Dec 102012
James Juvik in the field

James Juvik

James O. Juvik, professor of geography and environmental studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, specializes primarily in tropical forest climate, hydrology, ecology, paleo-ecology and international wildlife conservation and ecological studies. He was the first to core a number of Hawaiian swamps and bogs to secure peat/pollen records of past vegetation and climate change. He is an internationally recognized expert on conservation management of endangered land tortoises around the world.

Juvik’s most important contribution internationally in the climatological field is the development of the “Juvik Fog Gauge,” now used worldwide to provide standardized fog measurements for research and recordation. He has done extensive research into cloud mist in the mountains of Hawai‘i.

James Juvik sets up a Juvik Fog Guage in the field.

Comparative performance evaluation of the “Juvik” fog gauge (right ) and “Schaumener” fog gauge (left) near Walvis Bay, Central Namibia. Photo by J. Juvik.

“The mist caught and dripping from forest vegetation may contribute significantly to ground water recharge,” he says. “This water may also be collected mechanically for direct human use by nets or planted trees, [such as] the excellent fog catchers Norfolk Island pines.” (Juvik and colleagues recently published a paper about the island of Lanai, where the research team did a follow-up study 50 years after Juvik’s UH Mānoa PhD mentor, Paul Ekern, undertook the first-ever study of fog-drip in Hawai‘i. “We documented tree water catch many times greater than open-site rainfall,” he says.)

At present Juvik is conducting field studies with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on Mauna Kea to determine the feasibility of fog water collection to augment water needs for the undeveloped DHHL lands at Humu‘ula.

“All this work going back to my doctoral dissertation (titled “Mountain Fog on Mauna Loa, Hawai‘i”) of the fog-climate of the Big Island in 1977 has provided new insights on the climate and hydrology of Hawaiian watersheds,” says Juvik.

Juvik is also currently conducting a fog study in Namibia, southern Africa, to harvest fog in the arid coastal fog desert. He is being considered for a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship (2013) to continue this work in Africa, following up on earlier studies (USAID supported) in the Cape Verde Islands.

James Juvik and turtle.

Professor Juvik has been studying endangered tortoises and their habitat for over 40 years.

For more than 40 years, Juvik has been involved in research and conservation management of endangered land tortoises around the world—Africa and Madagascar, Thailand, Mexico— and is well published on tortoise ecology and conservation. He is internationally known in this field for rediscovering in 1971 and working on the conservation of the world’s most endangered land tortoise, the Madagascar Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora), a species about which he has published extensively and also developed the formal conservation recovery plan.

Juvik’s current tortoise research focuses on recovery initiatives for the Angonoka (Astrochelys yniphora) in Madagascar and the endangered Mexican Bolson Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus). He is senior scientist with the Turtle Conservancy, an international non-government agency, and an editor and author for their conservation magazine.

Over the past several decades, Juvik has documented alien plant species’ impacts on Hawaiian ecosystems, publishing a number of papers on the role of road corridors, e.g. the saddle road up Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, as invasion routes for aggressive alien plant species’ penetration into montane ecosystems in Hawai‘i. Two recent papers, including one in Ecology (2011), have evaluated the competing roles of global warming and increased anthropogenic seed dispersal, by vehicles and hikers, in alien species invasion.

“Current application of this research relates to ongoing studies of the influence and possible mitigation measures relating to the recent widening and native species disturbance along the saddle road between Hilo and Kona,” he says.

Juvik also is interested in radical management issues related to the restoration and management of now “novel ecosystems,” meaning man-altered. Working with David Burney at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the research team is using alien tortoise species as proxy grazing animals to control alien plants in native forest restoration projects. (See articles in The Tortoise and Hawaiian Airlines Hana Hou Magazine). He has published a paper and made international conference presentations on alien species impacts elsewhere relating to Pacific and Indian Ocean Islands.

Virtually all of Juvik’s published work, including papers going back to the early 1970s, is still heavily and positively cited in the current scientific literature. He co-authored a review of tropical hydrology in the journal Nature (2012). He has co-authored and co-edited Endangered Plants and Threatened Ecosystems on the Island of Hawai‘i (2008), five volumes on the plants and natural history of Micronesia (1991-1996), and the standard reference book on Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (1995). With Sarah Hotchkiss (Quaternary Research, 1999) he published the first extended deep (> 25,000 year) palynological record and climate change interpretation for Hawai‘i.

Atlas of Hawaii

Juvik co-edited and co-authored the Atlas of Hawai‘i (1999) with his wife, Professor of Geography Sonia Juvik. The publication received the Book of the Year Award from the Hawaiian Book Publishers Association.

With his wife, retired UH Hilo professor of geography Sonia Juvik, Juvik co-edited and co-authored the Atlas of Hawai‘i (1999), which received the Book of the Year Award from the Hawaiian Book Publishers Association, and remains after 13 years one of the best-selling books of University of Hawai‘i Press. It has been adopted as a standard text book for college level courses statewide.

This effort was followed by publication of a Student Atlas of Hawai‘i in 2001 (in both English and Hawaiian language editions). This book has sold more than 30,000 copies and has been adopted as a 4th grade text book in public, private and immersion schools throughout Hawai‘i.

In collaboration with UH Mānoa professor Mark Merlin, between 1992-1995 with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and support from the East-West Center at UH Mānoa, Juvik researched and co-authored five high school level environmental education text books for the various Island Education Departments in Micronesia including Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Marshall Islands.


James O. Juvik is a professor of geography and environmental studies at UH Hilo. He received his master of arts in geography and doctor of philosophy in geography from UH Mānoa.

Oct 172012

Cancer researcher Aaron Jacobs (far right) stands with his lab team, (l-r) Buddhini Samarasinghe, PhD, postdoctoral fellow; Christina Wales, research assistant; Nalini Yadav, PhD student; and Rachel Gristock, Kea‘au High School student.

Aaron Jacobs

Aaron Jacobs, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Pharmacy, is doing research into the role that cell stress plays in the progression of cancer. He also teaches integrated therapeutics and emerging topics in drug discovery, including lectures on infectious diseases, anticancer drugs, and endocrine agents.

Jacobs’s research is currently focusing on the role of the transcription factor HSF1 in cancer. HSF1 regulates gene expression in response to heat shock, drugs, and endogenous metabolites, and it controls the levels of several hundred genes.

“Our goal is to identify HSF1-regulated genes and evaluate their significance in human disease,” says Jacobs. “Our primary interest is in the study of colorectal and breast cancers. Some of the processes affected by HSF1 that we are investigating are cell death, cell division, inflammatory signaling, and chemoprevention.”

Although Jacobs mainly studies colon and breast cancer, much of his work is applicable to other cancers as well.

“There are various types of stress that a cancer cell commonly encounters, such as low oxygen and nutrient levels, exposure to damaging chemicals, as well as heat and radiation, typically as a consequence of cancer therapy,” he says. “We found that cancer cells can defend themselves against stress by increasing the levels of a protein called BAG3. This protein helps to protect the cancer cells from dying when they encounter stress, and is one of the reasons that cancer is both aggressive and resistant to treatment.”

Jacobs’s current projects are on the role of HSF1-dependent gene expression in autophagy, impact of HSF1 on polyamine biosynthesis, regulation of HSF1 activity by FDA-approved drugs, and the effect of endogenous oxidized lipids on inflammatory signaling in breast cancer. His current research funding is from the National Institutes of Health.

Jacobs says the most surprising find in his work is that the human body makes its own chemicals which can cause cell stress and drive cancer. He says it is well known that chronic inflammation can promote certain types of cancer. During inflammation, lipids (fats) generate highly reactive compounds called electrophiles.

“These electrophiles can be perceived as a type of cell stress called heat shock which causes cancer cells to bolster their defenses, in part by increasing their levels of BAG3,” he says. “By reducing chronic inflammation and lipid oxidation in the body, we might reduce the risk for cancer.”

Jacobs and his lab team are also looking into something called “drug re-purposing” that can see more rapid results.

“We have already examined about 1,000 known drugs used to treat everything from diabetes to toenail fungus,” he says. “We know that if you can block the ability of cancer cells to bolster their defenses, then anti-cancer treatments are more effective.”

Among the drugs tested in Jacob’s lab, a select few have been found that can block heat shock and reduce BAG3 levels in cancer cells.

“We are now in the process of testing these drugs in our laboratory to see if they can, in fact, improve the response to cancer therapy,” Jacobs says.

In 2012, almost 7,000 new cases of cancer will affect the residents of Hawai‘i and one third as many will succumb to the disease. Academic research is critical in the fight against cancer. It generates novel insights that can eventually lead to new or improved treatments. Sometimes this can take several years to happen.

“By understanding the basic processes that drive cancer, we hope to find ways to enhance both prevention and treatment,” says Jacobs.



Aaron Jacobs is an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UH Hilo’s College of Pharmacy. He was awarded the 2010 College of Pharmacy Teacher of the Year, elected by the class of 2011; and the 2012 College of Pharmacy Teacher of the Year, elected by the class of 2014. He received his doctor of philosophy in pharmacology from the University of California at Los Angeles. Contact info.

Oct 172012

Mark Panek

Mark Panek is an professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He specializes in creative writing and composition and teaches a variety of interactive writing courses.

Panek has contributed significantly to the local canon with two peer-reviewed and award-winning works published by University of Hawai‘i Press: Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior (2011) and Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan (2007).

Big Happiness was published to wide acclaim. Honolulu magazine called the story of Waikāne’s Percy Kipapa “An eloquent biography, not only of [Kipapa] . . . but of the local Waiāhole-Waikāne community in which he lived,” and “a deeply researched, insightful look at the many problems facing Hawai’i’s poor and rural neighborhoods.”

New York magazine blogger Dan Kois found Big Happiness a “smartly written tale” that “mixes the personal and the political to create a portrait of the Hawai’i tourists never see.” The Japan Times called it “as eloquent as any mystery novel.”

Big Happiness was named the winner of the 2012 Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association’s Ka Palapala Po’okela Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Gaijin Yokozuna: A Biography of Chad Rowan preceded Big Happiness. The Japan Times called the story of Rowan’s rise from Waimānalo to the top ranking in Japan’s national sport “the best sumo biography in English,” adding that “few books in English or in Japanese can match it in bringing sumo and one sumotori to vivid, compulsively readable life.”

Gaijin Yokozuna was nominated for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize, the 2007 Los Angeles Times Biography of the Year Award, and the Hawai’i Book Publisher’s Association’s 2007 Ka Palapa Po’okela Award for nonfiction.

“Although the second book, Big Happiness, is about a retired sumo wrestler, sumo isn’t really the topic of that book,” says Panek. “BH uses Percy’s life story to draw attention to the consequences of rampant development in Hawai’i, mainly since statehood.”

Gaijin Yokozuna, on the other hand, says Panek, although it tries to use Chad Rowan’s story as a window into Japanese culture, is indeed a book about sumo.

“My interest in the sport began when I first lived in Japan not long after finishing my undergrad degree in history,” he says. “Rowan’s story came up as a natural topic in the first graduate seminar I ever took, at UH Mānoa, only months after he’d become the first non-Japanese to reach their national sport’s top rank. The project began as a paper for that class. His family, and later Rowan himself, was so receptive that I made it the subject of my eventual MA thesis, and later my dissertation, which finally evolved into the book.”

Along the way, Panek met Percy Kipapa, who was a source for Gaijin Yokozuna because he had lived and trained with Rowan for seven years in Japan.

“I’d met Percy’s mom years ago when I was a grad assistant at UH Mānoa and he brought me to Waikane to look at a used car he was selling,” says Panek. “I next saw her in the reception line at Percy’s funeral over four years later.”

At the funeral, Kipapa’s mother remembered Panek and told him, “Someone should have written a book about Percy, but now it’s too late.”

“Many of us were angry at the circumstances surrounding Percy’s murder,” says Panek. “Subsequent research revealed that far more was involved than the man who actually stabbed Percy. Mainly, Hawai‘i’s rush to develop land for outsiders at the expense—indirectly, but there is certainly a correlation—of Hawaiians like Percy, and even the man who killed him, who is now serving a life sentence in Arizona.”

Mark Panek’s book Big Happiness won the Ka Palapala Po’okela award for excellence in nonfiction this year.

Big Happiness won the Ka Palapala Po’okela award for excellence in nonfiction this year. The judges described it as follows:

Mark Panek’s masterpiece is a harrowing account of the life and death of a quintessential local boy—Waikāne’s Percy Kipapa. More than this, the book delves deep into the root causes of Kipapa’s eventual slide and murder, shedding a brilliant light on the systemic problems that plague Hawaiians in contemporary society. Part loving tribute to a great friend and man, and part damning look at the long-term cultural failures of “New Hawai‘i,” Mark Panek’s captivating book gracefully weaves together a truly local narrative connecting the death of Percy Kipapa with Hawai‘i’s shady history of unchecked land development, political corruption, the ice epidemic, and the slow erosion of local values.

The book focuses on the life of Percy Kipapa, a man who was so “full of aloha,” that his given sumo name, Daiki, translates into Big Happiness. By inserting himself into the story, Panek allows us to enter into Percy’s world, creating an emotional bond not only with this modern Hawaiian warrior, but with everything that he represents—his family, the ‘āina, and his local, Hawaiian values. At the same time, Panek’s investigative journalism is well-documented and logically constructed, providing the reader with important questions and rationally answering them without making grand speculative claims, culminating in an excellently transcribed and climactic murder trial.

By interlacing detailed investigation and analysis, first-hand experiences, and masterful writing, Mark Panek’s Big Happiness proves to be one of the most socially important and poignant books to come out of Hawaiʻi in recent memory.

“Even more than how they praise the book, I found these words particularly gratifying because of the way they define the value of Humanities scholarship,” says Panek.

Professor Panek teaches a variety of highly interactive writing courses ranging from introductory composition to senior-level courses in creative writing, nonfiction writing, and composition pedagogy. His peer-reviewed scholarship on the unique concerns associated with teaching in Hawai’i has been published in Composition Studies.

The professor takes time to meet individually with every student on every paper—a service he extends to his students for life, whether they are enrolled in future courses with him or not. He tells the story of student Emil DeAndreis, who was in Panek’s English 100 class seven years ago and showed the professor a memoir he’d been working on about his senior year in high school.

“Right then I convinced him to double-major in English,” says Panek. “We worked on the memoir, put him through the paces in our other classes. He in fact helped evaluate an early draft of Big Happiness. He graduated in 2008 and moved back to San Francisco, where he worked as a substitute teacher so he could focus on his writing.”

Since then DeAndreis has had several stories accepted for publication, including one he’d written for Panek’s class, “The Pigs of Hilo,” that won Bamboo Ridge’s Editor’s Choice Award for Best New Writer. This fall, DeAndreis is beginning his first semester in San Francisco University’s Master in Fine Arts program in creative writing, and has just had his first book accepted for publication.

“He’ll be here at the end of the month visiting and will deliver our October Brown Bag lecture,” says Panek.

Panek is currently revising a novel set on O‘ahu’s North Shore that will be published next year. He’s also been asked by UH Press to write a book documenting the end of the sugar era in Hawai‘i. Both projects received support from a Research Relations grant. His book chapter on the cultural moves Hawaiian sumo champion Akebono performed as the first non-Japanese to reach the top rank in Japan’s national sport will appear sometime next year.

This profile has been updated to reflect Mark Panek’s promotion to professor in 2013.



Mark Panek is a professor of English and chair of the English department at UH Hilo. He was awarded the 2002 Francis Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching as a doctoral candidate at UH Mānoa. He was awarded the UH Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching in 2008. He received his master of arts in 1999 and doctor of philosophy in 2004 from UH Mānoa. Contact info.


In the News Updates:

UH Hilo press release, May 2, 2014: “Faculty honored by Hawaiʻi Book Publishers Association”

UH News, April 8, 2013: “Hilo professor publishes modern day Hawaii book”

Oct 172012

Jackie Pualani Johnson

Jacquelyn Pualani Johnson is a professor of drama and chair of the performing arts department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She specializes in theatre arts, acting, directing, stagecraft, costuming, and makeup. Her most significant creative work is her adaptations and performances of strong female historical figures of the Hawaiian islands.

“Performing these works becomes a huge responsibility because every utterance can transport the audience to deep understandings of themselves, their ancestors, and the forces that shaped momentous moments in our islands’ story,” Johnson says.

Over the course of more than 30 years in the field of performing arts, Johnson’s work has profoundly affected audiences from Hawai‘i to New York City, instilling in people a deep appreciation of local drama and literature.  Johnson says what rises to the surface of her work is the power of oral history and local drama and literature to move audiences emotionally.

She says The Trial of Lili‘uokalani, wherein she created the role of the queen, is especially memorable because of one performance during the state-wide commemoration of the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. A special event was held for students from the Hawaiian Language Immersion Movement. At that time, she, too, was beginning to learn her native tongue along with two of her children who were attending immersion schools.

“The haumana (students) watched the show, then visited with the queen immediately afterward in a question-and-answer session, entirely in Hawaiian,” Johnson says about interacting with the students after the performance while staying in character. “They began with the presentation of ho‘okupu (ceremonial gift), then queried me on my family and my reasons for making the choices I made as queen. It was a stirring journey back into history and I was very affected by the youngsters who were so eager to bring immediacy to their study of Hawaii’s past. And to do all that i ka ‘olelo Hawaii (in the Hawaiian language) was deeply moving.”

In the same manner, she says, the performance of Ka‘ahumanu at The Native Theatre Festival of New York City’s Public Theatre also was momentous. (Elizabeth Ka‘ahumanu was a queen regent of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in the 1800s.)

“The play, written by Honolulu playwright Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, received a warm reception and engendered riveting discussion with the audience after the staged reading, focusing on Hawai‘i’s political and social history,” she says. “The show served to educate, glorify, and entertain–age-old goals of this art we call drama.”

Jackie Johnson performs Isabella Bird at Kealapu‘ali.

Johnson says her performances of Isabella Bird over the last five years have been very gratifying. (Bird was an adventurous English traveler, writer, and natural historian of the 1800s.) Many of Johnson’s one-woman events have been on-site where Ms. Bird visited the Big Island in the 1870’s, at Kealapu‘ali and Ka‘anahaha, up-slope on the mountain of Hualalai on the west side of the island. Audiences are taken by four-wheel drive vehicles to the site for the 45-minute show, then spend time in the rarely accessible area.

Jackie Johnson performs Isabella Bird at the Lyman Museum in Hilo.

A Visit at Kalukalu, a Kona Historical Society Living History play

An assortment of productions that Johnson has directed and/or adapted has been added to the canon of locally-oriented works:

  • One Uddah Mid’Summah, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare in the Park, Hilo Community Players
  • Twelf Nite ‘O Wateva, an adaptation from Shakespeare by James Benton, staged by students in the UH Hilo Acting Troupe
  • Momotaro, a puppet show staged by students in the UH Hilo Acting Troupe
  • Final Harvest: Reminisces of Plantation Days, adapted from living histories, a Big Island Research and Development Corporation Touring Production
  • Folks You Meet In Longs, a play by Lee Cataluna
  • Last Virgin in Paradise, a play by Vilsoni Heroniko
  • Hotel Street, a play by Anthony Oliver
  • Ola Na Iwi, a play by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl
  • Bitter Cane, a play by Genny Lim
  • Issei Woman, world premiere of a play by UH Hilo Professor Miyoko Sugano
  • The Waipa Trilogy, world premiere of plays by Clarence Waipa
  • Moa‘a Mo‘i, a play by Jean Charlot, performed in Hawaiian and English
  • A Visit to Kalukalu, a Kona Historical Society Living History play
  • Kona Coffee Days, a Kona Historical Society Living History play
  • Tsunami Years, state-wide touring show of the Pacific Tsunami Museum
  • Getting Somewheres, state-wide touring project of the Hawai’i Council for the Humanities
  • Several oral interpretation performances by UH Hilo students: Local OutPacific ImagesPacific Tales: Mo‘o, Mana, MagicStuffs: Through the Eyes of Childhood

Johnson has two productions currently in progress. Vespers at Hanaiakamalama is a one-woman show that Johnson scripted from historical documents and contemporary sources. UH Hilo student Denyse Woo-Ockerman will create the role of Queen Emma in performances in Hilo and on O‘ahu this fall for the Sesquicentennial of the Episcopal Church in Hawai‘i.

Pele and Hi‘iaka is a story-telling performance that Johnson is adapting from the re-telling of the epic Hawaiian myth by Volcano artist Dietrich Varez. Johnson will perform the adaptation as part of the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center season offerings in spring 2013.

Professor Johnson also directs musicals. Pictured above is the full cast of Grease, which Johnson directed in 2008. The show was held at the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center with musical direction by Professor Richard Lee, choral direction by Pedro Ka‘awaloa, and choreography by Celeste Staton. The cast starred local talent, including UH Hilo performing arts department students and a Hilo DJ.

Johnson says her professional goal for the future continues as before: exposing UH Hilo performing arts students to a range of drama from the various genres available, including classical theatre, musicals, contemporary productions, and avant-garde works.

“This is important because of UH Hilo’s isolation,” she says. “The Performing Arts program is the locus for discovery in all these areas.”

Johnson plans an on-going study of trends in the field, uncovering new scripts, and shaping re-inventions of older scripts that will bring vitality and relevance to each performance. In this fashion, she says, students will continue to develop a wide-ranging appreciation for the myriad creative efforts that have shaped the art of performances for generations.

“My personal goal of continuing to bring oral history to life helps me to center on humanities issues on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and in the state of Hawai’i,” she says. “I hope to be the pebble in the pond, sending waves of awareness throughout our island home.”



Jacquelyn “Jackie” Pualani Johnson is a professor of drama and chair of the performing arts department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She received her bachelor of arts in theatre and master of arts in theatre from University of Colorado at Boulder. Contact info.

More photos of Johnson’s creative works →

Continue reading »

Oct 172012

William Wilson

William H. “Pila” Wilson is a professor of Hawaiian language, Hawaiian studies, and linguistics in Ka Haka ‘Ula O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He serves as chair of the Division of Academic Programs of the college.

Wilson came to UH Hilo from Honolulu in 1978 to write up the first bachelor of arts program in the United States to be taught through the medium of an indigenous language. He has served as the principal writer of the extensive programs of what is now the most developed program in an indigenous language in the United States. The college has a full P-20 program in Hawaiian from an infant-toddler program at the college’s Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Laboratory School to a PhD in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization. Both programs are the first of their kind in the world.

Wilson and Kauanoe Kamanā, a founding member of ‘Aha Punana Leo immersion school and the first of Native Hawaiian ancestry to receive the PhD in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization from UH Hilo in 2010, were the first of a number of couples in Hawai‘i who revived Hawaiian as the first language of their home and children.

Wilson is recognized internationally for his work in Hawaiian language revitalization, notably for providing pathways for other indigenous groups to learn from the highly successful Hawaiian language revitalization work occurring in Hilo. That intensive work in the Hawaiian language has given him a unique knowledge base from which to do linguistic research into what the Hawaiian language can teach us about the ancient history of Hawaiʻi.

“I do historical linguistic research as a way to take a break from the intensive work of the college in language revitalization,” says Wilson. “When I’m not working with a student on a thesis or dissertation, teaching undergraduates, or developing some new program proposal or language-oriented law, I’m pondering old questions relating to Polynesian voyaging.”

One question Wilson ponders and investigates is this: From where did the first people to reach Hawaiʻi sail their canoes?

“This is a question that has intrigued Westerners from the time of the early European explorers of the Pacific,” he says. “Hawaiian tradition does not see this as a major question, as it holds that the Hawaiian people grew up with the land itself. The common question in Hawaiian tradition has related to the location of the lands visited by Hawaiian ancestors in voyaging canoes. Where were these lands?”

Wilson, who holds a PhD in linguistics, says language provides strong evidence for the places visited by the distinctive Hawaiian people once they became a distinctive population of these islands. It also provides strong evidence of source of the first settlers of Hawaiʻi who formed bonds with the land to become the first Hawaiians.

“Anthropologists and linguists have long known that Hawaiians are East Polynesians, closely related to the peoples of Tahiti, Easter Island, New Zealand, Rarotonga and the Marquesas,” he says. “The question has been what particular part of Western Polynesia served as the source of the East Polynesians. The assumption has been that the original settlers of East Polynesian came from Sāmoa. Yet there is no clear archeological evidence for this.”

Using linguistic evidence, Wilson shows that the assumption about Sāmoa is wrong. He provides a surprising answer regarding the source of the East Polynesians, an answer that shows what great navigators these ancestors were. The East Polynesians came from the tiny populations of Polynesians living on the small atolls off the east coast of the Solomon Islands even farther from East Polynesian than Sāmoa.

“All languages are constantly changing, and shared changes can be used to show that languages have a shared history,” says Wilson. “The Northern Outliers, especially the tiny atolls of Takuu, Nukuria, Nukumanu, and Luangiua are the home of languages that share many similarities with East Polynesian languages.”

The Northern Outliers and Northern East Polynesia

In an article to be published in Oceanic Linguistics in December 2012 (editor’s note 1/13: article is now published), Wilson identifies a number of distinctive changes in words that are shared uniquely by these atoll languages and East Polynesian languages. Some of these words are familiar to English speakers in Hawaiʻi today, for example, the change from earlier kiu, “bird with a curved beak,” to kiwi (Maori kiwi, Hawaiian ʻiʻiwi); the change from earlier watuke, “type of sea urchin,” to fatuke (Marquesan hatuke, Hawaiian hākuʻekuʻe and hāʻukeʻuke); and the change from earlier taʻe, “feces,” to tūtaʻe (Hawaiian kūkae).

Wilson also shows that East Polynesians including Hawaiians voyaged back to these atolls after the separate East Polynesian languages had developed.

“Those return voyages are marked by distinctive East Polynesian and distinctive Hawaiian words being sporadically found mixed with older words in the Northern Outlier atoll languages,” he says.

For example, Hawaiian wahine from earlier fafine represents a change distinctive of a subset of East Polynesian languages. This word is found in the language of Nukuria, while the languages on the surrounding atolls retain the earlier fafine term.

Similarly, the Hawaiian term tahuna (a dialectal pronunciation for kahuna) is found in the Nukuoro language along with an earlier term tufunga that is widespread in the atoll languages. Wilson says this shows again that these atoll languages had contact with Hawaiian.

In earlier research, Wilson shows that the languages of the Tuamotu atolls between Tahiti and the Marquesas have a connection to Hawaiian. As with the distant atolls in the Solomon Islands, there are terms that are in Hawaiian from the Tuamotu language and terms from Hawaiian in the Tuamotu language.

“However, the influence between Hawaiian and Tuamotuan occurred many years after the initial settlement of East Polynesia from the Northern Outliers,” Wilson says. “Many geologists believe that the Tuamotu Islands were still under water when East Polynesian was first settled. Archeological confirmation of a connection between Hawaiʻi and the Tuamotus occurred with the discovery of an adze made from stone from Hawaiʻi.”

Wilson continues his research on the relationship between East Polynesian languages at the same time that he and colleagues at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College assist other Polynesian peoples with contemporary language revitalization.

In addition to that work, Wilson does linguistic research into what the Hawaiian language can teach about the ancient history of Hawaiʻi. Two of his recent publications are of major relevance to determining the closest relatives of the Hawaiian language.



William H. “Pila” Wilson is a professor of Hawaiian language, Hawaiian studies, and linguistics in Ka Haka Ula O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He was awarded the UH Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching in 1999. He received his master of arts in linguistics and doctor of philosophy in linguistics from UH Mānoa. Contact info.


In the News: 

Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Jan. 11, 2013: Scholar tracks origins of Hawaii ancestors. Read full story in PDF.

Oct 172012

Michael Shintaku

Michael Shintaku is a professor of plant pathology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He specializes in plant-virus interactions, with research projects involving tomato spotted wilt virus, cymbidium mosaic virus, dasheen mosaic virus, and the bacterial wilt pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum. Currently, he’s researching diseases of taro, ginger, and lettuce, all crops of relevance to the Big Island agricultural community.

In a landmark study in 2004, Shintaku worked with virologists in California and Florida on the citrus tristeza virus (CTV), a disease that has killed millions of citrus trees around the world causing economic catastrophe in many areas. This was a significant study that contributed a large amount of new information on the biology of CTV.

The research team was able to show that the CTV virus carries three suppressors of gene silencing. At the time, gene silencing was a newly-discovered mechanism involved in preventing viral infection. In order to infect their hosts, plant viruses often carry genes that are able to suppress the silencing mechanism.

“A few suppressors had been discovered at the time, but a single virus carrying three or even two suppressors was unheard of,” says Shintaku. “We were very surprised to find three silencing suppressors in a single viral genome.”

Further, he says, the team was able to elucidate the mode of action of each of the suppressors. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2004).

Discovering something surprising in plant pathology was not a new experience to Shintaku. In 1991, while working on cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), he showed that by making a single-nucleotide substitution in the CMV coat protein gene, the symptom expression of that virus changed from a green mosaic to a white mosaic.

“This was surprising, but more surprising was when we found that this substitution also rendered the virus unable to infect squash and unable to be transmitted by aphids,” he says. This work was published in Plant Cell (1991).

Shintaku’s current work is with taro, ginger, and lettuce, all major crops of the Big Island agricultural community.

His work on taro has focused on three things: the evaluation of microsatellite DNA markers for taro identification; the identification of single-nucleotide polymorphisms for use in taro identification and breeding; and the use of a detached leaf assay to rapidly evaluate taro plants for resistance to taro leaf blight caused by Phytophthora colocasia.

“The most important disease of taro is taro leaf blight caused by Phytophthora colocasiae,” Shintaku says. “We are working to develop taro varieties with resistance to P. colocasia.”

Using hand-pollination, Shintaku and his research team are developing new varieties while selecting for disease resistance. They have screened over a thousand individual plants from 14 crosses, and have identified two parental lines that confer very good resistance to their progeny.

Shintaku has identified a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in these plants, and says the research team will use these SNPs for two things: “To augment our breeding program by allowing early selection for resistance, and as DNA markers to identify all taro varieties, including the Hawaiian collection as well as varieties from Asia, Guam, New Guinea and Palau that are now grown in various collections in Hawai‘i.”

Professor Michael Shintaku (far right) stands with some of his lab personnel at the 2011 American Phytopathological Society national meeting in Honolulu. (L-R) Ashley Smith, Kiersten Akahoshi, Sharon Motomura and Shintaku. Behind the group is two of their three posters.

Shintaku’s research team includes Heather Kimball, who is the laboratory research specialist working on the taro project. She is being assisted by UH Hilo student Timothy Nock. Previously, Kimball was assisted by UH Hilo student Katie Jones, who graduated last year. Kimball was preceded by Ashley Smith, who is currently conducting research on plant ecology in Ohio. Matthew Sueda is a Waiakea High School senior that helped with this work in 2010; he presented his work at the Hawai‘i District Science and Engineering Fair.

The team recently wrote a book chapter (in press) describing the biology and history of P. colocasiae.

Looking to the future, Shintaku says he hopes to have a DNA fingerprinting system in place for taro in the next year or so.

“This will help in efforts to preserve the Hawaiian varieties,” he says. “This will also help in taro breeding efforts.”

Shintaku also is studying bacterial wilt of ginger caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, the most important disease affecting ginger cultivation in Hawai‘i. Ginger has been extensively grown in the Hamakua district of the Big Island, so much of the soil there is infested with this pathogen, he says.

“Once a field is infested, ginger cultivation is impossible for many years,” says Shintaku. “We have developed a test for the presence of this pathogen in soil, and we are testing soil as well as planting material for local farmers.”

The ginger work is currently supported by a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant. As part of Shintaku’s research team, Sharon Motomura, a master degree candidate in UH Hilo’s Tropical Biology and Environmental Science program, is evaluating various soil amendments for their potential to reclaim infested soil for ginger cultivation.

“We hope to identify a soil amendment that will allow growers to reclaim land for ginger production,” Shintaku says.



Michael Shintaku, PhD, is a professor of plant pathology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He is faculty at UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management where he teaches plant pathology, plant disease diagnosis, plant biotechnology, genetic analysis, molecular methods in conservation biology, and applied microbiology. He received his master of science in plant pathology from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and his doctor of philosophy in plant pathology from Cornell University. Contact info.

Update, June 2014: The local paper reports the recent GMO ban in Hawai‘i County is creating uncertainty for scientists. Professor Shintaku is continuing his research on creating genetically modified lettuce resistant to the tomato spotted wilt virus but is unsure of whether he can get it approved with the current restrictions. The virus is transported by insects, and he thinks he can create resistance through processes similar to what allowed Rainbow papaya to be resistant to the ringspot virus. Shintaku said the virus impacts lettuce growers in Waimea. Read full Hawaii Tribune-Herald report in PDF.

Oct 172012
Maria Haws

Maria Haws

Maria C. Haws is an associate professor of aquaculture at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She conducts research in the fields of invertebrate biology, aquaculture and coastal management, and natural resources management policy.

Haws has a dual appointment as a UH Sea Grant aquaculture extension specialist. She also serves as director of the Pearl Research and Training Program, a joint project of UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center and the UH Sea Grant College Program.

In addition, Haws serves as affiliate faculty at the College of the Marshall Islands. She also is on the Board of Directors for the Marine and Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei where she provides technical assistance in aquaculture development of pearls, sponges, corals, marine ornamentals in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands.

“What is important to me is contributing to industry development, technology transfer and student training,” says Haws. “This of course involves research, but I try to focus on applied research that answers questions critical to industry progress and making aquaculture more sustainable in the social, economic and environmental sense.”

In her role as a UH Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension Specialist, Haws provides technical assistance to the Hawai‘i aquaculture industry, with a focus on development of the shellfish industry. She also provides technical assistance to groups managing traditional Hawaiian fishponds to revive ancient and new forms of aquaculture production.

Her pursuit of developing native species for aquaculture includes study of the chame fish (Dormitator latifrons), an air breathing fish from the Americas, and the Hawai‘i native oyster, Dendostrea sandvicensis.

“Developing native species for aquaculture is important so that we have additional culture species that are more adapted for local conditions, to avoid introduction of non-native species, and because while conducting basic aquaculture research, we elucidate the life cycles and physiological ecology of these species,” she says. “This information contributes to conservation and management.”

Professor Maria Haws (red t-shirt) provides instruction to her students as part of a laboratory activity where oysters are bred as they would be in a commercial shellfish hatchery. The oyster used here is the oriental or pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. It was introduced from Japan in 1912 and is a favorite among many diners. See link at end of post to learn more about the lab. Photo by Brian Hampson, used with permission.

Haws’s work on the Hawaiian oyster is significant since it is an important species in Hawai‘i, being one of the last relatively common bivalves, yet so little information exists on it. Her research has discovered basic information on its biology and life cycle and shown that it can be a great aquaculture species.

Haws is also doing research related to closing the life cycle for limu kohu, which if successful will yield new information on the biology and ecology of this species, and potentially make contributions to cultural aspects, since limu kohu is prized by Native Hawaiians and could potentially be a high value aquaculture product.

Haws also has conducted basic aquaculture grow-out trials in traditional Hawaiian fish ponds starting in 2007. She says this demonstration of the biological and economic feasibility of oyster culture, along with the spearheading of the State Shellfish Working Group, helped “push DOH into getting started on full implementation of the State Shellfish Sanitation plan.”

“Previously Hawai‘i had been the only U.S. state or Canadian province without a bivalve industry due to the failure to fully implement the plan,” she says. “They just announced they are going to move ahead on this, including for some areas on the Big Island, which opens the door to Hawai‘i developing a shellfish industry.”

Haws has conducted research with an industry partner at a new shellfish hatchery in Hawaiian Paradise Park. The team conducted research for three years to develop methods to grow oyster larvae and microalgae under East Hawai‘i conditions that led to a $1 million investment in the hatchery. The company has hired seven former research employees and students.

Additionally, the larvae and oyster seed they produce, plus the production at UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center with UH Hilo Aquaculture Workforce Development students, helps oyster farmers in the continental Pacific Northwest who would otherwise not have enough oyster seed to stock their farms because of the impact of ocean acidification. The project is now helping to supply farmers in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California while at the same time continuing to develop new production methods for Hawai‘i conditions.

Haws has authored many papers that describe the contribution of aquaculture to coastal management. This includes efforts in Nicaragua to develop community-based management of a threatened cockle species which has applications throughout the tropical developing world where cockles are an important fisheries resource.

She also conducts research on climate change adaptation and writes policy documents for USAID.

“These are peer-reviewed publications, and in theory, become part of the U.S. development policy and guidance, so hopefully these have national and international impacts,” she says.

Haws serves as co-deputy director for the USAID project, “Sustainable Coastal Communities and Ecosystems (SUCCESS),” in Tanzania, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Marshall Islands, and she is principal investigator for the USAID AquaFish Project, “Human Health and Aquaculture,” in Mexico and Nicaragua.

Professor Haws oversees a student opening an oyster. The lab (AQUA 353L Cultures of Invertebrates) gives students hands-on experience in hatchery, nursery and grow-out of aquatic invertebrates and algae. Photo by Brian Hampson.

Along with her regional and international research, Haws is faculty at UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, where she teaches introductory and advanced aquaculture courses and climate change adaptation. She also directs and manages UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center shellfish hatchery, where she trains and mentors student hatchery employees and interns. She also advises graduate students in the UH Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program.

“We provide training to many students each year that enables them to acquire skills for their future careers,” says Haws. “Many of these students gain two or three years of solid work experience by the time they graduate.”

Haws’s plans for the future include continued research and activities that foster aquaculture development in Hawai‘i, the Pacific region and internationally.

“I’d like to ramp up the Aquaculture Workforce Development program, improve capacity to provide aquaculture extension for Hawai‘i, and continue research and outreach on climate change adaptation in Hawai‘i and the Pacific including the policy research that I do for USAID,” she says.

Haws received her bachelor of arts in biology from Reed College, Oregon, and her doctor of philosophy in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M.

Contact info.

Lab photos by Brian Hampson, professor emeritus at California Polytechnic State University. To see more photos and learn more about the lab mentioned in the post, visit Hampson’s Blogspot.




Oct 172012

In the video above dated Sept. 29, 2012, Ken Hon, professor of geology and volcanology, and colleague Peter Mills, professor of anthropology, teach students  in a UH Hilo volcanology class, along with visiting students from Stanford University, how to collect data in the field with a thermocouple and radiometer. This is a Kilauea lava flow on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, high up on the pali (cliffs). Note: there is no narrative in this video.

Ken Hon

Kenneth Hon, professor of geology and volcanology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, specializes in volcanology, petrology and mineralogy. Hon has studied volcanoes in Hawai‘i, the continental United States, and Russia. His research interests concentrate on basaltic volcanoes in Hawai‘i and large ash-flow caldera eruptions. He also teaches courses in physical geology, geology of the Hawaiian islands, mineralogy, and petrology.

“I’m probably best known for my work on the mechanics of pahoehoe lava emplacement, but all lava flows have a special place in my heart,” he says. “I love trying to gently coax a volcano’s story out of the rocks and minerals. But if that doesn’t work, grinding them to bits and torturing them in hot furnaces and under electron beams is kind of fun, too. One way or the other, they eventually talk and say some pretty interesting things.”

Hon also makes educational films about volcanic eruptions on the Big Island. He’s part of a team of filmmakers at Volcano Video Productions, where he narrates, shoots, edits, and writes scripts for videos. The films are shown in the theater at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. A lot of the footage is used in many different TV programs on the major networks, Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, and others, as well as at a number of museums including the American Museum of Natural History.

Hon also conducts geoarchaeology research. In 2003, he teamed up with UH Hilo anthropology professor Peter Mills as investigators on a Major Research Instrumentation Grant from the National Science Foundation. That initial grant was used to found the UH Hilo Geoarchaeology Laboratory to specialize in non-destructive analyses of basalt and volcanic glass artifacts from the Pacific using an Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer that allows rapid study of the material without any damage to the artifacts. The EDXRF is used to detect and record the geochemical “fingerprints” of the stone tools that prehistoric Hawaiians quarried from various sites, and tracks the extent to which that material was traded throughout the islands.

Hon also runs the UH Hilo Electron Microprobe Lab. The electron microprobe, called an Applied Research Laboratories Scanning Electron Microprobe Quantometer or ARL SEMQ, has been completely renovated with a grant from the National Science Foundation with assistance from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. UH Hilo works cooperatively with HVO in analyzing lava samples to determine their thermal and chemical history.

The ARL SEMQ is running the most recent version of Probe for Windows analytical software, which is fully integrated with image analysis software and hardware from SIS. It is capable of quantitatively analyzing spots of 1-2 microns and can also produce backscatter electron and x-ray element maps.

The microprobe is housed in the UH Hilo Geoarchaeology Laboratory along with the EDXRF, which is capable of analyzing whole rocks. Both instruments are wired to the adjacent teaching laboratory and can be used by students as part of geology and archaeology courses.

“We are the only undergraduate liberal arts college in the U.S. with our own microprobe,” says Hon.

Prior to coming to UH Hilo, Hon worked for 15 years at the U.S. Geological Survey in the Volcano Hazards Program, including three years at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“During my tenure at HVO, the town of Kalapana was overrun by lava and I was intimately involved with monitoring the progress of lava flows and evacuating residents,” he says. “This experience had a profound effect on me and made me much more interested in making science more applicable to people.”



Kenneth Hon is a professor of geology and volcanology at UH Hilo. He received his bachelor of science in geology and doctor of philosophy in geology from the University of Colorado. Contact info.

Professor Hon in the news:

Oct 172012

Kimberly Furumo

Kimberly Furumo, associate professor of business and economics, joined the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo faculty in 2005. Her main area of research focuses on the difficulties of working in virtual work teams. She considers her findings related to team members who withhold effort, called “free-riding” or “social loafing,” or desert the team as her most significant contributions to the literature.

“Virtual teams, or teams that are geographically dispersed and meet via information and communications technology, are becoming more common in the workplace,” says Furumo. “My research is grounded in the work groups theory base and utilizes knowledge from the social psychology area. Specifically, I focus on the constructs of trust, group cohesion, and conflict management.”

Furumo says team members face additional difficulties when working in virtual teams. First, communication often takes place asynchronously or at different points in time, and it is more difficult because of the lack of media richness. In other words, she says, subtle gestures, body language, and voice tone and inflection are often missing in the virtual world. This increases the likelihood that conflicts will occur and that communication will break down. In addition, many teams are composed of members from different countries and cultural backgrounds in which customs and modes of communication may be quite different.

Furumo’s research shows that it is harder to develop trust in virtual teams than in the traditional face-to-face team setting. Trust, she says, impacts the relationship between team members and higher levels of trust lead to lower transaction costs. Individuals who trust each other feel less compelled to monitor or double check the work completed by others.

“Trust, or the willingness of one party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party, impacts human interaction,” she says. “A lack of trust exists when one party does not have faith in the competencies of another or questions the motivation of the other to take some promised action.”

Furumo says her findings on free riding are her most significant contribution to the literature.

“Free-riding in teams, or social-loafing as it has also been called, refers to the idea that individuals may be more inclined to withhold effort if they believe their actions cannot be individually identified and monitored,” she says. “For the past sixty years, psychological studies have observed and identified this phenomenon in face-to-face work teams.”

Furumo has expanded on this knowledge area by comparing free-riding in face-to-face and virtual teams. She has authored several research articles on the subject published in the Communications of the ACM, Journal of Computer Information Systems, the International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, and the Journal of Information, Information Technology and Organizations.

Furumo’s findings indicate that unhappy virtual team members fall into two groups. One group, that she titles the “deadbeats,” involves individuals who believe they can mask their individual efforts and therefore decide to reduce work levels. A second group, she titles “deserters,” and these individuals make a decision to leave the group. This may be due to the fact that they become frustrated with the virtual team format and feel they cannot have an impact. Deserters were more likely to exhibit an avoidance style of conflict resolution suggesting that when problems arose they tended to avoid them.

“Generally, trust and group cohesion are lower in virtual teams while conflict tends to be higher,” says Furumo. “Conflict that is related to task may be beneficial because it allows members to consider different points of view. However, conflict related to personal relationships can be devastating to the work of the team.”

Furumo found that leaders with a supportive style of leadership, in which they are concerned about team members, encouraged more participation and greater levels of trust than commanding leaders who are interested only in task.

Furumo says she is interested in learning more about virtual teams so that she can offer opportunities to her business students.

Professor Kimberly Furumo and business students in class.

“Our students are entering a world where they will be working with and interacting with people in different countries and time zones,” she says. “If I can provide them with an opportunity to do this in the safety of the educational environment, they will be more prepared for what awaits them in the work world.”

Furumo has arranged for her students to work in the virtual environment with students in the countries of Jordan and Malaysia. Students report that these experiences have been educational although they have been difficult. For example, both countries are predominantly Muslim and Furumo’s students are sometimes surprised that Muslim students are not available on the Friday and Saturday before an assignment deadline because of religious obligations.

Other difficulties identified by the UH Hilo students were difference in time zones and the limited English spoken by students in other countries.

“In the past, students have been able to read about these difficulties in a textbook, but now they can fully experience them and develop strategies for dealing with the difficulties,” says Furumo.



Kimberly Furumo is an  associate professor of business and economics at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. In 2010, she was selected as Outstanding Business Professor by the Lambda Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. She received a master of social work from St. Louis University, Missouri; a master of business administration from the University of Akron, Ohio; and a doctor of philosophy in business administration from Southern Illinois University. Contact info.

Oct 172012

Chris Frueh

Bartley Christopher “Chris” Frueh, clinical psychologist, is a professor of psychology and chair of the social sciences division at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. His research focuses on clinical trials, epidemiology, and mental health services relevant to the design and implementation of innovative treatments and mental health service improvements for people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“My research has contributed to the knowledge on treatment for veterans, prisoners, and severely mentally ill people with PTSD,” says Frueh. “My aim is to improve public sector mental healthcare services for trauma survivors with comorbid psychiatric disorders—PTSD plus substance abuse, depression, schizophrenia—via research, training, and dissemination.”

Frueh has over 200 professional publications, and has been principal investigator on 15 federally-funded research grants, and co-investigator or mentor on more than 25 others, including funding from the federal National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Department of Defense (DOD).

Locally, Frueh is currently working with Charmaine Higa-McMillan, assistant professor of psychology at UH Hilo, on a pending NIMH grant to improve evidence based mental health practices for rural communities. He’s also working with Jeffrey Smith, assistant professor of history at UH Hilo, on a manuscript and planned book on suicides and psychiatric illness in the U.S. Civil War.

Frueh says a surprising find in his research on the Civil War is that there were only 278 documented suicides in the Union Army during the four years of the war (1861-1865), less than the DOD documented in the single year of 2010 (295).

Frueh is also working on several national projects, most of which are clinical trials taking place over the course of many years. Some of his national work already has publications, but most are new studies where the data have not yet been analyzed.

Two of his current clinical trials are especially challenging because the method used typically takes four to seven years to complete a trial.

“Scientifically, it is frowned upon to examine your results before you have finished collecting all of the data,” he says.

Frueh has just finished data collection on a geriatric depression trial in Charleston, South Carolina, based on a VA grant Frueh first wrote in 2004. It was funded in 2006 after he moved to UH Hilo– a long lag time, he says.

“My national work isn’t just one project, it’s many different projects, with different research teams,” he says. “Each project is funded in the $1 million to $5 million range. I’m a co-principal investigator on two of the projects, and most of the others are headed by my mentees I still work with.”

Frueh’s national projects include:

Clinical Trials for PTSD

  • National Center for PTSD, Honolulu, DOD-funded, veterans
  • Baylor College of Medicine/VA Med Center, Houston, VA-funded, veterans with PTSD and panic
  • University of Central Florida, Orlando and Medical University South Carolina, Charleston, SC, DOD-funded, veterans
  • Rutgers University, New Jersey, National Institutes of Health-funded, prisoners
  • Medical University South Carolina/VA Medical Center, Charleston, SC, VA-funded, PTSD and schizophrenia

Clinical Trials for Depression

  • Medical University South Carolina/VA Medical Center, Charleston, SC, VA-funded, geriatric veterans
  • Baylor College of Medicine and Menninger Clinic, Houston, McNair and Menninger Foundations, civilians

Neuroscience Studies

  • Virginia Tech, Roanoke, Virginia, NIMH-funded, veterans with depression and PTSD
  • Virginia Tech, Roanoke, VA, VA-funded, veterans PTSD

Frueh says his future goals are many and varied, but one is to advance understanding of military suicides and other adverse outcomes of military service.

He also has two books pending publication: one is a co-authored book on clinical assessment and treatment planning for PTSD, and the other is fiction, a psychological crime novel.



Bartley “Chris” Frueh is a professor of psychology and chair of the social sciences division at UH Hilo. He is a licensed clinical psychologist. He received his master of arts in clinical psychology and his doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida, Tampa. Contact info.


Opinion pieces:

Psychology Today, Sept. 9, 2014: “11 Reasons that Combat Veterans with PTSD are Being Harmed” (in “Curious,” a column by Todd Kashdan).

New York Times (Op-Ed), June 27, 2014: “Veterans Affairs Needs to Get a Clue About PTSD Treatment.” Or see full op-ed in PDF.

New York Times, The Opinion Pages, March 20, 2013: “Minds at War.”


Wall Street Journal, Nov. 29, 2014: “Vets Seek Help for PTSD Decades After War” (subscription required).

The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2014: “As disability awards grow, so do concerns over the veracity of veterans’ PTSD claims” (same article also in the Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3, 2014)

Research referenced:

The Economist, Feb. 19, 2015: “Disability insurance for veterans: Not working.”