May, 2008 Vol. 33 No. 2
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Published May 2008

Research News

Post injury death rate higher for non-whites in hospital

The death rate for Asian and African American patients hospitalized after an injury is higher than that for Caucasians, according to a study reported in the February 2008 issue of Medical Care.

Co-author Jerris Hedges, an emergency medicine specialist, calls for continued research to get at the cause of the disparity. The study examined data from Hawaiʻi and 21 other states.

Hedges joined the University of Hawaiʻi’s John A. Burns School of Medicine as dean in March 2008.

Read the abstract.


Dairy link doubted as prostate cancer risk factor

The amount of calcium and vitamin D in the diet had no correlation to risk of developing prostate cancer among participants in the Multi Ethnic Cohort study conducted by Mānoa researchers and mainland colleagues.

Curiously, however, consumption of skim or low-fat milk was associated with increased risk of localized or non-aggressive tumors while consumption of whole milk was associated with decreased risk, Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi’s Song-Yi Park and colleagues reported in the Dec. 1, 2007 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Park cautions against drawing conclusions; it could be that men who opt for the health benefits of low-fat dairy products are more likely to ask their doctors for prostate cancer screenings.

Read the article.

Mari Yoshihara

Book explores Asian prominence in classical music

Mari Yoshihara’s life experiences—she was born in New York but raised in Japan; trained as both a classical pianist and a schola—prepared her to interview scores of musicians for her latest book.

In Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music, she traces historical factors that shaped the growth of Western music in East Asia and explores the prominence of Asians in a Western art form.

"Asian and Asian American musicians pursue classical music not despite their Asian identity nor because of their Asian upbringing," argues the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa associate profe5sor of American studies. "Rather, they experience and practice classical music through their identity, which is partly shaped by their race and ethnicity, and come to understand and negotiate their Asian identity through their practice of classical music."

Read more on Yoshihara and her book.

Omiodes continuatalis larvae

Burrowing may have saved moth

The fossorial behavior of a Hawaiian moth may help explain the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct.

In field studies on Maui, the larvae of Omiodes continuatalis, an endemic crambid leafroller moth, were found to burrow up to 14 centimeters into the soil beneath their host plants.

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources scientists Cynthia King and Daniel Rubinoff suggest that the behavior provides some protection from (and may have even been an evolutionary response to) natural predators and parasites like those released to control sugarcane and coconut leafrollers.

If the behavior is unique to certain populations, it could explain why some species persisted, albeit in reduced numbers, the scientists write in the November 2007 issue of Pacific Science.

Read the abstract.

PISCES submersible

Pisces finds possible new coral and sponge species

Researchers diving on the Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Laboratory’s Pisces V submersible have found what they believe to be new species of coral and sponge in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Biologist Christopher Kelley collected samples of the giant cauldron sponge and lemony colored coral tree for taxonomic identification and DNA analysis.

The organisms were found during November 2007 dives in 3,000–6,000 feet of water at the new Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.


Students use supercomputer for research projects

For the fourth year, University of Hawaiʻi students have been able to use the world’s 25th most powerful computer in their research.

Five students from four disciplines used the Maui High Performance Computing Center, which UH operates for the Air Force.

  • In mechanical engineering, Ruey Hwu is developing a 3-D simulation of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and Kin Wai Leung is modeling the impact of tsunami waves on coastal buildings.
  • In geology and geophysics, Seung-Sep Kim is analyzing satellite-driven gravity grids to locate thousands of seamounts and volcanic ridges.
  • In chemistry, Jhonsen Djajamuliadi is studying protein fold properties to determine the role of water in formation of elastin in the human body.
  • In zoology, Erik Franklin is examining satellite images for spatial patters in shallow reefs around Northwestern Hawaiian Island atolls.
infrared image of Mars

Mars images reveal salty spots

Methodically reviewing a 20,000-image data set from the Mars Odyssey orbiter, Mikki Osterloo detected a pattern.

The artificially colored thermal infrared images of the red planet’s southern highlands signaled the likely presence of chloride salts.

Salt deposits indicate that water was once present, possibly groundwater that ponded in low spots, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa geology and geophysics doctoral candidate and colleagues report in the March 21, 2008 issue of Science. Researchers F. Scott Anderson and Victoria Hamilton believe the deposits are 3.5–3.9 billion years old. Since salt is a good preservative of organic matter, it may flag a good place to search for past life on Mars.

Read the abstract.

image of volcanic crater on Mercury

Mercury flyby detects evidence of magma

Images from the first flyby in 33 years may settle the debate about formation of plains on the innermost planet.

NASA’s MESSENGER mission last January captured a kidney-shaped depression at the margin of Caloris Basin surrounded by a smooth, diffuse edged, light-reflective deposit, both consistent with volcanic rather than impact origins, says Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology Assistant Researcher Jeffrey Gillis-Davis.

New data also indicate floor-fractured craters similar to those on the Moon, which were likely formed by magmatic intrusions and uplift of crater floors. MESSENGER captured sections of Mercury not photographed during Mariner 10 flybys in 1974 and 1975. Additional flybys occur in October 2008 and September 2009.

Gillis-Davis is also one of three University of Hawaiʻi participating scientists for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, expected to launch in late 2008 as a precursor to a new manned mission to the moon.

He will use radar data to assess lunar resources and titanium dioxide in the soil; B. Ray Hawke will study photographs of pyroclastic deposits; Paul Lucey will do mineral mapping with laser altimeter data.

diagram of star movements

Astronomer watches four-star system and magnetic switch

Observations from Mauna Kea telescopes have revealed that a bright object once thought to be a single star is actually a system of four stars, each about half the size of our Sun.

The stars orbit each other like two twirling couples revolving about each other on the dance floor. The tight configuration suggests the stars formed in a single gaseous disk more than 500 million years ago, the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy’s Evgenya Shkolnik reported at the American Astronomical Society meeting in January 2008.

In another finding, Shkolnik and French colleagues observed the sun-like star tau Bootis flip its magnetic field. Data on tau Bootis were published in the February 2008 issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The team seeks to better understand how magnetic engines work in stars. The Sun’s magnetic field changes direction every 11 years, affecting the number of sunspots and influencing Earth’s climate.

Read more on the star quartet or the magnetic field.


Fishpond manual available

Hawaiians developed a unique fishpond aquaculture unparalleled in sophistication for its time. Many fishpond wall remains still can be found along Hawaiʻi coasts. Experience with restoring some of these ponds on Molokaʻi is reflected in a new book from the Universiy of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Loko Iʻa: A Manual on Hawaiian Fishpond Restoration and Management describes the history of Hawaiian fishponds and relates practical information about obtaining permits and creating a business plan.

In addition, authors Graydon "Buddy" Keala, James Hollyer and Luisa Castro provide fish management checklists, pond troubleshooting tips and an illustrated step-by-step guide to constructing net pens.

Find out more about the book.


Gulf Stream leaves its signature seven miles high

Nature cover with gulfstream rising

New research from the International Pacific Research Center suggests how the Atlantic Gulf Stream can affect climate far beyond western Europe.

Warm ocean currents in the stream anchor narrow rain bands with upward winds and cloud formation reaching as high as seven miles, the American and Japanese scientists reported in the March 13, 2008 cover article in Nature.

By warming the upper atmosphere, where resulting planetary waves can ride the jet stream, the Gulf Stream has a pathway potentially to influence climate throughout the Northern Hemisphere and perhaps even worldwide, Manoa meteorologist Shang-Ping Xie explains.

See the journal or read the abstract.