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Dr. Rebecca Ostertag

ohia trees with ekaha
ʻŌhiʻa trees with ʻēkaha
leituga and Ostertag
Leituga and Ostertag
bird over cliffs
Bird over cliffs

Professor, Department of Biology, University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo


  • Ph.D. in Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
  • B.A. in Biology, Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

Current Research

As tropical forest ecologist, my research interests revolve around understanding how tropical forests are structured and how tropical ecosystems function. I have been fortunate to work in both Latin America and Hawai╩╗i.

Current research projects include:

Our lab group works on a variety of ecological studies.



  • Department of Defense, SERDP Program, “Developing Novel Ecosystems that Enhance Carbon Storage, Native Biodiversity, and Human Mobility in Lowland Forests”, 2011-2016, PI.
  • NSF Ecosystem Studies, “CAREER: Significance of Foliar Nitrogen and Phosphorus Accumulation in Tropical Forests”, August 2006-Sep 2012, PI. 
  • NSF Ecosystem Studies, “Effects of Multiple Species Invasions: Albizia Tree and Coqui Frog Colonization of Hawai╩╗i”, July 2005-August 2008, co-PI. 
  • NSF Ecosystem Studies, "Controls on the Storage and Loss of Soil Organic Carbon with Reforestation of Abandoned Pastures", March 2002-Feb 2005, Senior Personnel,
  • NSF TCUP Program, “Hawaiian Values, Science, and Technology: Advancing a New Paradigm for STEM Education”, Sept. 2002-2007.  Senior Personnel.
  • NASA/Earth System Science Education, “Teaching Global Environmental Change from Mountain to Ocean: The ╩╗Ahupua╩╗a Way”, 2003-2005, Co-PI.
  • UH Hilo Seed Grant, “Nitrogen and Phosphorus Limitation of Hawaiian Forest Communities”, May 2002-June 2003, PI. 
  • UH Hilo EPSCoR REAP Grant, “Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Aluminum Relationships in Hawaiian Forest Communities”, 2003-2004, PI.
  • UH Hilo REAP EPSCoR grant entitled “The Impact of Non-Native Species on Resource Availability and Community Structure in a Hawaiian Lowland Wet Forest”, 2002, PI


  • Natural History & Conservation of Hawaiian Islands (BIOL/MARE 156-156L)
  • Biostatistics (BIOL 280)
  • General Ecology w. Lab (BIOL 281-281L)
  • Conservation Biology (BIOL 381)
  • Advanced Ecology and Evolution (BIOL 481)
  • Ecology and Evolution Research Methods (BIOL 481L)
  • Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (CBES 600, 601, 602)

I currently teach ecology courses at both lower and upper levels. In lower level courses, the emphasis is on developing a solid foundation based on ecological theory and to understand how that theory can be applied to present environmental issues, particularly related to global change. In upper level courses, the focus is on learning about the ÔÇťartÔÇŁ of science, including reading primary literature, discussion of new analytical tools, and development of independent hypotheses and research proposals. All laboratory courses that I teach are field based, and take advantage of the extraordinary landscape diversity of the Big Island of Hawai╩╗i.

Career Resources for UH Hilo Students

I am involved in an NSF grant (DEB, Ecosystem Studies, # 0546868) in which I am developing career resources for students interested in the environmental sciences.

Environmental Career Resources

Workshop 1 - How to Find a Summer Opportunity in the Environmental Sciences

Workshop 2 - For Science Students: How to Write a Personal Statement