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Quarantine First Responders Honored as State Team of the Year

Posted on | October 15, 2010 | Comments Off

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From left, Linda Jonshrud, Ruth Niino-Duponte, Jon Katada, Arnold Hara, Charlie Nelson, Marcel Tsang, Susan Cabral, Kris Aoki, Governor Linda Lingle

A team of researchers from Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture, known as the Quarantine First Responders, was named the State Team of the Year by Gov. Linda Lingle in recognition of their work addressing Hawaiʻi’s agricultural pest and quarantine issues.

The Quarantine First Responders is led by Arnold Hara, a CTAHR entomologist, and is comprised of CTAHR’s Kris Aoki, Susan Cabral and Ruth Niino-DuPonte of the Komohana Research Extension Center in Hilo; Jon Katada of the Waiākea Research Station in Hilo; Charles Nelson of CTAHR’s Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering; and Marcel Tsang of UH Hilo’s College of Agriculture.

The team was selected as the State Team of the Year honoree in the 2010 Governor’s Awards from among 52 exceptional group and individual nominees from the state’s executive branch departments who exemplify the highest caliber of public service and dedication to serving the people of Hawai‘i.

“The university is proud of the many accomplishments of the Quarantine First Responders. They are committed to addressing the needs of Hawaiʻi’s agriculture industries, growers and the general public,” says Linda Johnsrud, vice president for academic planning and policy. “Though their innovative and effective solutions, Hawaiʻi growers can continue to ship their nursery products interisland and export their plants to California, Guam and Japan.”

The team has been recognized for their extensive work on the coqui frog. When other agencies were uncertain about how to deal with an amphibian pest, the team organized the Coqui Frog Working Group and prompted each agency to contribute in their respective areas of expertise. The team knew initial control efforts using chemical sprays would only be a temporary solution so they conducted extensive literature searches, documented the frog’s life cycle in Hawaiʻi, screened promising chemicals and delivery methods, and studied the frogs in their native habitat while continuing to look for a long term solution. They also developed frog traps and barriers to prevent the spread and establishment of the coqui in Hawaiʻi’s certified nurseries.

To meet quarantine security requirements for floriculture crops, the team generated copious amounts of data to determine the thermal tolerance of various quarantine pests. They successfully designed and constructed a hot-water dip treatment that eliminated pests without killing the plant itself. They also discovered that the treatment extended the shelf life of certain flowers and foliages and had the added benefit of preventing geotrophism, which is a bending of flower stems in response to gravity and is problematic for shippers.

The Quarantine First Responders have visited elementary schools to educate children in recognizing the dangers of touching pests such as the stinging nettle caterpillar, little fire ant, and the dangers in handling slugs. They also educate frustrated homeowners who want to rid their property of the coqui, conduct workshops for commercial growers, make scientific presentations to academic colleagues, and have provided information to thousands of Hawai‘i residents through their publications and websites.

Read the news release.

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