Hawaii Week 4!

The end of week four was a little frightening as I realised that I have already been here for a month. My research is moving along slowly and I still haven’t sent out my research proposal to my advisors for review. I’m working on the methodologies, and finding it extremely hard to explain how I am going to project the research site in the future to predict carbon stocks of this restored lowland wet forest. What will this man-made ecosystem look like in 10, 20, 30 years?

I’ve searched the literature and as far as I know, no one else has projected an immature site into the future. Therefore, my methodologies will have to be based on long-term studies that have been undertaken Pan-Tropically.


Ohia Flower, picture taken at the Nature Trail in Volacno Village

My research group meets every Monday morning, and we discuss our individual research, fieldwork and other matters. This week we had a long meeting to discuss a very frightening matter. One of Hawaii’s main native trees: Ohia’ (M. polymorpha),  is subject to a frightening disease named ‘Rapid Ohia Death’ (ROD). It has whipped out many individuals in Puna- South of the research site, but one of the USDA Forest service scientists identified sick trees on our research plots at the Keaukaha Military Researvation. While the disease is not fully understood, we know that it is caused by the vascular wilt fungus, Ceratocystis fimbriata (Keith and others 2015) that is transported by beetle frass. “Landowners have observed that when previously healthy-looking trees begin to exhibit symptoms they typically die within a matter of weeks.” The frass is emitted by boring beetles attacking infected trees and wind-blown insect frass is a source of new infections. According to the USDA Forest service, over 50% of trees could be wiped-out state-wide.


Keith, L. M., R. F. Hughes, L. S. Sugiyama, W. P. Heller, B. C. Bushe, and J. B. Friday. 2015. First Report ofCeratocystis wilt on ʻŌhiʻa. Plant Disease. http://dx.doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-12-14-1293-PDN

USDA Forest Service: Rapid Ohia Death http://www2.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/disease/ohia_wilt.html

How does this tie in with my research?

If I am simulating the future forest structure, I have to factor in ROD, which will be difficult as we don’t know how many trees it could kill. Indeed, Ohia is very particular in that there are many sub-species of M. polymorpha. and not all of them seem to be affected.

IMG_0621Aside my research, on a more cheerful note I did enjoy a fun outing to Volcanoes National Park over the weekend. My friends showed me around the lava tubes and the crater. We also visited the art gallery located inside the National Pak.


Tree fern bud

I also got a chance to visit one of the professor at UH Hilo’s agroforestry tea plantation located in near the Volcano village. During the visit, the professor kindly explained how the farm evolved, and experimentations were undertaken. He wants to find out if microclimates affect plant genetics, and how that affects tea flavour. I was happy to bring home a little bag of fresh tea from the farm. I was delighted to see young Ohia trees flowering !

IMG_0602The legend of the Ohia tree and the Lehua blossom:

“The legend says that one day Pele met a handsome warrior named Ohia and she asked him to marry her. Ohia, however, had already pledged his love to Lehua.  Pele was furious when Ohia turned down her marriage proposal, so she turned Ohia into a twisted tree.  Lehua was heartbroken, of course. The gods took pity on Lehua and decided it was an injustice to have Ohia and Lehua separated.  So, they turned Lehua into a flower on the Ohia tree so that the two lovers would be forever joined together.   Hawaiian folklore says that if you pluck this flower you are separating the lovers, and that day it will rain.”

Reference: LoveBigIsland.com http://www.lovebigisland.com/big-island-mythology/ohia-lehua/



It’s a tree fern!



Agroforestry tea farm, Volcano, Hawaii.


This is the part that you pick off for tea. The second leaf must be whorled up, otherwise it’s just too late to harvest !


During that week I also experimented with a few new recipes:


Quinoa leeks and carrots with Tumeric paste from the market. This paste is made with ghee: clarified butter that originated from India. Ghee tastes just like butter but it is shelf-stable, making it very useful in a place like Hawaii. This food is also considered an Ayurvedic medicine.


poi (a traditional Hawaiian food made of mashed up taro, spirulina and egg!