UH Hilo alumnus Jonathan Koch awarded prestigious fellowship to study genomic diversity of Hawaiian bees

UH Hilo alumnus Jonathan Koch is doing postdoctoral work at his alma mater, helping to establish the Hilo campus as a hub for high impact genomics science.

By Susan Enright.

Jonathan Koch
Jonathan Koch

A member of a research team at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was notified earlier this month by the Society of Conservation Biology that he will be awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship, becoming one of five 2018 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellows.

Jonathan Koch, a UH Hilo alumnus who has returned to the university as a postdoctoral fellow, specializes in the study of bees and recently won the 1st runner-up award in a video competition hosted by the Entomological Society of America.

Koch currently is doing research on invasion genomics, which includes an examination of large portions of whole genomes to understand the genetic diversity of invasive species.

Jolene Sutton
Jolene Sutton

“The Smith fellowship will allow him to do cutting edge research at UH Hilo, and will help establish our campus as a hub for high impact genomics science,” says Jolene Sutton, a UH Hilo assistant professor of biology who specializes in evolutionary genetics.

As a Smith Fellow, Koch will complete a project titled, “The nalo meli ‘āpa‘akuma project: Characterizing population genomic diversity of imperiled Hawaiian Hylaeus bees to inform stakeholders on in situ breeding and habitat management strategies,” under the mentorship of Sutton and in partnership with Cynthia King of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Koch has returned to UH Hilo after graduating with a bachelor of science in environmental science and a bachelor of arts in geography in 2008. He was awarded a UH Hilo Chancellor’s Scholarship after graduating from Wai‘anae High School on O‘ahu in 2003. Although he struggled to nail down a major during his first years as an undergraduate, Koch knew he wanted to work in science. He attended graduate school at Utah State University with a full fellowship to do research on a declining bumble bee species.

He was previously awarded a National Science Foundation competitive postdoctoral fellowship grant, which focuses on the broadening participation in the sciences and is specifically geared for those looking to work with universities in broadening diversity.

“What better place than UH Hilo,” says Koch about returning to his alma mater.

2018 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship

According to the Society for Conservation Biology website, the Smith Fellowship, the nation’s premier postdoctoral program in conservation science, seeks to find solutions to the most pressing conservation challenges. Each fellow’s research is conducted in partnership with a major academic institution and an “on the ground” conservation organization to help bridge the gap between theory and application.

Emerging from an impressive pool of doctoral applicants from around the world who competed for the fellowship, UH Hilo’s Jonathan Koch is one of five outstanding scientists who will comprise the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship class of 2018.

While the fellows’ research projects focus on urgent conservation issues, they also learn firsthand the challenges and rewards of conservation applications. The program’s focus is to enlarge their professional opportunities and ensure future success by helping them build relationships in the conservation and research communities and by providing opportunities for professional development through targeted workshops and training events.

The fellowship is named after the late Dr. David H. Smith, founder of the Cedar Tree Foundation, and pediatrician, inventor and conservationist.

The Smith Fellowship seeks to identify and support early-career scientists who will shape the growth of applied conservation biology.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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