UH-Hilo grad students receive awards at conference

Two graduate students in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo received awards for their research at the 25th Annual Hawaii Conservation Conference held July 24-26 on Oahu.

Genevieve Blanchet took first place for Outstanding Graduate Student Oral Presentation for her work on “Genomic diversity in the ‘critically-endangered’ ‘alala (Hawaiian crow, Corvus hawaiiensis).” Her research details the genetic diversity of the ‘alala population, comparing early and late bottleneck developments to better understand the history, and inform captive population management, of this critically-endangered species.

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Blanchet specializes in avian conservation and genomics and is a member of UH-Hilo’s Conservation Genomics Research Group. She is mentored by Jolene Sutton, Ph.D, Renee Bellinger, Ph.D, and Patrick Hart, Ph.D.

Koa Matsuoka, who specializes in avian seed dispersal, was awarded runner-up for Outstanding Graduate Poster Presentation for his research on “Evaluating the Seed Dispersal Efficacy of Hawaii’s Last Functionally Extant Frugivore.”

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His work examines the diet diversity of the native ‘oma‘o (Hawaiian thrush), ‘alala and other exotic birds to compare each species’ effects on seed rain and seed germination of Hawaiian fruiting plants. The data may inform resource managers of the impacts reintroducing native fruit-eating birds will have on the plant community in forests where they have been extirpated. Matsuoka is mentored by Becky Ostertag, Ph.D, Patrick Hart, Ph.D, and Stephanie Yelenik, Ph.D.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference gathered scientists, policymakers, educators, students and community members from Hawaii and the Pacific region to discuss conservation.