UH Hilo program receives fourth year of funding, part of $5 million project on climate change research.
Climate change research continues at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo with the release of $1 million from the National Science Foundation. The funding is part of a $5 million NSF Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology or CREST program now in its fourth year at UH Hilo and managed by the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) graduate program. The $1 million will cover research activities in the 2017-2018 school year.
The UH Hilo CREST project, “Understanding Biotic Response to Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems Through a Place-Based Context,” is comprised of three research teams led by Patrick Hart, professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biology. Each team is diverse in expertise with post-doctoral researchers, laboratory and field technicians, graduate and undergraduate students.
“The CREST project engages our students in challenging field and laboratory research, which they will present at both local and national scientific conferences,” Hart says. “By developing this new generation of scientists and professionals, the TCBES program is earning a reputation as a center for excellence in research and training for Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.”
Hart is heading the Behavioral Response to Environmental Change Team, which is analyzing the role of anthropogenic change and population decline on social behavior in animals. The group has established a bioacoutics lab with the Hawaiian name LOHE, which means “to perceive with the ear” and is an acronym for Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems. The lab provides support for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates working in the bioacoustics field and has developed algorithm software of global importance in bird research.
Jolene Sutton, assistant professor of biology, heads the Organismal Responses to Environmental Change Team, which is examining the short- and long-term responses of key organisms to a range of environmental conditions. The researchers are incorporating their findings into models of landscape-level response to climate change. The researchers are using three UH Hilo labs: Evolutionary Genomics Core Facility, Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab, and Analytical Lab.
Misaki Takabayashi, professor of marine science and expert in coral health, heads the Dynamic Interactions of Symbioses and Environment Team. Members are investigating the functions of symbiotic organisms in taro, ha‘ole koa, and coral, which are among the many Hawaiian plants and animals that live with symbiotic organisms. The study aims to create a better understanding of the important role symbionts play in the health and physiology of host organisms.