UH-Hilo lands grant for rapid ohia death study

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file A lehua bloom on an ohia tree in Hilo.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo was awarded nearly $200,000 by the National Science Foundation to study the wider effects of rapid ohia death on animal communities.

The National Science Foundation’s Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program awarded UH-Hilo $197,056 for a project titled “RAPID: Cascading effects of rapid and widespread mortality of a foundation tree species on animal communities in Hawaii.”


Project leaders Kristina Paxton and Patrick Hart are members of the Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems Bioaucoustics Lab.

Paxton said in a statement that the project will use advances in recording technology to record and analyze soundscapes within ohia forests to identify changes in audible bird, insect and amphibian populations.

“The use of soundscape indices to model biodiversity following the loss of a foundation species represents a novel and relatively rapid method for assessing ecological change, and would be applicable in a range of ecosystems outside of Hawaii,” Paxton said.

In other rapid ohia death news, a half-hour-long documentary about the disease will be released this month.

The film, titled “Saving Ohia, Hawaii’s Sacred Tree,” was funded through a grant from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.


Another grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority supports three screenings of the documentary on the Big Island this month: on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Palace Theater in Hilo; on Aug. 17 at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea; and on Aug. 31 at the Aloha Theatre in Kealakekua. All screenings begin at 6:30 p.m.

The documentary also will be broadcast on local network affiliates statewide through August and September.

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