UH Hilo’s Nai‘a Odachi wins Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation at Hawai‘i Conservation Conference

Nai’a Odachi’s presentation on Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death covered her investigations at UH Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratories, where she conducts research as a geospatial analyst.

Profile photo of Nai‘a Odachi, UH Hilo Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation. Hawaii Conservation Conference 2023. Graphic image of leaves.
Nai‘a Odachi won the Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award for her talk at the 2023 Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in June at the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Honolulu. (Photo by JB Friday)

By Susan Enright.

Nai‘a Odachi, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, presented her research in June at the 2023 Hawai‘i Conservation Conference and won the Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award for her talk. She also received a $300 cash prize.

Ryan Perroy pictured
Ryan Perroy

Odachi’s presentation, “Hawai‘i Forest Monitoring Efforts and Mortality Patterns Associated with Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death,” was part of a Rapid Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) symposium where she gave an update on the cumulative ‘ōhi‘a forest mortality at monitoring sites run by UH Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) Laboratories, where Odachi conducts research as a geospatial analyst. Professor of Geography Ryan Perroy is principal investigator at SDAV Labs, a research unit applying geospatial tools to local environmental problems in Hawai‘i and the Pacific region.

Odachi graduated high school in 2016 from Hawai‘i Academy of Arts and Sciences in Pāhoa, Hawai‘i Island, and in 2019 received bachelor of arts degrees in both art and geography from UH Hilo. Now a graduate student at UH Hilo, she is researching the use of satellite imagery to survey native forests for Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, which is killing—at an alarming rate—a culturally and environmentally important tree in Hawai‘i.

In her award-winning talk at the conference, Odachi also discussed how she and her peer researchers are integrating satellite imagery into ROD detection efforts, not just for those small site locations, but also for islandwide monitoring.

Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance. Graphic design of Hawaii's animals and plants.
The Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance produces the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference annually.

“I presented my comparison on satellite identified mortality to helicopter-based semi-annual Digital Mobile Sketch Mapping (DMSM) identified mortality,” Odachi explains in an email. “The satellite imagery covers temporal and spatial gaps that can be missed in surveying efforts.”

She concluded her presentation with preliminary results of the research team’s automatic detection model that Patricia Pérez, a data scientist in the SDAV lab, and Odachi have been working on.

“We’re encountering issues with the model identifying red roofs and dirt as potential ROD trees, but we’re working on making the model better,” says Odachi. “Hopefully, this automated detector can be used for identifying new outbreaks on Hawai‘i Island and can also be applied to other islands for immediate detection if a ROD outbreak may occur.”

Odachi presented her research last year at the annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference, but it was through Zoom, so this year was her first time attending in person.

“Being in-person definitely makes a difference and it’s so much easier to connect and network with other researchers and people who are passionate about conservation in Hawai‘i,” says Odachi. “It was amazing to be able to present alongside the ROD group and show the advancements being made for monitoring and ‘ōhi‘a resistance work in order to protect our native forests.”

She says when she presented in-person this year, she was more confident in herself and her research.

Certificate: Aia i hiʻikua, i hi‘ialo – Reflecting on our Past; Dreaming on our Future . 30th 2023 Hawai’i Conservation Conference. Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation is hereby presented to Nai‘a Odachi. June 29, 2023. Signed by VIPs. Also, nametag at top right Nai‘a Odachi.
UH Hilo graduate student Nai‘a Odachi won the Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award for her talk at the 2023 Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Honolulu. (Courtesy photo)

“And I guess it showed since I won Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation,” she says. “While the award is great, I’m more proud of my own self-growth and improvement over the past year.”

Her participation in the conference was supported by a student and emerging professional scholarship from the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance, which covered the majority of the registration fee and flight costs. Accommodations and the remaining registration fee were covered by UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratories.

“A few of my fellow (graduate program) cohort members also received the student and emerging professional scholarship and were able to attend as well,” says Odachi. “We all had a great time attending the various talks and learning more about the research and work going on in Hawai‘i. It’s really important to be able to see the opportunities available and the fields we can go into once we’ve completed our education.”

In May, Odachi presented her research at the 4th International Congress on Biological Invasions hosted in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Two UH Hilo graduate students present their research at the 4th International Congress on Biological Invasions hosted in Aotearoa New Zealand


Story by Susan Enright, 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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