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Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science photo montage

The National Science Foundation has released $1 million from the Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program to fund the fourth year of a climate change research project being undertaken by the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) Program. The funding is part of a second $5 million grant representing Phase II funding, approved in 2014, and will cover research activities in the 2017–2018 school year.

The UH Hilo CREST project, Understanding Biotic Response to Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems Through a Place-Based Context, is comprised of three research teams led by Patrick Hart, a professor in the Department of Biology. Each team is a diverse, inter-disciplinary unit that includes several post-doctoral researchers as well as laboratory and field technicians, graduate and undergraduate students.

Organismal response to climate change

The Organismal Responses to Environmental Change (OREC) team, led by Jolene Sutton, assistant biology professor, is examining the short- and long-term responses of key organisms to a range of environmental conditions and incorporates their findings into models of landscape-level response to climate change. Their research utilizes the institution’s core genetics, spatial data analysis and analytical labs.

Symbiotic organisms in taro, haʻole koa and coral

Misaki Takabayashi, marine science professor, heads up the Dynamic Interactions of Symbioses and Environment (DISE) team. DISE members are investigating the functions of symbiotic organisms in taro, haʻole koa and coral, which are among the many Hawaiian plants and animals that live with symbiotic organisms. Their study aims to create a better understanding of the important role symbionts play in the health and physiology of host organisms.

Social behavior in animals

The Behavioral Response to Environmental Change (BREC) team, led by Hart, is analyzing the role of anthropogenic change and population decline on social behavior in animals. The group has established a Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems Bioacoustics Lab at UH Hilo to provide support for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates working in the bioacoustics field.

“The CREST: TCBES project engages our students in challenging field and laboratory research, which they will present at both local and national scientific conferences,” Hart said. “By developing this new generation of scientists and professionals, the TCBES program is earning a reputation as a center for excellence in research and training for Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.”

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