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A Helicopter And Paintball Gun: New Tools In The Battle To Remove Invasive Species

UH Mānoa Associate Professor James Leary uses a helicopter and paintball gun to battle invasive species.

James Leary

James Leary, associate professor in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is battling invasive species with his innovative Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT™). Leary has invented a way to adapt readily available pneumatic paintball guns to shoot small gelatin capsules filled with herbicide to control invasive plants and trees. In Maui, Leary’s main focus is miconia, an invasive weed that shades out native plants and damages the ecosystem.

The paintballs, custom made by Nelson Paint Company, can be used to treat hard-to-reach areas like cliffs and ravines. The technology also reduces disturbance of remote areas and is safer for the person applying the herbicide because the chemical is safely contained in the small projectiles.

Further, this approach allows for targeted and cost-effective treatment of invasive plant species. While riding in a helicopter, Leary can treat an individual invasive plant from a range of up to 100 feet.

“We’re able to, with our efforts, protect an acre of forested watershed at less than $10,” Leary said in a recent news report. “So it’s a very economical approach because of the efficiency the helicopter provides.”

In a previously published paper, Leary, in collaboration with the Maui Invasive Species Committee, described how more than 4,000 of the invasive weed trees were targeted and eliminated in remote areas of Maui watershed in just over a year using the revolutionary HBT.

A Kaunānā story

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. How does he know what is on the ground under his target or near his target? Who is making sure his paintball of herbicides are not killing the wrong things or getting into streams and waterways (especially in these ravines that were mentioned in the article)? You can’t see everything from the air.

    1. This is something I had thought of also. A feild study was probably done first. They are also using technology to scope it out, shown effective, as stated in the article.

  2. This is an awesome idea! Are these plants root bound? Will the herbicide kill the roots or do they need to be pulled out at the root? This is something I would be interested in getting involved with. Always been a dream of mine to get into environmental conservation.
    Please contact me further. I am considering a double major and wondering if Maui has the right coarses.
    Mahalo :)

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