Students and faculty from UH Hilo present their research at statewide conservation conference; two students bring home awards

Graduate student Koa Matsuoka was awarded Honorable Mention in the category of Graduate Student Oral Presentation; Matthew Dye received Honorable Mention in the category of Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation.

By Susan Enright

Group photo of the students with a banner behind them with words: CONSERVATION CONVERSATIONS Photo Booth. Lauhala mat as backdrop. A couple of the students are showing the shaka.
Some of the UH Hilo students who attended the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference, held in Honolulu July 9-11, pose for photo. Front row, from left: Samantha DeVivo, Karen Gallardo Cruz, Maya Munstermann, Thathmini Kularatna, and Erica Ta Back row: Alex Bischer, Koa Matsuoka, Jared Nishimoto, Erin Netoskie, Devon Aguiar, and Melanie Leila Dudley. Photo provided by Samatha DeVivo.

A group of undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and faculty from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo recently showcased their research at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu—and two students brought home awards for their presentations. The conference is the largest gathering of natural and cultural resource professionals in the state.

“The Hawaii Conservation Conference provides a tremendous opportunity for UH Hilo students,” says Becky Ostertag. “Through posters, oral presentations, and forums, UH Hilo students have an opportunity to present their work, to network with other professionals and future employers, to hear world-class plenary sessions, and participate in dialogues with conservation scientists and practitioners.”

Koa Matsuoka, a graduate student in the  Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) program, won Honorable Mention in the category of Graduate Student Oral Presentation for his presentation entitled, “Beginning to re-establish a Palila population on northern Mauna Kea.”

Undergraduate Matthew Dye, majoring in agriculture, received Honorable Mention in the category of Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation for his poster on “Restoration strategies for out-planting at marginalized coastal leeward landscapes on Hawaii Island.”

Other student and alumni presenters from the TCBES program included:

  • Eszter Adany Collier: “Mapping Biological Soil Crusts with Small Unmanned Aerial Systems”  
  • Karen Gallardo Cruz: “Examining the Effect of Helicopter Noise on Bird Assemblages in Hawai‘i’s Protected Natural Areas”
  • Martha Kawasaki: “The urbanization of the Hawaiian stilt: meet the new neighbors”
  • Erin Netoskie: “Behavioral Landscape of ‘Ōma‘o (Myadestes obscurus) Vocalizations in a Naturally Fragmented Habitat”
  • Jared Nishimoto: “Developing An Underdominance Gene Drive System In The Southern House Mosquito”
  • Joanna Norton: “Can compost from a nitrogen-fixing tree, Falcataria moluccana, replace synthetic fertilizer and store carbon in agricultural systems?”

“Attendance at a professional meeting for a week is equivalent to a year’s worth of classroom learning,” says Ostertag. “The opportunity to engage in such a wide variety of topics and with people from throughout Hawaii and the Pacific, and beyond, is invaluable to their professional development.”

Many alumni of the TCBES program who are now experts in conservation biology were at the conference representing government agencies and nonprofit organizations, including Dominique Zarders who was an exhibitor for the Agricultural Resource Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jorden Zarders who represented the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, and others.

Faculty presentations at the conference

Two UH Hilo professors also presented their research in conservation biology.

Professor of Biology Rebecca Ostertag, who serves as chair of the TCBES program, delivered a presentation about her research into native forest restoration entitled, “Biologist Liko Nā Pilina Experiment: Lessons Learned in a Path Towards Restoration Sustainability” (to learn more about this work, see UH Hilo ecologists win medal for provocative native forest restoration research). Ostertag also was part of a group at the conference that conducted a forum entitled, “Connecting with Honuamea: A Bio-Cultural Way Towards Resilience.

Ryan Perroy, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science, delivered a presentation entitled “Hey computer, find that plant!” and another entitled “ROD mortality trajectories in varied environmental and management settings” (ROD is the acronym for Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, a devastating fungal disease killing off large areas of native forest on Hawai‘i Island). Perroy, an expert in using drones to collect data, also participated in a group presentation on “Precision agroforestry inventory monitoring in the Marshall Islands using small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

Also at the conference, it was announced that Perroy won first place and a $70,000 prize in The ‘Ōhi‘a Challenge for his innovative strategy using drones and remote sensing devices to detect ROD.


Story by Susan Enright, public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. 

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