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The Value of Service Learning

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My first service learning; with an ‘a’ali’i at Ka’ala kipuka, Fall 2014

The University of Hawai’i, West O’ahu puts a strong emphasis on service learning as part of our student’s educational experience. Numerous courses at UHWO contain a service learning component linked to course content, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) coordinates university-wide events, and students who complete at least 30 hours of service learning during their coursework are recognized with a certificate of accomplishment at graduation. In my intro biology and botany courses, our service learning takes the form of native plant propagation and ecological restoration at two sites on the west side of O’ahu, coupled with a reflection paper in which students are expected to discuss if and how they value service learning as part of their educational experience at UHWO. In this post, I’ll reflect on the value of service learning from the instructor’s perspective.

The CCESL statement on service learning describes the purpose of the service learning experience and the benefits the university believes it provides for students. CCESL states that “In service learning abstract ideas and theories become concrete as they are used to make our world a better place.” I view it more as the opposite, actually – in biology classes, we deal so much with concrete facts and in the service learning we get a chance to look at the messiness of the real world; particularly how to deal with large-scale environmental problems like invasive organisms and climate change in the context of two very different habitats.

My students work at two sites on the west side of O’ahu: Kalaeloa Heritage Park and Piliokahe (aka ‘Tracks’) Beach Park. While the work we do at both sites is similar (remove invasive plants and replace with native and endemic vegetation), the sites themselves have very different histories and present very different problems for successful restoration. I believe our restoration at Kalaeloa represents honoring Hawaii’s past while our restoration at Piliokahe represents the struggles Hawai’i faces now and in the future.


upright stones mark the Kualaka’i Trail

Kalaeloa Heritage Park is a 77-acre archeological park containing 177 documented cultural features of Tahitian origin. When students visit the park, Shad Kane (the park’s director) gives them a tour of the 3-acre section that will eventually be an educational park open to the public. Our role is to restore the vegetation of the park to the native plants which would have occupied the area when it was inhabited. Shad emphasizes to the students that this village was one of farmers, fishers, and gatherers (not chiefs or kahunas), and that the people who lived here faced the constant struggle of subsisting off the land. The Kualaka’i trail, which crosses the park, connected upland farming villages with coastal fishing communities and was a feature of maps drawn in 1825 from off-shore surveys performed by Royal Navy Lt. Malden of the HMS Blonde. The park now abuts the Kalaeloa Airport and both the airport land and the park were formerly part of the Naval Air Station Barber’s Point which closed in the 1990s. The park contains the remains of an airplane that crashed during a training exercise in 1949, killing the three pilots on board (the park plans to erect a memorial in their honor next to the wreckage). In this way, Kalaeloa Heritage Park embodies many stages of Hawaii’s past, from Polynesian inhabitants prior to Western contact to recent relationships between civilian and military presences. The park is protected by a fence, and Shad and his crew care for our native plantings and support our removal of invasive species. Once it is open to the public, entrance fees will continue to support the maintenance and care of the park, which will educate visitors on Hawaii’s sociopolitical and environmental history.


Piliokahe Beach Park is a very different place. The park is open to the public and abuts Farrington Highway in Nānākuli. It is managed by the Honolulu Parks and Rec Department and is an off-the-beaten-path tourist spot (our Saturday-morning restorations regularly run into wedding parties). Unlike Kalaeloa, this park is not protected by any fences, though recently Bruce has posted signs informing visitors that restoration work is occurring on the dune. Our plantings at Piliokahe Beach are vulnerable to many of the social and environmental problems facing Hawai’i generally, such as human apathy and ignorance of environmental issues, homelessness, and climate change. Malama Learning Center initially started restoration work here, with the goal of progressing down the dune front away from the primary beachgoers’ area. In the several semesters I have participated here, our progress has stalled out on two regions which repeatedly face destruction. One semester, a homeless man removed all of the rock rings protecting our plants and placed his multi-tent camp on top of our plantings. The next semester, nearly all of our plants were killed by an unusually hot and dry summer and significant erosion of the dune front. The primary invasive plant on the dune is buffel grass, which takes over again almost as quickly as we can remove it. Buffel grass is particularly helped by the proximity to the highway – one tossed cigarette can start even a small fire that will kill the native plants (which are not adapted to fire), and clear the way for buffel grass (which is resistant to fire) to recolonize large areas.


Seed pods on pohinahina

At Kalaeloa, the naio we planted my first semester are already shoulder-high on me. Many of the species we’ve planted are now reseeding themselves and every time I visit, the park is visibly more lush with native plants. I even once saw an endemic picture-wing fly on a wili wili tree. I can walk around Kalaeloa and remember the individual plants and even which of my students planted it. Almost nothing has died. At Piliokahe I know where we planted on the dune, but I struggle to identify our individual plants. The shape of the dune front changes and I can’t always tell if the new plants we planted there died or were washed out, or still struggling amongst the returning buffel grass. It’s a harsher ecosystem all around; even the plants that survive aren’t showing the robust vitality that the plants at Kalaeloa exhibit. Still, we’re making progress. The sections of the dune where we planted when I first started are slowly overgrowing with pohuehue, pohinahina, and ‘akulikuli, and this semester, I noticed some of the pohinahina setting seed.

For these reasons, the restoration at Kalaeloa feels more successful than at Piliokahe, although the struggle at Piliokahe resonates more strongly with me. It’s easy for people to understand the value of preserving what little remains of the past; it’s harder to convince them to preserve what little remains of the present. This dichotomy is visible even in my students’ reflection papers. Students often comment on looking forward to taking their families to Kalaeloa to learn about the cultural features and show off their contribution to the park’s restoration. Piliokahe is a public beach, and any one of the students could revisit the dune at any time to show their families or observe the progress of the plants, and yet to my knowledge, only one student has done so.


Naio at Kalaeloa, planted Fall 2014, photographed Fall 2016

Which brings me back to the point of this for the students’ educational experience. CCESL states that “Service opportunities provided by faculty in their courses engage students in active, collaborative and inquiry-based learning experiences that meet community needs while deepening and expanding classroom learning objectives… Research has shown that students who participate in focused service learning in a course retain information better and have a deeper understanding of course material.” My students probably don’t see a connection to learning objectives or course content yet, for two reasons:

1) We haven’t gotten to the most relevant content yet. The semester ends with the chapters on ecology, including invasion ecology and sustainability and conservation. When we went to Kalaeloa Heritage Park, we were still covering like, properties of water or something, which was not obviously directly related. The students will get the content in class after we’ve done the service learning, and right before the papers are due (see how I worked that out?! :-D)

2) The service learning relates most strongly to an unwritten learning objective for the class; an unwritten learning objective for college generally, I would argue: by the time students complete their degrees at UHWO (regardless of their major) they should be functional, contributing citizens. They should be informed voters, caring members of their community, have identified social causes important to them and support these causes with their time and/or money. In short, they should give a shit. About something; about anything, really. UHWO doesn’t have a biology major, so I recognize that few (none?) of my students love biology like I do. That’s fine. Love something. One of the things I hope my students see before they’re done here is that your grades, your GPA, your class rank don’t matter. I mean, they “matter” in that they determine if you get credit for the class, keep your scholarship or whatever, but they don’t matter in the real world. The purpose of college isn’t to get A’s or be valedictorian or graduate magna cum laude – the purpose of college is to be an informed, caring, and contributing member of society. If you figure that out, you’ll probably also get A’s, and you might be valedictorian, and you might graduate magna cum laude. But those things are not the end goal.

One of my students this semester commented in her reflection paper draft that the overall point of service learning is to do something that matters, because so many people never feel that they’ve done something of real value. She argued that service learning should be emphasized more in high school because not everyone goes to college. While I agree,  I also find that college is a good time for this kind of work because so many of my students are on the cusp of adulthood. They’re newly living outside their parents’ influence (or maybe longing to do so). They’re starting to get ‘real’ jobs and some are beginning to settle down and start families of their own. They’re maybe in different places, but they’re all on that continuum working their way from child towards adult. High school is weird in that you’re not really a kid anymore, but you’re definitely not an adult either, and I think the concept of being a ‘contributing member of society’ isn’t really on your radar at that age. The college years (whether or not you are in college when they occur) are formative for adult-hood, for shaping the way you will view the world from here on out. This is particularly relevant in science classes, where we emphasize building evidence-based perspectives. Don’t just regurgitate your parents’ opinions, or your textbooks’ definitions, or your professor’s soap box rant in class (What? Doesn’t everybody do that…?). In college, you should learn to read, to evaluate, to think for yourself.  And if, in the meantime, we your professors can get you to care about something now (I mean really get you passionate about it), it will stick with you when real adulthood descends. Trust me, that’s exactly what happened to all of your professors when we were in college – and here we still are.

The professors are not “required” to go to the service learnings. In some classes, the students choose and coordinate their own service opportunities, and few professors attend the university-coordinated events. I go to all of the service learning events with my students; not to keep tabs on them, or take attendance, or whatever, but because I enjoy it. I see the difference we’re making, even in just a few semesters, at both of these sites and I know that our work there matters. I’m proud of my students, and I hope they’re proud of themselves, too.

Hawaiian Plant Propagation, Spring 2017

It’s that time of the semester again! Namely, the time when Bruce Koebele, our resident propagation expert and service-learning coordinator, visits all of my classes and instructs all my students on planting and caring for a cutting of a native Hawaiian plant. The students will care for their cutting for most of the semester and then plant them at Piliokahe Beach in April. Across all my sections this semester, I have 60 students – a small army of propagators and habitat restorers – and I look forward to the impact a group this size will have on our two restoration sites.

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I enjoy starting the students off early on the propagation. It gives them as much time as possible with their plants, and shows them right away that this class will be different – on the *second day* we’re eschewing the normal class structure (which I tell them I do all semester, but I’m never sure they believe me at first) and literally getting our hands dirty (or not literally, since we’re using potting media and not dirt). It also lets me unleash my dorky side, since I always love the little trays of baby cuttings waiting to be potted. They just look so hopeful, and ready for their new adventure.

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Bruce walks the students through the different techniques of propagating plants, and the steps he has done prior to class. What are the pros and cons of propagating from cuttings versus from seeds? How do you collect seeds or cuttings? How do you ensure the plants you propagate are healthy and will survive in their new home? This semester, Bruce collected cuttings from native populations of each species growing on the eastern coast of O’ahu. This location will bring some genetic diversity to the population at Piliokahe (which is on the western coast), which will help the long-term survival of the population. Bruce also brings potting media that has been sterilized, to prevent infection in the delicate cuttings. And at this point, the cuttings have no roots, so students dip each cutting in a rooting hormone to promote root development as rapidly as possible. Since we’re scientists, we also collect data on the cuttings: students measure the height and leaf number for the cutting upon planting, and then track it throughout the semester. Investment in stem and leaf growth is one indication that the cuttings roots are developing sufficiently to support above-ground growth.

This semester, I’m propagating a plant (or two!) with each class. Left-to-right in the picture below are my pā’ū-o-Hi’iaka, nehe, ‘uhaloa, and pohuehue. So far, only the pohuehue is named – Charlie Brown (for what I hope are obvious reasons).

I strongly encourage the students to name their plants. Naming has a practical goal of helping the students remember to care for the plant… But also, naming the plant encourages the students to identify and interact with it as another living thing. Naming also has importance culturally – Bruce reminds the students that Hawaiian culture believes naming something instills it with your mana (power, or life force).


My plants ❤

Currently, all of the plants are living on campus for a week or so, just to make sure they get off on the right foot (or root). Then the plants will journey home with the students until their planting at Piliokahe. Check back here for more details in late March when all our cuttings return for their final check-up!

UHWO Restoration at Piliokahe Beach

Last weekend, students from introductory biology and botany classes met at Piliokahe Beach on the Waianae Coast to restore native dune ecosystems! We have been working our way down the dune for several years now, and my favorite part of this site is how visible our progress is across the dune. The dune slopes that we’ve planted in past semesters are overrun with native vegetation, and each semester we work our way a bit further down the dune.

Last semester, we discovered that a number of our plantings from the previous fall had been killed by squatters setting tents on our plantings. Bruce and I had discussed posting signs indicating that restoration was in progress and to take care where you step and set up camp. Since then, Bruce created and posted these signs, and fortunately, there was no evidence this semester of our previous plantings being trampled.


Hopefully these signs protect our baby plants as they establish on the dune


Erosion of last semester’s plantings

Unfortunately, the summer and fall have been extremely dry on this part of the island, and a number of our plants from the Spring 2016 semester are struggling. The dune also faced extensive erosion since our last outing, washing away some of the plants we planted on the front of the dune. Consequently, we spent our third semester filling in the same small area of the dune we worked on for Spring 2016 and Fall 2015.

Which leads me to a realization I had while we were working out there this weekend. The two sites we take the students to each semester (Kalaeloa Heritage Park and Piliokahe Beach) are different in many ways. KHP is a wahi pana (sacred place) and archeological site, which will eventually be open to the public as an educational park. Piliokahe is a public recreation beach. It is also called Tracks Beach because of the railroad tracks nearby which carried sugarcane from the rural fields to the processing plants in the city (the tracks are no longer used, but have not been removed). While both sites are in the Ewa Plain, KHP is more inland, reflecting more of a lowland scrub ecosystem, while Piliokahe is shoreline dune. None of this was the realization I had, as that is all fairly obvious if you’ve ever been to these sites. My realization was in how I view these sites and the importance and meaning of our restoration work there. In my mind, our work at Kalaeloa honors Hawaii’s past, while our work at Piliokahe represents the struggles facing the future of conservation. Our goal at Kalaeloa is to restore the site to what it might have looked like when it was inhabited, to contribute to the physical preservation of Hawaii’s past in the form of the archeological structures, and the intellectual preservation of Hawaii’s past in the educational role the park will serve when it is open. Our goal at Piliokahe is to counter the impacts of public recreation and help the native plants take back the dune from the humans and buffel grass that have slowly overrun it. Our plants at Kalaeloa are protected by a fence, and by Shad Kane and his crew who are developing the park. Our plants at Piliokahe are vulnerable. Vulnerable to the elements and to human ignorance and apathy.


Bruce instructs the students against the backdrop of recreational use at Piliokahe

The good news is that the older plantings that have established a bit more are still doing extremely well. In particular, the ‘akulikuli plants (which can take up water from ocean spray) were not surprisingly, much less affected by recent dry conditions. Across the older sections of the dune, ‘akulikuli, pohuehue, and naio were still thriving, which shows that if we can just get our little plants past the critical early stage, they will be more successful.


Successful naio (background shrubs) and ‘akulikuli (foreground vine)

As with past semesters, the students first removed invasive buffel grass from a portion of the dune before planting our plants. Buffel grass is particularly problematic because it is fire adapted. All it takes is one cigarette butt out the window of Farrington Highway right next to the beach, and even a small fire promotes the spread of buffel grass, which recolonizes burned areas much faster than the native Hawaiian plants.

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After that, we planted the following plants (the first three species were propagated by my students. The rest were propagated by Olivia George’s class, or by Bruce directly):

Pōhinahina, poh-hee-nah-hee-nah (Vitex rotundifolia) This native shrub gets its name from its tendency to fall over (pohina) as it grows taller and from the silvery-gray (hinahina) hairs that protect it from the sun. It is native to Hawai’i, but also found in Japan, India and many other Pacific islands.

Pōhuehue poh-hoo-ay-hoo-ay (Ipomoea pes-caprae subs brasiliensis) This vine also assists with erosion control, and is already well-represented throughout the dune from previous plantings, so we know it will do well at Piliokahe.

‘Akulikuli, ah-coo-lee-coo-lee (Sesuvium portulacastrum) This native shrub is common in coastal areas, marshes, lagoons, and rocky shorelines and can grow directly out of exposed coral beds. It is so well-adapted to shore life that it can take up moisture directly from sea-spray off the ocean, despite the salt content of this water source. ‘Akulikuli bears a strong physical resemblance to the invasive pickleweed, and the two are sometimes confused.This plant is also edible – the small, succulent leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

Aki’aki ah-kee-ah-kee (Sporobois virginicus) This indigenous grass is common along many Hawaiian coastlines. Like many grasses, ‘aki’aki forms extensive underground root and stem systems, making it also an excellent choice for erosion control and soil retention. Bruce identified this plant as the most important of our Piliokahe plantings because of its impressive erosion control abilities.

Pā’ū o Hi’iaka pah-ooh-oh-hee-eee-ah-ka (Jacquemontia ovalifolia subsp sandwicensis) The Hawaiian name of this endemic vine translates as ‘the skirt of Hi’iaka’ – the vine is said to have protected Hi’iaka, the infant sister of the volcano goddess Pele, from the harsh Hawaiian sun as she lay on the beach while Pele was fishing. The vine produces rather pretty thick green leaves and small bluish purple flowers, which resemble a skirt.  Pā’ū o Hi’iaka readily spreads throughout the dunes, and mature plants can be seen in many of the restored areas in the photos below.

Hinahina kū kahakai hee-nah-hee-nah koo kah-hah-kye (Heliotropium anomalum) This endemic shrub also takes its name from silvery-gray (hinahina) hairs that protect the leaves from the sun, and its location near the ocean (kahakai). It is the official flower of Kaho’olawe and is frequently used in lei.


My students’ plants, all ready for their new home!

My previous comments about Piliokahe representing the future of conservation in Hawai’i are perhaps why I always find the tray of baby plants so hopeful. We have this little army of plants, that we’ve cared for and trained, and we’re going to strategically place them on the dune to fight back against the buffel grass, the dry soil, the eroding waves, the human obliviousness, and they’ll do it one leaf, one flower, one microscopic root hair at a time, with no help from us. And Bruce and I will come back next semester with a new crop of students and a new batch of plants to congratulate the winners and try again in the space left by the losers.



UH Mānoa Celebrates Arbor Day

Today, the UH Mānoa campus held a tree-planting and tree-give-away event to celebrate Hawai’i Arbor Day. These events are part of the Arbor Day Foundation‘s Tree Campus USA program, which encourages local involvement in planting and awareness of forest and tree issues. If you are like me and grew up in one of the many states that celebrates Arbor Day on the federal date in April, you may be confused as to why we are celebrating it in November. As I learned today, many states celebrate their own Arbor Days to coincide better with local climate. The majority of states celebrate it sometime in April; all but two celebrate it sometime in the Spring. Only Hawai’i and South Carolina celebrate it in winter (theirs is first Friday in December).


Stand full of give-away plants and new residents of the Hawai’i Hall quad

Anyhow, Tree Campus USA set up shop in the quad behind Hawai’i Hall, complete with ~20 trees to be planted throughout the quad, and six species of plants to give away to volunteers. Van Wishingrad (a UHM biology grad student) and I dropped by to plant and adopt. Van and I both adopted little money trees (Pachira aquatica), and planted a little betel palm (Areca catechu).


Van and I with our new money trees

Since I teach on Fridays, I was improperly dressed for manual labor (particularly in the footwear department), so much of the work fell to Van. Still, it didn’t take long to get a decent hole dug and our little betal palm all snug in his new home!

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UHWO Native Hawaiian Plant Propagation for Habitat Restoration

The first week of the fall semester, my biology 101 students at UH West O’ahu planted cuttings of three plant species native to Hawai’i: ‘ākulikuli (Sesuvium portulacastrum), pohuehue (Ipomea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis), and pohinahina (Vivax rotundifolia). The students have cared for these plants at home for the past two months, and today returned the plants in preparation for our dune restoration at Piliokahe Beach later this month.

The ‘ākulikuli had the best survivorship, with all 6 of the plants still intact. The pohuehue had 90% survivorship (9/10), and the pohinahina struggled the most, with 50% survivorship (5/10), giving us an overall success rate of 20/26 or about 73%.


Vinery (named by Jaja) has gained 32 cm in stem length and 14 new leaves!

The plants that survived are doing very well. The ‘ākulikuli had an average increase of 5 cm in height and 80 leaves! The pohinahina increased by an average of 6 cm in height and 17 leaves. And the pohuehue increased by an average of 21 cm in height and 9 leaves. More important than the averages, every single plant showed increases in both height and leaf number, indicating that they are all in good shape! Shown below are all the plants, and some of the particularly successful ones with their caretakers. Bruce will come by to pick up the plants next week – he will check them and (if needed) treat them for pathogens and pests before our planting at Piliokahe on November 19th.

UHWO Service Learning: Kalaeloa Heritage Park

Last weekend, my intro biology students at UH West O’ahu completed their first service learning event at Kalaeloa Heritage Park, an archaeological site and wahi pana (sacred place) managed and protected by the Kalaeloa Heritage and Legacy Foundation. The 77 acres that make up Kalaleoa Heritage Park contain 177 recorded cultural sites. A six-acre section housing 51 documented archaeological features is being prepared as an educational park which will eventually be open to the public. Our role is to restore the vegetation of the park to represent the flora that was present when the site was occupied and eradicate the invasive vegetation that has encroached on the site.

Kalaeloa Heritage Park

Prior to the restoration, Shad Kane took the students on a tour of the park, including the eleven primary archaeological features which will form the focus of the park when it is open to the public. Shad emphasized to the students that the story of the Kalaeloa residents is one of the farmer, the fisherman, and the gatherer, not one of chiefs or royals. The entire ‘Ewa Plain (stretching from Pearl Harbor west to Wai‘anae) including Kalaeloa Heritage Park is emerged coral reef which has fossilized and covered with a thin layer of soil. Consequently, the archaeological features are built of coral ‘rocks’ excavated from the surrounding area and suggest a Tahitian origin due to the prevalence of upright stones in the construction.

The features include:

  • Sinkholes in the coral which access an extensive underground river of freshwater.  Sinkholes were used for agriculture (plants could be planted inside the sinkhole to access the water), drinking water, or burial sites. Some of the sinkholes were large enough to have stairwells carved into them and open into large underground chambers.
  • Storage structures in which food (such as salt fish) and other goods (including bird feathers) were stored.
  • Other burial structures (not in sinkholes) called ‘ahu, which also served as places of personal prayer.
  • Portions of the Kualaka’i Trail which served to link inland resources (for example, kalo fields) with coastal fishing grounds. The trail was documented in early maps of Hawaii, including the well-known maps published in 1825 from surveys performed by Royal Navy Lt. Malden of the HMS Blonde.
  • The largest feature of the 6-acre park is a partially rebuilt gathering and meeting room. The floor of the structure includes a natural raised coral platform in the center, which overlays at least two large underground caves. Shad emphasized that since this was not the home of a chief, the structure is not a true heiau (temple) but was clearly a structure of importance to the residents.

Not all of the features of the park are ancient. The Kalaeloa Heritage Park grounds were once owned by the United States Navy, and still today abut the Kalaeloa Airport with frequent military air traffic. In 1949, a training exercise resulted in the crash of a 3-person plane, killing the men on board. Portions of the wreckage are still visible, and the heritage park plans to erect a memorial to honor the men.

This year, the park had a new addition. Bruce has prepared placards for all of our native plantings, documenting the biology and cultural uses of the plants at the park.

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Our Previous Plantings

Last semester, we tried an experimental planting method called long-stem planting, where much of the stem is planted under ground. Studies had suggested that planting the stem underground encourages growth of adventitious roots from the stem, increasing the plant’s chances of success. We planted ‘a’ali’i and ko’oloa’ula in both traditional and long-stem methods and tracked their success. Though our sample size is small, the long-stem plantings did not seem to fare any better than the traditional method. For both planting methods, a few died, and a few are faring well. Consequently, we’ll stick with the traditional planting method at this site, because the soil is quite shallow, making long-stem planting more logistically difficult.


A long-stem ko’oloa’ula (pink flag) and a traditional naio (blue flag)


Naio planted by my students in Fall 2014

One of my favorite parts of our service learnings at Kalaeloa is revisiting our old plantings. Every semester, I see how our plants from previous visits are thriving and taking over. I see fewer invasive plants choking out the archeological features. I see new native plants cropping up that we didn’t even intentionally plant, but which have spread from the seeds of ones we did plant, that are now mature.

I find that I take a lot of personal pride in our efforts here, and it means a lot to me to see the native flora retake their place in this park.  I look forward to the day the park opens and all my students’ hard work is visible to the public.


This little lonomea is one of my favorites

This semester, we planted the following plants:

Wiliwili will-ee-will-ee (Erythrina sandwicensis) This endemic tree is deciduous, which is unusual in Hawai’i. It is currently federally listed as at-risk. When it was more common, the wiliwili was the preferred choice of wood for surfboards. Flowers and seeds of the wiliwili are also used in lei. The wiliwili is more commonly found in the dry forests of Waianae and on volcanic soil, making the individuals here (on calcareous soil) unusual. The plants we planted today were grown from seeds of the mature wiliwili already growing in the park.

Ewa hinahina eh-vuh hee-nuh hee-nuh (Achyranthes splendens var. rotundata) This shrub is federally listed as endangered and is found in only three places on O’ahu island, including Kalaeloa Heritage Park. The Hawaiian name for this plant was lost, so it’s current name comes from it’s habitat of the ‘Ewa plains, and hinahina which means grayish or silver. The leaves of this plant have small ‘hairs’ which give the plant a grayish or silver appearance and protect the plant from the heat of the sun. Loss of the Hawaiian name means we know little about its historical use or importance in Hawaiian culture.

Naio, nye-oh (Myoporum stellatum) This rare endemic shrub is found only in Kalaeloa and Nanakuli, and may soon be found only in Kalaeloa.  Despite being quite rare, naio is only listed as ‘at-risk.’ It was sometimes substituted for ‘iliahi during the sandalwood trade, giving it the unfortunate nickname of ‘bastard sandalwood.’

‘A’ali’i ah-ah-lee-ee (Dodonaea viscosa): one of my personal favorites, due to its pretty red fruits and its reputation for bending without breaking. This second trait led to the use of ‘a’ali’i as a description of a person who is strong, resilient, or loyal. Previously, it was thought that the plant did not exist in this region, but recent pollen analyses of the nearby Ordy Pond indicate that the species did reside in this area.


Flowering maiapilo

Maiapilo, mye-uh-pee-loh (Capparis sandwichiana) This endemic shrub is named for its stinky (‘pilo’ means a swampy or otherwise unpleasant smell) and banana-shaped (‘maia’ is the name for banana) fruits.  Maiapilo are closely related to capers and are federally listed as ‘at-risk.’  In early excavation at KHP, Shad discovered wild maiapilo already growing in the area, indicating our little plants will do well here. Maiapilo also attract birds to eat the seeds, which will not only spread more maiapilo plants, but will also contribute to a healthy ecosystem in the park. Some of the more mature maiapilo in the park were in flower when were there.


The students also removed invasive koa haole that are creeping in along the road. Bruce will return in a week or so with an herbicide to ensure all the koa haole roots are destroyed.

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UHWO Ecology Field Trip to the Honolulu Zoo

To cap off a fun semester, my General Ecology students and I took a field trip to the Honolulu Zoo!

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The General Ecology class (and friends) rocking the shaka at the Honolulu Zoo

We ran into my friend Evan Padro, who works at the zoo, and with the Wright Lab at UH Manoa. Evan introduced us to orangutans, Rusti and Violet. Rusti was pretty interested in Evan’s bag of edamame, but Violet is ‘in season’ as they say, and was more interested in Rusti.

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The students were particularly excited to see the elephants, since effects of poaching on African elephant populations was Ashlyn’s research project this semester. Unfortunately, Ashlyn couldn’t be with us, but we all admired the (Indian) elephants anyhow. Though female Indian elephants do grow tusks, the keeper said the elephant on the left rubs hers down and the one on the right had recently broken hers off.

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The African savanna wildlife were particularly cooperative for photos. And we also got to catch penguin feeding time, which is exactly as adorable as it sounds. As Jordan said the visit was “Turtle-y amazing!”

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