses molecular cloning to engineer new kinesin constructs.

The results were published as a research article in Nature Communications (April 19, 2016) with Tao as both lead author and corresponding author: Tum/RacGAP functions as a switch activating the Pav/kinesin-6 motor.

Currently, Tao and his research team are continuing their study on kinesin-6 and other motor proteins.

“We want to perform structural analysis on these kinesins and identify the potential molecular targets for anti-cancer drugs,” he says.

The team also plans to use purified kinesin proteins to reconstitute mitosis. Tao says this system, once established, will be a breakthrough to the field and open new avenues for the study of cell division.

Two students,  Gin Tezuka and Luke Kupcha, are working with Tao on these projects.

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Professor Tao stands next to his student research assistants (l-r) Gin Tezuka and Luke Kupcha.

According to the National Cancer Institution, there will be more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2016, and the national cost of cancer care could reach $156 billion in 2020. Finding cures for cancer is in the national interest and is urgently needed to relieve human suffering and reduce economic costs.

Tao says his research into the mechanisms of cell division will provide clues for cancer treatment.

“Abnormal cell division causes cancer,” he explains. “Understanding the mechanism of cell division and its control has thus become a key to find cures for cancer. My study is directly related to the regulation of cell division.”

Tao’s ultimate goal is to have a greater understanding of how mitotic motors regulate cell division, and to find an effective way to cure cancer.

“In my opinion, solving problems on cell division should be teamwork with experts from various fields,” he says.

Currently, he is collaborating with Professor William Sullivan at University of California, Santa Cruz, to explore the mechanism of cytokinesis. He also is seeking collaborations with structural biologists, biophysicists and mathematicians to characterize the kinesin motor’s structures and function.



 Posted by on April 26, 2016  Tagged with:
Oct 302015

Associate Professor Okuyama also is working with a group of UH Hilo computer science majors to develop a mobile-based, prototype application for Japanese language learning games.


Yoshiko Okuyama

Yoshiko Okuyama is an associate professor of Japanese at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Her areas of expertise are Japanese mythology, folklore and religion, as well as semiotics, second language acquisition, deaf studies, and technology-mediated communication.

Okuyama received her master of arts in teaching English as a second language and her doctor of philosophy in second language acquisition from the University of Arizona.

Her recent book, Japanese Mythology in Film (2015, Lexington Books), is a significant contribution to the literature on Japanese mythology. Synopsis:


A cyborg detective hunts for a malfunctioning sex doll that turns itself into a killing machine. A Heian-era Taoist slays evil spirits with magic spells from yin-yang philosophy. A young mortician carefully prepares bodies for their journey to the afterlife. A teenage girl drinks a cup of life-giving sake, not knowing its irreversible transformative power. These are scenes from the visually enticing, spiritually eclectic media of Japanese movies and anime.

The narratives of courageous heroes and heroines and the myths and legends of deities and their abodes are not just recurring motifs of the cinematic fantasy world. They are pop culture’s representations of sacred subtexts in Japan. Japanese Mythology in Film takes a semiotic approach to uncovering such religious and folkloric tropes and subtexts embedded in popular Japanese movies and anime.

Part I introduces film semiotics with plain definitions of terminology. Through familiar cinematic examples, it emphasizes the myth-making nature of modern-day film and argues that semiotics can be used as a theoretical tool for reading film.

Part II presents case studies of eight popular Japanese films as models of semiotic analysis. While discussing each film’s use of common mythological motifs such as death and rebirth, its case study also unveils more covert cultural signifiers and folktale motifs, including jizo (a savior of sentient beings) and kori (bewitching foxes and raccoon dogs), hidden in the Japanese filmic text.

Okuyama also conducts research on deaf adolescents’ texting. She has published a series of papers on the topic.

Currently, she is working with a group of UH Hilo computer science majors to develop a mobile-based, prototype application for Japanese language learning games.

“My immediate goals are to publish my next book and also obtain a federal grant to bring research experience to UH Hilo students, especially those in the humanities,” she says.


Oct 142015

Associate Professor Marusek specializes in legal geography, legal semiotics, and constitutive legal theory within the disciplinary field of public law.

Sarah in her office.

Sarah Marusek

Sarah Marusek is an associate professor of political science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She specializes in legal geography, legal semiotics, and constitutive legal theory within the disciplinary field of public law (a subfield within political science) and the interdisciplinary field of law and society.

“In my work, I explore the places, spaces, and images found in everyday life that illustrate, characterize, and challenge law and normative understandings of legality,” says Marusek.

“Through a jurisprudential lens, ordinary, even banal, cultural happenings are enlivened as legal phenomenon,” she explains. “This constitutive relationship between law, politics, and culture exemplifies the intersections between governance, order, and resistance that we inhabit and occupy on a daily basis. I believe that the study of law in public life contributes to the larger scope of jurisprudential inquiry about power and empowerment.”

Marusek’s work celebrates the uniqueness of Hawai‘i’s legal semiotics, legal geography, and jurisprudential complexities within her areas of interdisciplinary and international scholarship.

“I am intrigued by the legality of such local phenomena as sovereignty license plates, Hawaiian language heard in airports and seen on Waikiki sidewalks, quarters with images of King Kamehameha, and of course, flowing lava,” she says.

“I believe that the academic study of one’s immediate setting broadens an inquiry’s audience and relevancy,” she says. “My hope in researching everyday, ordinary banality is to show that intellectual creativity through academic inquiry can help us to reconsider what we think we already know about what law, governance, and order.”

In several of her past and present projects, she collaborates with fellow researchers at UH Hilo on Hawai‘i-related projects involving diverse topics from coqui frogs to cuisine, where she explored the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and culture of food.

While exploring the topic of food, she was surprised to discover that expiration dates on most perishable foods are not a legal requirement, but instead are added at the discretion of the manufacturer.

“Like many people, I had always thought that there must be some sort of regulation behind these often unreadable dates, but with the exception of infant formula, this is not the case,” she explains. “The ubiquitous presence of expiration dates in American culture summons a larger framework of legal consciousness that expects regulation yet conversely also ignores it.”

The 16th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law

ConferenceEarlier this year, Marusek organized, convened and hosted the 16th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law, an interdisciplinary conference, in Volcano on Hawai‘i Island. She says the conference put Hilo on the map in this area of scholarship. Previous locations of the annual conference throughout the years have included Copenhagen (2014), Hangzhou, China (2013, PDF of Program), Rio de Janeiro (2011, PDF of Call for Papers), Hong Kong (2009), and Australia (2007).

The theme of the Hawai‘i conference was “Synesthetic Legalities: Sensory Dimensions of Law and Jurisprudence.” Synesthesia is the phenomenon where sensual perceptions are joined together as a combined experience, for example, the ability to feel color, hear the visual, or even smell emotion. These types of unions affect legal thinking, and when analyzed, can give creative insight into the complexities of how law works through the body — hands, ears, eyes, noses, tongues — in other words, through spatial, temporal, aural, tangible, culinary, and olfactory experience.

Attendees at the conference learned about the Hawaiian cycle of a‘o that emphasizes a continual process of learning through teaching and teaching while learning, and then within this context, the roundtable explored the richly complex manifestations of synesthesia by exploring the ways in which law stimulates the senses.

Marusek is now editor of the conference proceedings in a volume under contract with Ashgate in the Law, Language, and Communication Book Series.

Other current work

Marusek’s second book project is The Dynamic Landscape: Legal Geography of (in) Motion. This monograph, under review with Routledge in the Space, Materiality, and Normativity Book Series, examines the relationship of law and place within the context of movement. With a central focus on motion, flow, and materiality, the book advances the field of legal geography beyond the non-fluid, static approach to landscapes and their meanings.

One of the book’s chapters “Aesthetics of Movement: Spectacle, Performativity, and the Paved Road” is a comparative exploration of volcanic land and public visitation in Hawai‘i and Iceland. In support of this project, Marusek received a Research Relations Grant to travel to Iceland and conduct research during her sabbatical in the spring of 2016. Another of the book’s chapters, “The Fluidity of Landscape: Methodological Messiness,” will be submitted for presentation at the 2016 Law and Society Association Annual Meeting to be held in New Orleans.

In another project, she is guest editor for a special issue in the refereed journal, Space and Polity, entitled “Digesting the Public Sphere.” This is a collection of eight papers developed from the Interpretative Methods and Methodologies Workshop she co-hosted at the 2015 Western Political Science Association meeting in Las Vegas.

Marusek also serves as co-editor for a collection of thirteen papers entitled Street Level Sovereignty: A Reader. The authors have been invited to submit the proposal, which includes chapter contributions from authors in the U.S., Australia, Italy, and UH Hilo, by the Legal Studies Commissioning Editor at Lexington Books, the monograph division of Rowman & Littlefield.

In addition,  the busy poly-sci professor is currently preparing a week of guest lectures, by invitation, to be delivered in March of 2016 at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre (Roma Tre University) Law School in Rome, Italy.

Mausek received her master of science in labor studies and her doctor of philosophy in political science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2011, she was awarded the UH System Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.


Mar 192015

During the last five years, Wiegner’s research has focused on microbial pollution from sewage.

Tracy Wiegner

Tracy Wiegner

Tracy Wiegner is a professor of marine science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. She is an aquatic biogeochemist and serves as a chemical oceanographer in UH Hilo’s Department of Marine Science. She brings the two disciplines, which are not mutually exclusive, together in her research.

“The primary focus of my research is to assess the impact of human activities on water quality from freshwater to marine environments,” says Wiegner. “I am specifically interested in the relative importance of inorganic nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorous — and dissolved organic matter (DOM) to environmental problems such as eutrophication, as well as their biological and chemical roles in the natural environment. To do this, my research is centered on ascertaining the transformations of inorganic nutrients and DOM from the terrestrial to the marine environment.”

In addition, Wiegner is interested in understanding the changes these compounds undergo within a system between the sediments, water column, and atmosphere.  Many of her projects have examined some of these dynamics on a variety of temporal and spatial scales.

Professor Wiegner on river bank with assistant..

(l-r) Randee Tubal, a graduate of UH Hilo tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program, who now works at the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Clean Water Branch, assists Professor Wiegner with water sampling after a storm on the Wailuku River. Courtesy photo.

Wiegner’s research shows that terrestrial dissolved organic matter, from both natural and human sources, is an important carbon (food and energy) and nutrient source to bacteria in freshwater and coastal environments.  It also has shown that some of this material is transferred up the food web to higher trophic levels like larval fish, supporting their production in estuaries.

“An enlightening finding (of the research) has been that terrestrial dissolved organic matter supports a large portion of bacterial respiration and production in streams, as well as in estuaries, and consequently higher trophic levels,” she says.  “This finding highlights the interconnectedness of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments.  In particular, I think it is striking how important terrestrial dissolved organic matter is in supporting both freshwater and marine food webs.

Professor Wiegner on a river bank with two colleagues collecting water samples.

Professor Wiegner in foreground with colleagues Flint Hughes (USDA Forest Service), and D. Kaiena Bushaw sampling a stream in Kohala for a project investigating the effects of Albizia trees on stream water quality. Courtesy photo.

“What is great about this finding is that it supports early Hawaiian observations about Hilo Bay where our data demonstrated this latter finding: Ka ua heʻe nehu o Hilo — the nehu-producing rain of Hilo. It was known that when materials from the land flowed into the ocean following heavy rains, nehu fish would soon be abundant.”

UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory

Wiegner is faculty supervisor for the UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory, which supports ecological research and water quality studies. She has overseen the facility since 2006.  The laboratory, which was initially created with federal grants, includes analytical chemistry instrumentation for environmental samples (water, soil, plant, animal tissue) and has served over 107 clients. It is now almost fully self-sustaining from service fees.

“Known as a hub for research and training on Hawai‘i Island, the lab has a state-wide, and even an international, reputation for its high quality and rapid services,” says Wiegner.

The lab also provides for undergraduate and graduate student training. Students outside of UH Hilo also use the lab to process and analyze samples; their institutions include: UH Mānoa, Kapi‘olani Community College, Stanford University, Cornell University, and University of California at Santa Barbara.  Publications, presentations, and funded grants resulting from use of the analytical services and student training from the UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory are numerous.

Community outreach

Professor and student on rocky shoreline with equipment to sample water.

Professor Wiegner and and Ambyr Mokiao-Lee, a graduate of UH Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science master program, sampling at Pohue Bay. Courtesy photo.

During the last five years, Wiegner’s research has shifted focus to microbial pollution stemming from sewage.

“I have used several different tools to detect sewage pollution in coastal waters around Hawai‘i Island, including using fecal indicator bacteria (Enterococcus, Clostridium perfringens, Bacteriodes), as well as stable isotopes of nitrogen, oxygen, and boron in coastal waters and seaweed tissues, and dye tracer studies,” she explains.

“My students and I have developed tools for visualizing temporal and spatial distributions of microbial pollution, and are currently working on developing a model to predict unsafe swimming conditions using real-time water quality data from the Hilo Bay water quality buoy and other real-time gages for river flow, rainfall, and waves.”

Recently, through a marine science thesis project, Wiegner has begun to examine Staphlyococcus aureus, a bacterium that causes serious skin infections, distributions in coastal waters to see if they are related to sewage pollution, other water quality parameters, or environmental conditions. The state of Hawai‘i has the highest number of Staph infections in the nation, and it is largely thought that many of them are acquired during recreational water activities.

Data that Wiegner collects and tools that she and her team are developing relative to microbial pollution are being shared with Hawai‘i county, state, and federal government decision-makers and natural resource managers to help manage and reduce sewage pollution on Hawai‘i Island.

“We have worked closely with two communities on island to collect data demonstrating the sewage pollution from homes is entering the near-shore waters, impacting natural resources, and posing a health risk to recreational water users,” she says.

This information has been shared with the impacted communities through public presentations, handouts, and websites.

“It is my goal to provide these communities with sound scientific data they can use to make informed decisions on how to improve wastewater disposal in their communities, and for them to be able to use it to develop strong cases to persuade decision makers to assist them in their efforts.”

Future goals

Wiegner says she has two ultimate goals for her current research.

“One, I hope that it will improve water quality on Hawai‘i Island and throughout the state through informed management decisions and actions,” she says.  “Second, I want to continue providing training opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in water quality research.

“My hope is that some of them will continue on this path and become leaders in education, research, industry, and government, and that they can directly and indirectly improve coastal water quality.  I also hope that the few who do continue on research paths help to further our understanding of the interconnectedness between the terrestrial and marine environment.”

Wiegner received her doctor of philosophy in oceanography from Rutgers.



Jan 142015

The Jarvi laboratory currently has two main areas of investigation: avian pathogens and rat lungworm disease.

Susan Jarvi

Susan Jarvi

Susan Jarvi is a professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of the pre-pharmacy program at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She researches host-parasite and parasite-parasite interactions and influences on transmission and virulence of infectious disease.

Jarvi is studying tolerance to infectious disease as evidenced through a recent population explosion of a low elevation native Hawaiian bird population despite high prevalence of Plasmodium infection. Her goal is to characterize and begin to define potentially novel mechanisms involved in tolerance to malaria in this relatively simple, geographically-isolated, natural disease system.

Jarvi’s lab, located at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo, currently has two main areas of investigation: avian pathogens and rat lungworm disease. The research team also is interested in continued development of molecular-based methods for the detection and evaluation of pathogen diversity, and development and implementation of vaccines.

Avian pathogens


Hawai’i ‘amakihi (Hemignathus virens). Photo by Noah Kahn/USFWS.

A main focus of the Jarvi lab is host-parasite and parasite-parasite interactions involving the genetic analysis of avian pathogens (Plasmodium relictum and Avipoxvirus) and avian hosts toward a better understanding of the evolution of disease susceptibility. While most species of Hawaiian honeycreeper are highly susceptible to avian malaria, populations of the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Hemignathus virens) are thriving at low elevations on Hawai‘i Island despite high infection rates of Plasmodium relictum.

Toward determining the genes involved in survival, Jarvi and her research team are evaluating major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in ‘amakihi by traditional cloning and sequencing as well as by 454 Roche platform next-generation sequencing. They also have conducted amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) studies to look for candidate genes involved in survival.

“Many years ago, we demonstrated that variation exists among avian malaria parasites in Hawai‘i,” she explains. Since then, the State of Hawai‘i requires that any birds being moved between islands be tested for malaria, and positive birds not be moved.”

Jarvi’s and her team are the leaders in molecular diagnostics for both malaria and poxvirus in Hawai‘i. Recently, the population of nene geese near the Kaua‘i airport was determined to be too large and causing interference with air travel.

“We have been testing samples for the state to determine infection status for potential translocation of nene,” she explains. “We are concurrently completing a comprehensive statewide survey of malaria diversity by 454 Roche platform sequencing. We have shown that at least two variants of avipoxvirus exist in Hawai‘i and that one is more virulent than the other. We are in the process of sequencing these variants to determine the genes involved in virulence.”

In the host-parasite studies of susceptibility of ‘amakihi to avian malaria, MHC analysis revealed a significant association between survivorship and the presence of one or more MHC alleles. This is the first documentation of an MHC association with survival to malaria in Hawaiian honeycreepers. The research team also conducted AFLP studies to look for candidate genes involved in survival. Sequence information was obtained from a total of 139 clones of AFLP bands. They identified five genes that are candidate genetic markers for survival.

Currently Jarvi and the research team are finishing a statewide survey of diversity of avian malaria in Hawai‘i and analyzing data from host genetic studies. They hope to be able to provide needed data to apply towards conservation efforts.

“The totality of this research is inherently conservation work and has the potential to help save native Hawai‘i honeycreepers,” Jarvi says.

Rat lungworm disease

A second research focus of Jarvi’s lab is rat lungworm disease (RLWD) caused by the parasite Angistrongylus cantonensis.

“Hawai‘i, specifically the Puna district on the Island of Hawai‘i, is the epicenter for RLWD in the U.S.,” says Jarvi.

Photos and info that can be found in the content of this post.

Photos showing various stages of rat lungworm life cycle. At center is a rat (Rattus rattus) eating a native snail in a Hawaiian rainforest. When rats eat infected slugs or snails, they ingest third stage (L3) larvae which eventually grow to sexual maturity and reproduce in the heart. Single-celled eggs hatch in the lung, and first stage larvae migrate up the bronchial tree, are swallowed, and 6-8 weeks after infection are excreted with feces. Slugs or snails then eat rat feces and acquire the first stage larvae. Slugs and snails are obligatory intermediate hosts which support parasite development from the first to the L3 larval stage. Humans can become infected by ingesting intermediate or paratenic (passive carrier) hosts containing infective L3 larvae. From Susan Jarvi’s website page, “Rat Lungworm Overview.”

Jarvi and team have completed two trials in local rats with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). One was to see if detection of parasite DNA was possible in rat blood in hopes of developing an early diagnostic test for humans. The other was to determine the efficacy of a vaccine against RLW in local rats (they concluded that a vaccine developed in Spain was not effective in stopping the development of RLW in rats under the conditions of the trial).

They also are evaluating the possibility of RLW larvae transmission in catchment water. They were surprised to discover RLW larvae can live a long time in rainwater. (Another surprising find is that rats can harbor dozens of adult worms in their hearts and lungs, which had to pass through their brains, with no apparent ill effect.)

The research approaches include developing a qPCR test to estimate the parasite load in intermediate hosts (slugs and snails). This allows researchers to evaluate the level of infection looking for transmission “hotspots.”

“We have evaluated how well some solutions are at killing RLW larvae,” Jarvi says of the research activity. “We have determined that RLW larvae can live up to 20 days in rainwater, thus could likely live that long in catchment tanks. We determined that RLW DNA can be detected in the blood of infected rats at some time periods throughout infection. We are working on getting antibody-based diagnostic test running on-island.”

The results of this work is posted on a website in the form of a google map, along with FAQs, links to RLW publications, and teacher resources to accompany RLWD curriculum.

Book cover with drawing of children.

The Mystery of Rat Lungworm Disease is a fun-filled activity book designed to help elementary-age children learn what to look for in their gardens and vegetables.

For two years, Jarvi and other researchers in the state have made considerable progress towards reducing RLWD through educational and research approaches. They have provided public forums, talks, handouts, brochures and are in the process of integrating RLWD education into the Hawai‘i DOE curriculum. They produced and piloted an activity book, The Mystery of Rat Lungworm Disease, in four East Hawai‘i schools for second graders.

“This was very well-received, and we are in the process of distribution across the islands and state,” she says. The researchers also are developing a “junior investigator scientific journal” that will encompass many STEM disciplines while learning about RLWD for tenth grade students.

Currently Jarvi and the RLWD research team are working with catchment tanks to test filtration and UV systems to see if RLW larvae can make it through. They also are gearing up to conduct a pilot study to test 500 volunteers for the presence of RLW antibodies to better understand the prevalence. They are working with Puna Medical Center and Clinical Lab for blood collection. Meanwhile, they continue to educate the community about RLWD and how to best prevent it.

“Our RLWD educational and research efforts will help save lives,” says Jarvi. “RLWD is a very preventable disease, if you know about it. Education is key, and we are providing activity books to keiki (children) who can then go home and educate their ‘ohana (family).”

Future goals of the RLWD project are to continue to educate the public toward minimizing infection, to develop reliable diagnostics for health providers, and develop management plans that would reduce slug, snail, and rat population numbers.


Jarvi received her master of science in veterinary and animal sciences (avian genetics) from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and her doctor of philosophy in biology (immunogenetics) from Northern Illinois University at DeKalb.



Oct 212014

Professor Tsang and collaborative UH research team received the Governor’s Award in 2010 as State Team of the Year for developing hot water systems for disinfesting exports. 


Professor Tsang and collaborative University of Hawai‘i research team developed a hot water shower system using a Matson container as the treatment chamber to rid potted plants of coqui frogs. The team was recognized for the impact the invention made on the state’s export business with the Governor’s Award in 2010 as State Team of the Year.

Marcel Tsang

Marcel Tsang

Marcel Tsang is a professor of agricultural engineering and mechanization at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. His research interests include drying and processing of agricultural crops; post harvest treatments of tropical fruits, vegetables and floricultural crops; system design for heat treatments of agricultural commodities and potting media; non-chemical methods for disinfesting potting media; enhancing greenhouse environment for crop production and developing sustainable technologies for greenhouse food crop production.

“Since joining UH Hilo (in 1985), I have worked on a variety of agricultural products in Hawai‘i,” Tsang says. “These include macadamia nuts, coffee, ginger root, papaya, cut flowers and foliage, potted plants, sweet potatoes and vegetables among others.”

For the last twenty years, Tsang has concentrated his research on heat treatments using hot water or heated air to disinfest agricultural commodities and potting media of insect pests and other pathogens. A large part of the research was devoted to nursery products.

“This work was crucial to find reliable alternative non-chemical disinfestation treatments for our floriculture products due to the phasing out by the EPA of ozone-depleting fumigants commonly used for disinfesting agricultural commodities of quarantine pests,” he explains. “As a result, the industry was in danger of losing access to their export markets.”

Most of this work has been done in collaboration with Arnold Hara, an entomologist at the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences at UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The team developed a hot water dip system for disinfesting cut flowers and foliage of quarantine pests. Later, they also developed a hot water shower system using a Matson container as the treatment chamber to rid potted plants of coqui frogs.

“We were able to develop heat treatments that are lethal to targeted pests with no detrimental effects on the plants,” says Tsang. “Our effective and innovative treatments have been adopted by the local producers and exporters so that Hawai‘i’s growers are able to continue to ship their nursery products inter-island as well as export to markets on the mainland.

For these efforts, the research team received the Governor’s Award in 2010 as State Team of the Year.

Researchers from UH Manoa and UH Hilo recognized for their dedication to the agriculture community


Professor Tsang stands with Arnold Hara (front center with lei), the research team, then-Governor Lingle (at right) and others as the team received the Governor’s Award in 2010 as State Team of the Year. Click to enlarge.

The team was selected as the State Team of the Year honoree in the 2010 Governor’s Awards from among 52 exceptional group and individual nominees from the state’s executive branch departments who exemplify the highest caliber of public service and dedication to serving the people of Hawai‘i.

The Quarantine First Responders is led by Dr. Arnold Hara, a CTAHR entomologist, and is comprised of CTAHR’s Kris Aoki, Susan Cabral and Ruth Niino-DuPonte of the Komohana Research Extension Center in Hilo; Jon Katada of the Waiakea Research Station in Hilo; Charles Nelson of CTAHR’s Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering; and Dr. Marcel Tsang of UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture.

The team has been recognized for their extensive work on the coqui frog. When other agencies were uncertain about how to deal with an amphibian pest, the team organized the Coqui Frog Working Group and prompted each agency to contribute in their respective areas of expertise. The team knew initial control efforts using chemical sprays would only be a temporary solution so they conducted extensive literature searches, documented the frog’s life cycle in Hawai‘i, screened promising chemicals and delivery methods, and studied the frogs in their native habitat while continuing to look for a long term solution. They also developed frog traps and barriers to prevent the spread and establishment of the coqui in Hawai‘i’s certified nurseries.

To meet quarantine security requirements for floriculture crops, the team generated copious amounts of data to determine the thermal tolerance of various quarantine pests. They successfully designed and constructed a hot-water dip treatment that eliminated pests without killing the plant itself. They also discovered that the treatment extended the shelf life of certain flowers and foliages and had the added benefit of preventing geotrophism, which is a bending of flower stems in response to gravity and is problematic for shippers.

The Quarantine First Responders have visited elementary schools to educate children in recognizing the dangers of touching pests such as the stinging nettle caterpillar, little fire ant, and the dangers in handling slugs. They also educate frustrated homeowners who want to rid their property of the coqui, conduct workshops for commercial growers, make scientific presentations to academic colleagues, and have provided information to thousands of Hawai‘i residents through their publications and websites.

Hot water treatment continues to be one of the main weapons against invasive pests into Hawai‘i. Last year, the State Department of Agriculture used the hot water shower system to clean imported Christmas trees from hitchhiking pests.

Currently, Tsang is interested to develop a low cost, modular solar pasteurization system to disinfest potting media of detrimental pests and also to allow growers to recycle their used potting media and waste organic products.

“My hope is that this system can be incorporated into a sustainable greenhouse system for container grown vegetable crops where a zero-waste practice can be implemented,” he says.

He also would like to refine a hot water system to manage insect pests on the growing vegetable plants in lieu of using chemical spray.

His future research plans are to see an enhanced production during the winter period by extending the daily growing period through a solar assisted grow light system in the greenhouse.


Tsang received his master of science in agricultural engineering and his doctor of philosophy in engineering science from Louisiana State University.


Note: Marcel Tsang retired in 2016.

Oct 172014

Associate Professor of Communication Becker examines the ways communication contributes to the transformation of organizational, cultural, or family systems.

Catherine Becker

Catherine Becker at La‘akea Community near Pāhoa, an educational site that students in her UH Hilo Global Citizenship Course, Com 344: Sustainability, Communication, and Culture, have visited.

Catherine Becker is an associate professor of communication at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Her research examines the ways that communication contributes to the transformation of individuals and systems, for example, organizational, cultural, or family systems. She explores the ways communication is linked to transformation using quantitative, qualitative, and creative approaches.

“My research has the potential to transform the field of communication because it crosses methodological and disciplinary lines, it forges connections that didn’t exist previously,” she explains. “It offers alternative approaches, ways of knowing, and teaching. I use new forms of ethnography and alternative forms of representation to encourage new paradigms, perspectives, and possibilities.”

Becker was the first person to test Cultural Convergence Theory, which predicts that the more members of different cultural groups communicate, the more similar they become, on groups outside of the United States, specifically, in Japan. She says this is important because the U.S. has policies that encourage cultural assimilation where as Japan’s policies tend to discourage it.

“While I was collecting data in Japan, I found answers to the open-ended questions in my survey offered insight to the Brazilian immigrant experience in Japan in a way that quantitative data could not,” she says. “Consequently, I became interested in qualitative methods such as ethnography and narrative analysis.”

Mana Cards

Becker is known for her creative approaches to exploring communication and transformation. She encourages conversations among people who don’t usually speak to one another about topics they may be reluctant to discuss but that need to be addressed. She says when people are encouraged to listen to the stories of others and share their own, there is an opportunity for dialogue, healing, and transformation.

“This is critical if we are going to be sustainable,” she says. “It facilitates engagement with cultural narratives.”

Her book, Mana Cards: The Power of Hawaiian Wisdom, has been translated into several languages generating interest in and respect for Hawaiian culture among people who might not learn about it otherwise. As a result of the book, she was invited to conduct a series of interviews with Hawaiian healers for the Japanese Magazine, Hula Lea, providing a channel for Japanese people to learn more about these practices and what they offer. The interviews provided the basis for questions for a funded study of the communication practices of holistic healers on Hawai‘i Island that was published in Communication and Medicine.


Students from all over Japan convened with Associate Professor Becker in Tokyo in the spring of 2013 to learn how Mana Cards: The Power of Hawaiian Wisdom can foster communication and transformation.

Currently, the region of Lower Puna on Hawai‘i Island is in crisis due to an encroaching lava flow threatening to cut off access roads to the area, and Becker is in the process of “birthing” another book that documents discourse regarding the impact.

“My daughter attended elementary and middle schools in Puna and we have lived there, so we have many close connections in the community,” she explains. “I also have a long standing passion for Pele and her stories. So I have been following the situation very closely.”

For this project, she has conducted a preliminary content analysis of the discussions on several social networking sites that address the flow and has found extremely different interpretations of what it means and how to manage the situation. She will serve as editor on the book that she says will provide a forum for people to share and discuss these various perspectives. She says she hopes the book, with the working title, Views of Pele: Collisions, Collaboration, and Community, will attract authors that represent the wide variety of perspectives regarding the meaning of the lava flow and how to address the inevitable changes it is bringing to the island.

“In addition to alternative transportation, energy, housing and food, sustainability is also about social justice,” she says. “The book will provide a venue that encourages dialogue and communication about these issues.”

The call for submissions for the book is on Becker’s Facebook page called Pele and the Puna Lava Flow: Collisions, Collaboration, and Community. The site has evolved into a source of information for the community.

On an even more personal note, Becker is in the final stages of editing an autoethnography, Moving Between the Lines: A Transformative Journey, which begins with her discovery that she was a black market adoptee and tells the story of a 9,000-mile motorcycle trip that she took around the U.S. when she was 19 searching for her roots.

“The work blends narrative, popular culture, and academic perspectives to provide a setting for exploring how adoption, culture, class, gender, genealogy, and identity shapes lives,” she says. Intended publication date is the end of the year.

Becker says the most surprising find in her research and scholarly activity is the transformative potential of narrative.

“I have collected examples from Hawaiian culture, holistic healers, physicians, engineering students, surfers, people from Fukushima and Pāhoa and am continually awed by the power of stories to effect the person sharing the story as well as the listeners-readers-participants,” she says.


Becker received her master of arts in American studies from UH Mānoa, and her master of arts in communication and doctor of philosophy in communication from State University of New York at Buffalo.



Oct 102014
Kathy Cooksey

Kathy Cooksey

Kathy Cooksey arrived at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in early 2014 and is an assistant professor of astronomy. She researches the large-scale gaseous structure in the universe to understand how various elements cycle in and out of galaxies over cosmic time. Her specific area of expertise is the intergalactic medium (IGM), the gas surrounding and between galaxies.

“As light from bright, distant objects traverse the universe, intervening gas clouds between, around, and in galaxies absorb the light at wavelengths characteristic, albeit redshifted, of the chemical elements in the clouds,” she says. “By identifying and modeling the elements associated with absorption-line systems, we learn about how gas is processed through and dispersed from galaxies.”

A redshift occurs whenever a light source moves away from an observer, an inherent occurrence in astronomical observation. Cooksey and colleagues have conducted the largest surveys for triply ionized carbon at low, intermediate, and high redshift (Cooksey et al. 2010, Cooksey et al. 2013, and Simcoe et al. 2011, respectively).

“This means we study the large-scale gaseous structure and its evolution from today to almost 13 billion years ago,” she explains. “Heavy elements in the large-scale gaseous structure provide top-level constraints on how stars and galaxies formed and evolve and how they are distributed in the universe. We discovered how the triply ionized carbon systems are increasing in number from the past to now. Though we have thousands of systems, they can all be attributed, statistically, to arising in the extended gaseous halos of galaxies.”

Cooksey says her most surprising find is about the gas surrounding galaxies, called the circum-galactic medium or CGM, a relatively new topic in astronomy. There is more and more evidence piling up that this gas is important to how galaxies form and evolve.

“I’m finding it curious what characteristics of the CGM evolve and what do not,” she says. “For example, the size of the CGM traced by triply ionized carbon absorption does not seem to change with time, though galaxies themselves change greatly, in size as well as other properties, over the same time period.”

She says it makes one think there is a “conspiracy” to fix some properties to not evolve though seemingly related properties do evolve.

For her dissertation (she received her doctor of philosophy in astronomy and astrophysics in 2009), Cooksey analyzed archival Hubble Space Telescope (HST) ultraviolet spectra to characterize how the intergalactic medium (IGM) and galaxies relate and how heavy elements like oxygen and carbon are moved from the sites of production in the stars of galaxies to the large-scale gaseous structure (the IGM).

This work led to her becoming a panelist for Hubble Space Telescope proposal reviews, where she served for cycles 19 (2011), 21 (2013), and 22 (2014), on one of two panels broadly classified as extragalactic. “Cycle” refers to each new call for proposals and roughly corresponds to the number of years HST has been operating. The panels do peer review and rank proposals for HST resources.

Cooksey was awarded three nights with the 8.2-m Subaru Telescope in August 2014, 1.5 nights with the 10-m Keck II Telescope in January 2015, and two nights on the UH88 Telescope to take spectra of distant galaxies to study the chemical properties of intervening gas.

“Part of understanding (gas) systems is to take better data, which the High Dispersion Spectrograph on Subaru enables us to do,” she says. The Subaru Telescope on Maunakea is owned and operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Cooksey with students on the catwalk at the Subaru telescope on Maunakea

Cooksey with students on the catwalk at the Subaru telescope on Maunakea. At right, Robert Ponga, UH Hilo astronomy and physics major, then a UC Santa Cruz Jr. Specialist, now a Hawai‘i/NASA Space Grant Consortium Fellow. At front, Natalie Nagata, UH Mānoa physics major and Akamai Workforce Initiative intern for summer 2014 at UH Hilo. Click to enlarge.

Robert Ponga, a senior in astronomy and physics at UH Hilo has been working with Cooksey on this project since the beginning of summer 2014. Ponga is looking to characterize the highly enriched gas surrounding distant galaxies. In his project titled, “Analysis of Strong Triply Ionized Carbon Systems in Galaxy Halos,” he is using a suite of software programs to model spectral data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), looking in particular for heavy-element enrichment of the gas.

Previously, Cooksey had done some observations at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile as a postdoc at MIT, and Ponga analyzed that over the summer as a junior specialist for Xavier Prochaska, an astronomy and astrophysics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, under the direct supervision of Cooksey. He’s continuing to analyze the old data as a Hawai‘i/NASA Space Grant Consortium Fellow at UH Hilo and also will incorporate the new Subaru observations.

“His work is confirming preliminary analysis which suggested these strong triply ionized carbon systems trace very heavy-element-enriched gas,” says Cooksey. “This might help solve an outstanding problem in astronomy where we know how many heavy elements there should be, based on star-formation rates, but we couldn’t find it. It seems like it may have been missing (from the data) because it’s in gaseous structure that’s somewhat tricky to observe. But since our group conducted such a large survey of SDSS, we identified thousands of such systems.”

Cooksey also proposed for time at the UH88 telescope to take spectra of low-redshift quasar candidates to see if they are quasars and to measure their redshifts.

“Quasars are the bright, energetic center of galaxies powered by their supermassive holes,” she explains. “Quasars are the background sources we use to detect foreground gas in absorption. Low-redshift quasars, which are closer to us, are rarer than at high redshift, but the low-redshift quasars enable us to probe the large-scale gaseous structure over the last eight-billion years, which is the majority of cosmic time.” For perspective, she notes the universe is 13.7 billion-years old.

The Hubble Space Telescope is the only ultraviolet satellite left with ability to study the low-redshift gaseous structure. Cooksey and her research team are searching for more low-redshift quasars so she can follow up with the HST observations before it dies. The team observed for half a night on Sept. 22 (the other half lost to technical difficulties).

“Without even processing the data, we could see we detected some quasars,” she says.

Learn more about Assistant Professor Cooksey’s teaching and research.


Cooksey received her master of science in astronomy and astrophysics and doctor of philosophy in astronomy and astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz.



See also UH Hilo Stories, Oct 15, 2014: “UH Hilo’s newest astronomer researches nothing less than the structure of the universe”

Oct 092014
Larry Kimura

Larry Kimura

Larry Kimura is an associate professor of Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. Often described as the “grandfather” of Hawaiian language revitalization in modern Hawai‘i, his work can be traced back to the conception of core foundational educational programs in the 1980s that launched the rebirth of the Hawaiian language.

Among Kimura’s most notable work, he was co-founder of the non-profit ʻAha Pūnana Leo that established the first Hawaiian medium preschools in the 1980s, a cornerstone in language revitalization efforts. He spent 20 years creating audio documentation of the last native Hawaiian language speakers, a vital connection for modern speakers. Kimura also helped conceive and now serves as chair of the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee to create new Hawaiian words.

“A people’s own language is their inherent and precious link to their cultural identity,” says Kimura. “It has evolved over thousands of years, encoding a way of being and understanding the world. Without it, the well being of a people is jeopardized. Yet this vital link is so subtle, hardly to be missed in today’s globalization, and is among the first aspects of a distinct people to vanish as their language is lost to another.”

Kimura says cultural features may linger, such as literature, food, crafts, songs and dances, giving the impression of a surviving culture, without the people realizing that its main artery, the language, was the very first cultural aspect to be severed.

“It is astonishing, but perhaps not so surprising, how something so precious is allowed to become extinct,” he says.

Kimura was co-founder of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo Hawaiian medium preschools in the 1980s that initiated the return of the Hawaiian language into the home through three- and four-year-old children and continues to do so until today. In tandem, he was instrumental in the establishment of UH Hilo’s Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center, a center he had proposed in testimony to the Native Hawaiian Study Commission, a commission created by Congress in 1980 to conduct a study of the culture, needs and concerns of native Hawaiians.

Kimura says the need for such a center became crucially evident in the 1988 legislative session to address the newly approved 1987 Department of Education Hawaiian Language Immersion Program, which lacked a program to provide qualified Hawaiian immersion teachers and curriculum.

Kimura served as the first director of Hale Kuamoʻo in 1989, and while the budget for that endeavor was being worked out, he secured a grant from the Funds for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) to carry out the initiation of Hawaiian immersion teacher support and curriculum development through the Leo Ola summer institutes.

The FIPSE grant also was the first funding source to support the official work of a Hawaiian Lexicon Committee for the creation of new Hawaiian words, concerns for spelling, word separation, discerning meanings and context of meanings, and concerns dealing with grammatical usages. Kimura has chaired the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee.

“Creating new words is done one at a time,” Kimura says. “It is tedious, time consuming work. What keeps this work progressing is pure commitment for the survival of the language.”

The lists of new words created by the two committees contributed to the 6,500+ entries that are in the 2003 publication of the new Hawaiian words book, Māmaka Kaiao (The Lifting of a New Dawn). It is the second most popularly used Hawaiian dictionary, next to the major Hawaiian dictionary by Mary Pūkuʻi and Samuel Elbert. The committee’s current unpublished list of new words consists of approximately 1,200 entries and is made available as a pdf document online through the Ulukau electronic library.

In 1993, Kimura was elected secretary general of the Polynesian Languages Forum. There are fourteen official member countries of the organization: Hawaiʻi; Aotearoa (New Zealand); Rapa Nui; French Polynesia; Marquesas; Cook Islands; Tonga; Sāmoa; American Sāmoa; Wallis and Futuna; Tokelau; Niue; Rotuma; and Fiji.

From 1991 to 2003, the group has held annual conferences in New Zealand, Tahiti, Rapa Nui, and in 1993, at UH Hilo. The main subjects of the meetings are to share language programs initiated in each Polynesian country to address the concern for the wellbeing of each native Polynesian language.

“This helped to assure these tiny and scattered countries of the Pacific can be large and united as one for the welfare of our languages, no matter the differences in our government affiliations,” says Kimura.

Kimura says the goals of the Polynesian Languages Forum are currently more relevant to the College of Hawaiian Language since 1993 when the Department of Hawaiian Studies hosted the conference.

“Now that the Hawaiian program has attained the college status becoming the first UH Hilo program to offer a graduate program with a master of arts in Hawaiian and a doctor of philosophy in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization, the continuation of the Office of the Secretary General of the Polynesian Languages Forum becomes more important,” Kimura explains. “Collaboration in publishing, teacher and student exchange programs and the establishment of a Polynesian words and terminology database are more relevant now for the college than in 1993.”

In other work, Kimura served as co-chair of the UH Committee for a new Mauna Kea Management Master Plan in 1998-2000. UH requested that the newly established College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo chair the Mauna Kea Advisory Committee, and so along with co-chair William “Pila” Wilson, head of the Hawaiian studies division at UH Hilo, Kimura led this work through controversy and criticism, working with UH Hilo, the UH Institute for Astronomy, environmental groups, the business community, native Hawaiian organizations, state agencies, county government, and the broader Hawaiʻi community.

“It was a prolonged and difficult task that would span nearly two controversial years conducting public hearings until the summer of 2000 when the UH Board of Regents approved the new Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan,” Kimura says.

Kimura also served as Hawaiian culture planner and interpreter for the Maunakea Astronomy Education Center (later named ʻImiloa Astronomy Center). Over a five-year period starting in 2001, he and his assistant created all the Hawaiian exhibits at the center. Kimura offered the Hawaiian name for the center, ʻImiloa, based on a quotation by one of Hawaiʻi’s early Hawaiian scholars, Kepelino, of the mid-nineteenth century: Ahu kupanaha ka ʻike iā Hawaiʻi ʻimi loa! (Astonishing indeed is the knowledge of the Hawaiian people, acquired by seeking and delving deep and wide!)

In January of this year, Kimura served as co-chair with colleague William Wilson, to organize the 2014 Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium hosted by UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language. The conference brought 200-plus participants, mostly indigenous peoples, to UH Hilo where the newly completed College of Hawaiian Language building, Haleʻōlelo, was one of the conference venues.

Kimura’s plans for the future are as rich and important as any of his past work.

He will advance his collection of audio recordings that he has documented over some 45 years, as well as other sources of native Hawaiian sound recordings, into a digitized audio database. He’ll continue to enrich and deepen the Hawaiian lexicon. He looks forward to developing more courses that give students an introduction to some aspect of the community for a more meaningful application of their classroom education.

He also hopes to organize and attend more symposiums or conferences on language revitalization. He’d like to refocus the Te Vaka Reo Polynesian Languages Forum to address changing needs. He says since the last meeting of this organization in 2003, changes diminishing the vitality of several of these Polynesian languages have surfaced and the reactivation of his office as the secretary general of Te Vaka Reo becomes more imminent.

“The Hawaiian language remains on the list of the world’s endangered languages and though there have been some major inroads accomplished for Hawaiian’s survival over the last 30 years, there is still much more to do,” he says.

For more in-depth information about Kimura’s work, see the extended written Q&A used as the primary source for this profile (PDF).

Education and accolades

Kimura received his master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature and his doctor of philosophy in Hawaiian and indigenous language and culture revitalization from UH Hilo. He was a Mellon Hawaiʻi Fellows Doctoral Scholar, 2011-2012 (see story in The Leaflet Jan/Feb 2012 produced by The Kohala Center: “In Language There Is Life”).