February 28, 2018

In today’s highly competitive world, students need to realize that graduate programs in agriculture are increasingly looking for students with greater preparation in the natural sciences, biotechnology, statistics/predictive analytics than the minimum requirements for a BS in agriculture.

By Bruce Mathews, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Group of students stand in vegetable garden on the UH Hilo campus.
UH Hilo students in a class on sustainable agriculture gather in one of their vegetable gardens on campus.
Bruce Mathews
Bruce Mathews

A fall 2017 University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) survey of College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) students was recently shared with me by student Alexis Stubbs. The survey indicated that nearly 60% want a government job, a little over 25% will seek a career in some aspect of farming, about 5% want to work in the agricultural/landscape service sector, and the rest don’t know.

This information may be a bit concerning, particularly if one means a government job in agriculture as the number of annual entry level openings in permanent governmental agriculture positions are very limited in Hawaiʻi relative to the numbers of graduates. In terms of further graduate studies nearly 40% indicated that they definitely want to attend graduate school while nearly 35% indicated no intention of further studies. These data are also concerning given that quite a few students that I visit with seem to lack much of an idea about how to best prepare themselves for graduate studies and how to optimize their competitiveness for graduate school assistantships and scholarships.

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo alumna Noelani Waters is a technician at the Hawai‘i Apiary Program of the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture. She tells us about her work.

By Noelani Waters, Alumna, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Tropical Plant Science and Agroecology Specialty, UH Hilo.

Noelani Waters


My name is Noelani Waters and I am a College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management alumna who graduated in fall 2014 with a degree in agroecology and tropical plant science with a certificate in beekeeping.

Just before graduating, in October 2014, I was hired as an apiary technician with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Hawai‘i Apiary Program under the direction of the state’s head apiary specialist at the time, Danielle Downey. The mission of the Hawai‘i Apiary Program is to safeguard the beekeeping industries of Hawai‘i through the application of science-based regulations, regular monitoring and prevention of invasive honey bee pests, interactive educational opportunities, and open communication with beekeepers throughout the state.

Our program was officially established in 2011 and became a permanent part of HDOA in 2014. Though honey bees are not native to Hawai‘i, they have been here for over 150
years, providing a variety of excellent honey and, most importantly, critical pollination of local agricultural goods.

Directed studies provide opportunities for students to engage in some of the most interesting and rewarding educational experiences while in college.

Aerial view of aquaculture facility. Large aquaculture ponds, large research structures. Grassy areas around ponds and buildings. Rocky shore.
Aerial view of the UH Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center at Hilo Bay. The Aquaculture Student Workforce Training Program employs about 25 students annually to conduct research and production in the aquaponics, oyster, and marine ornamental programs.

Directed studies at the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management provide opportunities for University of Hawai’i at Hilo students to engage in some of the most interesting and rewarding educational experiences while in college. The following is a glimpse of some of the activities students in CAFNRM are doing to fulfill their requirements in directed studies while producing useful research data and significant community service:

Ellison Montgomery is a recent graduate of CAFNRM, who came back to get more experience in applied sciences. She is working on acclimatizing native plants raised in a nursery management course taught initially by now retired Professor of Horticulture William Sakai and continued by Assistant Professor of Entomology Jesse Eiben. She is also working on a little fire ant integrated pest management project in CAFNRM greenhouses. She is currently employed at Komohana Research and Extension Center.

Students from Tropical Horticulture class spent a day revitalizing and beautifying potted plants and ornamental gardens at a local church.

By Kyle Jackson, Student, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Horticulture Track.

Students in covered area working on plants.
Hort 262 students reviving ornamentals at Malia Puka O Kalani Church.

Each semester, students of Introduction to Tropical Horticulture (HORT 262) engage in community service. On February 15, 2018, our class of 14 students set out to help Malia Puka O Kalani Church revive their ornamental garden.

The church is located in Keaukaha, Hilo, where almost half of the resident population is Native Hawaiian and 292 acres are devoted to Hawaiian Home Lands. The garden was initially started by a few parishioners of Malia Puka O Kalani in 2016 when Fr. Oliver Ortega was the parish priest. Different tropical ornamental plants such as bougainvilla, anthuriums, hibiscus and many others adorned the church on weekend services and then were returned to the garden for care and maintenance.

However, since Fr. Ortega left and the composition of the parishioners changed, most of the plants were left unattended with half of the potted plants dead and half badly needing repotting, pruning, watering and fertilizing.

We were given instructions on our mission for the day: beautify the church area by moving plants and shelves to a new area. Another part of our goal for the day was to improve the general appeal and health of the plants.