Jun 202017
 

UH Hilo researchers are using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) off the side of Stainback Road, one of the epicenters of the Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death infection.

Still from Video

Click on image for video. UH Hilo geography professor Ryan Perroy explains his part in the research at 2:50.

Researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are part of large collaborative effort to combat Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death, a fungal disease threatening to kill off the most important tree in Hawai‘i Island’s ecosystem.

With 75,000 acres of the island’s ʻōhiʻa forest now showing symptoms of the disease, federal and state agencies and non-profit partners are using an array of high technology to detect its spread.

Ryan Perroy, aloha shirt, glasses, smiling at camera.

Ryan Perroy

UH Hilo’s team of researchers is headed by Ryan Perroy, assistant professor of geography in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science. The team of researchers is using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) off the side of Stainback Road, one of the epicenters of the infection. The team spends about 25 percent of their time flying UAV for Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death mapping and detection.

The home base for the team is UH Hilo’s Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratory.

Perroy says the UAV has been in use in the battle against Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death for about a year and a half.

“It’s very good for monitoring changes in the forest on an individual tree basis, because the resolution of the imagery is so fine that you can see individual leaves and branches,” Perroy explains.

That allows researchers not only to see changes over areas already infected by the fungus, but to detect suspected new cases. As valuable as the UAV imagery is, Perroy says it’s very difficult to fly over ʻōhiʻa forests every month and see the rapidity of tree decline.

“It’s not the best day when we come back and we see more and more trees down since the last time we flew,” he says. “Our efforts are one piece of the larger effort to better understand the disease and better protect our forests.”

All of the researchers and managers working to combat Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death agree that their collaborative efforts are about the only silver lining to what is a serious threat to Hawai‘i’s most important native tree. Ōhiʻa protect the state’s watersheds by providing a sponge-effect to allow rainwater to slowly seep into underground aquifers.  They also help prevent erosion and the spread of invasive species and they are very culturally significant and prized in lei making.

Read the full media release from the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources  to learn more about the many collaborative agencies working on the Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death project.

Also see article in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

May 232017
 

Grady Weyenberg, PhD, an alum of Waiakeawaena, Waiakea Intermediate and Waiakea High School, returns to the island after gaining cutting edge skills that he will now teach to local students.

Grady

Grady Weyenberg

A new data science program is being created at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and its first faculty hire—a statistical researcher fresh from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom—grew up on Hawaiʻi Island.

Grady Weyenberg will start his new position on Aug. 1 and is the first of four tenure-track assistant professors UH Hilo will hire in mathematics, computer science and the natural and social sciences by late 2019 to create the new program. While teaching courses and mentoring students, the new hires will work with existing faculty to develop a data science certificate program, followed by a baccalaureate degree.

Weyenberg was born on Maui, but came to Hilo at an early age and attended Waiakeawaena, Waiakea Intermediate and Waiakea High School before relocating to Arizona for his final two years of high school. He received his bachelor of science in mathematics and bachelor of science in physics from the University of Arizona-Tucson, and his master of science in statistics and doctor of philosophy in statistics from the University of Kentucky-Lexington.

He’ll be arriving at UH Hilo fresh from his current work as a research assistant in the Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. He previously taught various statistics courses and held related research appointments at the University of Kentucky.

Weyenberg has co-authored several studies on statistical methods for analyzing the evolutionary relationships between organisms, which were published in Bioinformatics and Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. His research projects in Bristol include studies of the genetic diversity and structure of the British Isles and Europe.

ʻIke Wai

The new data science program is funded through UH Hilo’s participation in the $20 million ʻIke Wai project awarded to the state last year by the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a statewide initiative funded by the National Science Foundation.

The ‘Ike Wai project will provide data and models that address the grand challenge of water sustainability. A diverse workforce of data scientists and water researchers will work in concert with the community, government and business to inform decision makers with high-quality data and predictive capacity. The project incorporates indigenous and local communities, and its robust, inclusive and diverse human capital pipeline of undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty will address water challenges at the academic and policy level.

UH Hilo students enrolled in the new data science program will analyze data sets generated by the ʻIke Wai project’s five-year study to create a data-driven, sustainable water future for the state of Hawaiʻi and its Pacific neighbors and those from previous EPSCoR-funded projects. Students will hone their data analysis skills by supporting the university’s active research faculty whose projects generate large amounts of data.

 

Media release

May 172017
 

The awards were presented at the UH Hilo 2017 Spring Commencement on May 13.

Alexander Nagurney, instructor of psychology, is this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Chancellor Don Straney (left) presents Alexander Nagurney, instructor of psychology, with this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. 2017 Spring Commencement, May 13. Click photos to enlarge.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo honored three members of the faculty with excellence in teaching awards during this year’s Spring Commencement held May 13.

University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching

Adam Pack, professor of psychology, stands while being honored for receiving a UH Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching. UH Hilo 2017 Spring Commencement, May 13.

Adam Pack, professor of psychology, is the recipient of the UH Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching. This is a UH System award with multiple recipients from across the 10-campus system.

Pack is regarded by students and colleagues as an outstanding, engaging and enthusiastic teacher at the graduate and undergraduate levels, an extremely effective advisor, and a wonderful mentor that operates both inside and outside the classroom. Pack also serves as chair of the Department of Psychology, co-director of the Listening Observatory for Hawaiʻi Ecosystems bioacoustics laboratory, and holds a joint appointment in biology.

Pack is a world-renowned mammal behavior expert with a passion for his research. Students are inspired by his teaching, which includes the infusion of relevant examples from his own marine mammal research and the use of whole class experiments to communicate complex material.

Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

John Hamilton

John Hamilton, instructor of physics and astronomy, stands while being acknowledged as the recipient of the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. UH Hilo 2017 Spring Commencement, May 13.

John Hamilton, instructor of physics and astronomy, is the recipient of the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. This is a UH System award with multiple recipients from across the 10 UH campuses.

Hamilton tirelessly excels at helping students gain real-life experiences through his work with various projects, including the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and the UH Hilo Robotics Team. He also helps students write grants, apply for internship programs, and attend conferences.

Students find these experiences, such as volunteering with NASA scientists for live experiments, to be incredibly valuable in advancing their careers by connecting them with scientists from prominent space agencies. Students say his teaching has shown them that learning is much more than equations and memorizing facts, but about the work they put in and the skills they develop along the way.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Alex Nagurney and Matt Platz

Alex Nagurney (right), instructor in psychology, stands with Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Matt Platz as they listen to Chancellor Straney introduce Nagurney as this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. 2017 Spring Commencement, May 13.

Alexander Nagurney, instructor in psychology, is the recipient of this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Nagurney models excellence and creativity both inside and outside of the classroom. His students say he can communicate difficult concepts and key principles even in such challenging subjects like Statistical Techniques and Research Methods. His use of “gamification” techniques to enhance student engagement earned him recognition for teaching ingenuity by the Apereo Foundation in 2015 and 2016.

Nagurney has produced numerous scientific publications, which he regularly utilizes for upper-level courses in personality, social psychology and interpersonal relationships to inspire his students to further assist him in future studies.

He also offers cycling classes at the university’s Student Life Center to promote physical and mental well-being and conducts evening group study sessions for students in need of assistance.

 

Media release

May 152017
 

Prof. Pack is regarded by students and colleagues as an outstanding, engaging and enthusiastic professor at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Adam Pack

Adam Pack

Adam Pack, professor of psychology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, was honored with the UH Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence. The award is a tribute to faculty members who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject level mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness, and creativity and personal values that benefit students.

Prof. Pack is regarded by students and colleagues as an outstanding, engaging and enthusiastic professor at the graduate and undergraduate levels, an extremely effective advisor and a wonderful mentor who operates both inside and outside the classroom.

Pack also serves as chair of the Department of Psychology, co-director of the Listening Observatory for Hawaiʻi Ecosystems bioacoustics laboratory and holds a joint appointment in biology. He is a world-renowned mammal behavior expert with a passion for research. Students are inspired by his teaching, which includes the infusion of relevant examples from his own marine mammal research and the use of whole class experiments to communicate complex material.

Outside the classroom, he joins students on field expeditions where he motivates the entire research team, even under the worst of weather conditions and the roughest seas.

For details about this year’s other recipients, see full story at UH System News.

May 112017
 

The new spectrometer is the only one in the region and substantially increases research and student training the UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory can support in and out of state.

By Susan Enright.

Erik

(Left to right) Technician Erik Johnson, Lab Manager Tara Holitzki and Prof. of Marine Science Tracy Wiegner stand next to the new Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer, UH Hilo Analytical Labratory. Courtesy photos, click to enlarge.

The Analytical Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is a hub for research and training on Hawai‘i Island. The lab’s primary focus is supporting ecological research and water quality studies by providing analytical services to researchers in the UH System and federal and state agencies. The lab also provides analytical services for visiting researchers from other universities.

It is the only facility on Hawai‘i Island that trains students to use analytical instrumentation for environmental sample analysis.

Tracy Wiegner

Tracy Wiegner

The Analytical Laboratory is managed by Tara Holitzki under the direction of Tracy Wiegner, a professor of marine science who specializes in coastal water quality.

A new Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer

Last year, the lab was awarded a grant of over half-a-million dollars from the National Science Foundation for the purchase and support of a new Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer.

“We are now just completing its installation and the training of our staff on it,” says Wiegner.

The award is granted through the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program, which, according to the NSF website, supports “research-intensive learning environments that promote the development of a diverse workforce and next generation instrumentation, as well as facilitates academic and private sector partnerships.”

Collaborators on the grant include researchers from UH Hilo, UH Mānoa, the USDA Forest Service, Stanford University, Utah State University, and Edith Cowen University Western Australia.

UH Hilo’s Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer is the only one of its kind in the state and region. It is capable of analyzing both solids and liquids including soils, plant and animal tissues, and water.

Specifically, the new spectrometer can analyze solid samples (soil, plant and animal tissue, carbonates) for stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen. Liquid samples (water catchment, shore water) can be analyzed for stable nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in nitrate, hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in water, and stable carbon isotopes in dissolved organic carbon and carbon dioxide.

Students in lab

(L-R) Sione Lam Yuen and Bryan Tonga, two UH Hilo marine science majors working as laboratory assistants funded by the HELP (Highly Engaged Learning Positions) program through the Pacific Islander Student Center, prepare samples for analysis on the new Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer.

Wiegner says applications of stable isotopes in environmental science have grown exponentially in the last 20 years allowing for a greater understanding of biogeochemical cycles in natural and human-influenced ecosystems, food web structure and dynamics, animal migrations, paleoclimate, hydrology, as well as the ability to identify pollution sources and track them.

“This instrument allows for a new suite of elements in different forms to be analyzed, substantially increasing the types of studies and student training the UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory can support in and out of state,” Wiegner explains.

The UH Hilo Analytical Lab

Wiegner says the awarding of the grant speaks to the growing success of the lab facility. The laboratory was established in 2003 with NSF funding through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research or EPSCoR, a statewide program initiated at UH Hilo to increase research and training infrastructure.

“This lab facility is hands down the greatest NSF EPSCoR success story at UH Hilo,” says Wiegner.

The lab has a statewide and international reputation for high quality and rapid services. There is an established, loyal clientele, which includes faculty and researchers from UH Hilo and UH Mānoa, as well as other state, national, and international institutions and agencies.

Clients use the laboratory’s services for research projects and hands-on student training, and often have their collaborators submit samples to the facility.

Erik Johnson stands next to the spectrometer.

Erik Johnson, an analytical laboratory technician with bachelor and master degrees from UH Hilo, will be leading the effort to get the new Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer up and running and developing new services for laboratory clients.

A good example of the lab’s current impact on the local community and economy is as a resource for agriculturalists.  Bruce Mathews, a soil scientist and dean of the UH Hilo College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Management, says the lab is increasingly being relied upon by local farmers.

“Local farmers require rapid turnaround times in order to remain competitive with respect to timely diagnosis of crop and livestock nutrition problems, optimizing management of inputs, and meeting environmental and safety regulations,” Mathews explains. “I fully expect this trend to continue.”

The facility also provides support to over 20 different undergraduate and graduate courses at UH Hilo, and provides outreach service to community members with inquiries about environmental health such as with agricultural soils and catchment water.

The lab includes analytical chemistry instrumentation for environmental samples (for example water, soil, plant, animal tissue) totaling over $1.5 million. Since its establishment, the lab is increasingly successful with over 125 clients, primarily university and government collaborators.

Bryan Tonga in lab

Student Bryan Tonga weighs out samples for analysis on the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer.

“Revenue the lab earns is critical for growing the lab’s capacity to serve the larger scientific community while contributing to the education of our students,” says Don Straney, chancellor at UH Hilo.

Training scientists for the future

Wiegner says the Analytical Laboratory is integral to UH Hilo’s mission to inspire learning, discovery, and creativity inside and outside the classroom, and to improve the quality of life in Hawai‘i, the Pacific region, and the world.

“The expanded analyses capacity supported by the NSF grant will engage even more underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM disciplines, exposing them to cutting-edge technology and allowing them to gain practical and employable research experience,” she says.

 

About the authors: Susan Enright is a public information specialist in the Office of the Chancellor. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo. Tracy Wiegner contributed significantly to this report.

-UH Hilo Stories.

May 102017
 

Members of the UH Hilo community honored for scholarly work, innovation, and service.

Chancellor Don Straney hosted the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo 2017 Awards and Recognition Celebration on May 9. Recognized at the event were the Student Employee of the Year, UH Hilo Award recipients, retirees, and faculty and staff years-of-service milestones.

 

UH HILO AWARDS

Student Employee of the Year

Raquel Zane stands with staff from the Office of the Registrar.

Raquel Zane (center) stands with staff from the Office of the Registrar. Photos by John Oshima, click to enlarge.

Raquel Zane, a registration assistant in the Office of the Registrar, was named Student Employee of the Year.

Co-workers say Zane possesses in-depth knowledge of university policies and procedures with an eye for detail. Her troubleshooting talents gained noteworthy attention this past year when a change in processing class withdrawals produced a flawed report. Zane’s discovery of the error and remedy earned the gratitude of the UH System Banner Central Office for a job well done. She also facilitated the most recent fall registration training and oversaw training for new student assistants.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Alex Nagurney and Chancellor Don Straney.

Alexander Nagurney, instructor of psychology, is this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Nagurney arrived at UH Hilo in 2012 and quickly earned a reputation as an outstanding teacher. Since his arrival, he’s been a highly thoughtful and dedicated instructor of 50 courses—his students say he is amazingly effective at communicating difficult concepts in challenging subjects such as statistical techniques and research methods. He’s known for including upper level students in his research and publications, inspiring students to delve deeper into their studies and research. He has been recognized for teaching ingenuity by the Apereo Foundation in both 2015 and 2016 for his use of “gamification” techniques to enhance student engagement.

Nagurney also offers cycling classes at the Student Life Center to promote physical and mental well-being and conducts evening group study sessions for students needing assistance. He models excellence and energy in and outside of the classroom.

This award will be officially presented at Spring Commencement, but was acknowledged at this award event.

Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation

(l-r) Carolyn Ma, dean of the College of Pharmacy; Lara Gomez, recipient; Toby Taniguchi, representing the benefactor family; and Chancellor Don Straney.

Lara Gomez, director of clinical education in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, was awarded the Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation.

Gomez is responsible for experiential education, which makes up 30 percent of the doctor of pharmacy curriculum, and prepares students for their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiential rotations, where they spend their entire fourth year at different practice settings.

Gomez and her staff work with over 300 students training and guiding some 200 non-faculty preceptors in Hawaiʻi, the South Pacific, continental U.S. and overseas. Her interdisciplinary simulation exercises via distance learning technology utilize the UH Medical School, the UH Hilo and UH Mānoa Schools of Nursing and other programs to provide robust inter-professional experiences that teach everything from handling a difficult patient to the most current laws in pharmacy practice.

The Taniguchi  Award for Excellence and Innovation is the result of a generous gift from Barry Taniguchi, CEO of KTA Superstores, in memory of his grandparents, Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi, the founders of KTA Superstores.

Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities

(l-r) Don Straney, Dianqing Sun, Leng Chee Chang, Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit and Karen Pellegrin, director of strategic planning at the College of Pharmacy.

Leng Chee Chang and Dianqing Sun, associate professors in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit, professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and interim associate dean of academic affairs, received the Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities.

Chang, Sun and Wongwiwatthananukit collaborated with the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and universities in Thailand on their nearly decade-long research on “Natural Product-Driven Drug Discovery from Vernonia cinerea (VC).” Their research showed significant bioactivity from VC with no serious adverse effects and discovered new VC-derived compounds that suppress cancer growth and show anti-inflammatory activity.

Their work has been recognized in numerous publications while earning them grant funding and a recent patent award.

They are also co-investigators on a new five-year federal grant that will move them closer to their vision of safe and effective cancer treatment and prevention.

Outstanding University Support Employee Award

Recipient Janet Lindsey stands with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes and family and staff.

Recipient Janet Lindsey (center) stands with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Farrah-Marie Gomes (to right of Lindsey), and family and staff.

Janet Lindsey, secretary at the North Hawaiʻi Education and Research Center, received the Outstanding University Support Employee Award.

Lindsey is described by multiple nominators as the glue that holds the center together. From booking room reservations and processing personnel and fiscal paperwork to participating in outreach events and training and orienting new staff and directors, her role supports every aspect of operations at the center.

Outside of her assigned duties, Lindsey develops relationships with students, vendors and community members then leverages those relationships to strengthen community capacity building.

Professional Staff Award

Don Straney, Lo-li Chih, and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Marcia Sakai.

(l-r) Don Straney, Lo-li Chih, and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Marcia Sakai.

Lo-li Chih, recently retired director of facilities planning and construction,  received the Professional Staff Award.

Colleagues consider Chih the foremost expert on facilities planning and construction. As a top-level advisor, he has contributed and advocated for UH Hilo in major construction projects, including the Student Life Center, Science and Technology Building, Haleʻōlelo, and Student Services Center.

He also oversaw completion of complex federal grant-funded initiatives such as the Pacific Islander Student Center, Hale Kanilehua Living Learning Communities, Kipuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, and Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center.

Chih initiated cost saving projects in renewable energy and utility monitoring and created “bus shelter” food concessions to address student preferences for additional food vendors on campus.

 

RETIREES

This list covers the period from April 2016 through March 2017. Anyone retiring after March 30 will be recognized at next year’s event.

Three retirees who attended the event.

Three retirees attended the event (l-r) Lo-li Chih, Dan Brown and Thom Curtis. Chancellor Straney at far right.

  • Roberta Barra, Professor of Business Administration, 10 years.
  • Daniel Brown, Professor of Anthropology, 30 years.
  • Lo-li Chih, Director of Facilities Planning and Construction, 30 years.
  • Kathy Commendador, Associate Professor of Nursing, 9 years.
  • Thomas Curtis, professor of sociology, 21 years.
  • Ernest Kho, Associate Professor of Chemistry, 36 years.
  • Richard Koch, Certified Athletic Trainer, 8 years.
  • Arnold Miyasaki, Education Specialist in Animal Science, 27 years.
  • Cecilia Mukai, Professor of Nursing, 28 years.
  • Michael Murakami, Facilities Planner, 15 years.
  • Caroline Patao, Janitor, 6 years.
  • Helen Rogers, Librarian, 28 years.
  • Leslie Tachibana, Building Maintenance Specialist, 7 years.
  • M Tsang Mui Chung, Professor of Horticulture, 31 years.

 

YEARS OF SERVICE

10 years

  • Julie Adrian
  • Brian Bays
  • Erica Bernstein
  • Anita Ciarleglio
  • Bartley Frueh
  • Norbert Furumo
  • Amy Gregg
  • Miriam Jacobson
  • Glen Kagamida
  • Bryan Kim
  • Carolina Lam
  • Steven Lundblad
  • Avis Masuda
  • Cheryl Sarme
  • Todd Shumway
  • Kathleen Stacey
  • Comfort Sumida
  • Marianne Takamiya
  • Tam Vu
  • Leonard Woods

20 years 

  • Katharyn Daub
  • Catherine Gourd
  • Robert Hamilton
  • Lydia Hart
  • Kenneth Hon
  • Terrance Jalbert
  • Yolanda Keehne
  • William Mautz
  • Un Suk Kim Sugiura
  • Teresa Tsuda

30 years

  • Lo-Li Chi
  • Frederick Dela Cruz
  • Gordon Mitchell

40 years

  • William Sakai

 

-Details on award recipients from media release.

May 102017
 

UH Hilo researchers are working collaboratively with UH Mānoa and state agencies to fight rat lungworm disease.

Jarvi Lab team

UH Hilo Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Sue Jarvi (center) and her lab team. Prof. Jarvi is UH Hilo’s expert on rat lungworm disease. Courtesy photo UH Hilo College of Pharmancy.

As of late April 2017, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health had confirmed 13 cases of rat lungworm disease since the start of the year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the parasitic worm (Angiostrgonylus cantonensis) can invade the central nervous system and cause a rare form of meningitis.

The University of Hawaiʻi is addressing rat lungworm in diverse ways across the island state, including assessing its distribution statewide, determining which species of snails and slugs can carry it, doing experiments to determine the best ways to wash produce to keep it safe and undertaking extensive educational and outreach efforts.

“Rat lungworm is a horrible disease and we need to work collaboratively and collegially with all to do the best for the people of Hawaiʻi,” says UH President David Lassner.

Six UH faculty members serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Rat Lungworm Disease, established in 2016, and reflect a wide range of expertise.

As the name implies, the rat lungworm is a parasite only of rats and a few other rodents. Infected rats pass the larvae of the parasite in their feces, which are then eaten by snails and slugs. Humans are accidental hosts who do not transmit infection to others, but can become infected by eating raw infected snails or slugs (or parts of them), which are often accidentally left on produce that has not been sufficiently washed.

“Prevention of rat lungworm disease is a statewide priority and the Department of Health is working with partners from federal, state and county agencies as we continue our investigation of reported cases,” says Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler. “The University of Hawaiʻi has been a valuable partner in our efforts to learn more about this rare and serious disease.”

UH Hilo contributions

Cover of childrens book

The Mystery of Rat Lungworm Disease is an activity book designed by UH Hilo researchers to help local elementary-age children learn what to look for in their gardens and vegetables.

Resources:

  • Rat Lungworm FAQ, The Jarvi laboratory, The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, UH Hilo
  • Rat Lungworm web page (includes video of the parasitic worm), The Jarvi laboratory, The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, UH Hilo
  • The Mystery of Rat Lungworm Disease (children’s activity book) (PDF), The Jarvi laboratory, The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, UH Hilo

Stories:

Recognition:

In 2015, Prof. Jarvi was honored with the UH Hilo Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities for her work on rat lungworm disease, including her basic and applied research as well as community advocacy and education. This award is presented annually to a member of the UH Hilo faculty for outstanding achievement in scholarly or creative endeavors. Jarvi’s award included recognition of her statewide work on rat lungworm research and education.

Learn more about Prof. Jarvi’s research.

 

For more information about statewide resources on rat lungworm disease, see full story at UH System News.

May 012017
 

The researchers are investigating climate driven shifts in Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA—a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many antibiotics—for water resource and land management solutions.

By Anne Rivera.
This story is the fifth and final of a series on climate change research at UH Hilo.

Community outreach and sharing information with the public and government agencies is the ultimate goal of climate research at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Louise Economy

Louise Economy

Graduate student Louise Economy, with the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) program, along with faculty advisor and Professor of Marine Science Tracy Wiegner, have taken on a project over the last year that focuses on pathogens in coastal waters such as staph (Staphylococcus aureus) and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant S. aureus) that increase the risk of infection to beach goers. MRSA is the most common form of staph infection in the world.

The project is entitled “Investigating climate driven shifts in Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA for water resource and land management solutions.” Partners in the project are Ayron Strauch, a hydrologist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and Chad Shibuya, a registered nurse at Hilo Medical Center. Funding for the research is from the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center at UH Hilo.  The center is a partnership between U.S. Geological Survey and a university consortium that includes UH Mānoa (the consortium lead) and University of Guam, in addition to UH Hilo.

Economy is not only focusing on creating a better understanding of the pathogens in the ocean environment and then communicating that information to the public, but also is developing a predictive model of staph and MRSA with rainfall. The predictive model will be able to assess the risk of staph and MRSA with changing climate patterns.

Mikala Jones, UH Hilo undergraduate, and Jazmine Panelo, a recent UH Hilo graduate and current research technician, are providing support on Economy’s project as well as conducting their own projects.

While Economy is concentrating on climate change and working with different governmental departments to develop the predictive model that would inform water users of the health risks under different weather conditions, Jones’s project is more about public perception and opinion of staph and MRSA,  She conducted an epidemiological study on Staph and MRSA in water-user communities, focusing on four major beach areas that include Honoli’i, Hilo Bay Front, Richardson’s, and Puhi Bay. She analyzed how the infections have affected the lives of community members and whether or not they feel it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Producing outreach material for the public about staph and MRSA is on the agenda for the research team.

The research team

Economy was born in California but moved to Hilo when she was eight. She attended UH Hilo’s marine science and biology programs for her undergraduate studies and is currently expected to graduate from the TCBES program this December. The water quality project idea developed when she was working with on her senior thesis for her bachelor of science—with Wiegner as her senior thesis advisor—and is carrying on the research into her graduate program.

Wiegner, who’s been at UH Hilo for 14 years, has expertise in water quality and focuses on nutrients in organic matter. She received her doctor of philosophy in oceanography from Rutgers. In the last eight years her focus has shifted to microbial water quality. She says her favorite part about her job is being an advisor.

“I really enjoy working with students one on one, not just teaching them the skills but becoming collaborators and strategizing how to get the information we’re looking for,” she says. “My greatest joy is seeing them go on to be successful.”

Jones is a senior at UH Hilo originally from Seattle, WA, and is a candidate to graduate this month.

Helping communities understand health risks

Economy and Jones’s research projects are community oriented. The final goal is to use the scientific data they collect to better educate the public in regard to health risks associated with water use. This information will allow the public to make educated decisions about what health risks they are comfortable taking when going into the water.

Wiegner says to accomplish this, first the researchers need to understand the environmental pattern of the pathogens, focusing on near shore water where people do recreational activities. Then the public needs to be educated about the risks.

Jones says she expected more pushback from the community when conducting her interviews and surveys because “most people associate pathogen and risk with limitation, avoidance or restriction, but that was not the most immediate feedback.”

To Jones’s surprise, the community members were happy to talk about it, learn, and gain more information. Overall, there was positive feedback from the community.

Training scientists for the future

Economy says the education she gained in the marine science undergraduate program’s “hands-on” curriculum has helped her in the graduate program.

“It is a challenge working with different people to explain research and collaborate with them in a way that benefits all parties,” she explains. “It is interesting and transdisciplinary, which helps me to make my research more applicable to more people.”

Wiegner admits there are certain aspects of science that simply cannot be learned in a classroom.

“Being able to train students to think critically, troubleshoot, plan and manage projects, lead groups, and become professionals where they can publish reports and manuscripts and give public presentations to lots of different types of audiences is the goal,” she says.

She explains that student success in whatever aspect of science they want to get into is most important.

“We train students to come up with ideas, propose questions, develop a project to answer those questions, execute that project and then share the results with the public and other scientists,” she says. “(That) is how we do science.”

Jones says being able to take what she learned in her textbook and classrooms and dive into a problem that affects people living here in the community has been an awesome experience.

Economy says being prepared for the expected and unexpected along with always having to think creatively to reach solutions has been one of the most valuable skills she has taken away from this research project.

The future

Working with faculty advisors help students at UH Hilo apply their classroom learning to the professional world, preparing them for their future careers. Leadership and communication skills are further developed through these projects.

After graduation, Economy is hoping to get a job with the Hawai‘i Department of Health, another government agency, or a nonprofit devoted to water shed conservation.

Jones is planning on pursuing her doctorate next fall and hoping to work as a research technician during her transition from undergraduate to graduate studies.

 

About the author of this story: Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories

 

Also in this series:

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Fishpond management and restoration

Apr 262017
 

The musical was directed by UH Hilo Professor of Drama Jackie Pualani Johnson in her last production as professor; she retires in May.

Photos by Bob Douglas.

Chorus dancing.

 

Performance posterPerformances of Evita were given April 7-15, 2017 at the Performing Arts Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. These photos are from the final performance of the run. The musical was directed by UH Hilo Professor of Drama Jackie Pualani Johnson in her last production as professor; she retires in May.

Learn more about the performance.

Click photos to enlarge.

 

A Fond Farewell to Prof. Jackie Johnson

This performance was the last directorial project of Prof. of Drama Jackie Pualani Johnson; she retires this May. Johnson was honored at the end of this last performance of Evita. To learn more about her decades of thespian and scholarly work, see cover story in this month’s faculty newsletter (Ka Lono Hanakahi, April 2017) and a profile on her scholarly work (Keaohou, Oct. 2012).

Jackie Johnson acknowledges audience.

 

 

About the photographer: Bob Douglas is a local artist, photographer, and student who volunteers his photography skills to the Office of the Chancellor and UH Hilo Stories. 

-UH Hilo Stories 

Apr 202017
 

Researchers from the UH Cancer Center at UH Mānoa and the College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo are studying how ironweed plant extract can be used to treat breast and brain cancers.

James Turkson holds ironweed plant extract.

James Turkson holds ironweed plant extract.

A year ago, James Turkson, director of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology Program (UH Mānoa), along with collaborators Leng Chee Chang, Dianqing Sun and Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit at the UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, published a study showing that the natural compounds from the ironweed plant were effective in killing breast cancer and brain tumor cells and blocked the development and growth of these cancers in the laboratory.

Leng Chee Chang

Leng Chee Chang

Now, in recognition of these preliminary findings, the National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year $3 million grant for the researchers to deepen their study into how natural compounds in ironweed plant extract can be used to treat breast and brain cancers.

Dianqing Sun

Dianqing Sun

“It would be life changing for cancer patients if ironweed extract could help fight aggressive types of breast and brain cancers,” says Turkson. “Since the compounds are found in the plant, they are less toxic than traditional forms of treatment such as chemotherapy. This gives cancer patients a better quality of life when developed as drugs.”

Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit

Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit

Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer that currently has no cure, explains Turkson. In addition, the types of breast cancers the researchers are targeting are some of the most life-threatening breast cancers with few successful treatments.

-Learn more, UH Mānoa media release.