Meet The Team

We have had an amazing group of volunteers, students, visitors and interns assist with Liko Nā Pilina. Mahalo to all who have helped make this project possible!


Rebecca Ostertag

Role: I serve as one of the principal investigators of the project, which means I’ve been involved in all aspects of planning, executing, publicizing, and synthesizing the project. From the moment we wrote the first proposal on this project I was enthralled by the hybrid ecosystem concept. 

Why Conservation: The first time I stepped into a tropical forest, I knew that was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to devote my life to learn what it had to teach all of us. I work in conservation and education because I want people to understand that we are nature. It’s most important to me to mālama the ecosystems of Hawaiʻi because they are us–part of our natural, social, and cultural heritage.

Susan Cordell

Role: I’ve been involved in all aspects from idea-forming, planning, executing, publicizing, and synthesizing the project.

Why Conservation: While serving in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer I witnessed extreme deforestation of old-growth tropical forests.  Since then I have dedicated my professional (and personal) life to the conservation and restoration of forested ecosystems. We are privileged in the US that we often don’t have to choose between our livelihood and conservation. It is important to me that when we think of conservation we also think of working lands and healthy people. I am so inspired to live and work in a place (Hawaiʻi and the US Affiliated Pacific Islands) where humans and nature coexist.

Photo of Susan Cordell
Photo of Peter Vitousek

Peter Vitousek

Role: I was involved in the establishment and management of the initial phase of the project, and remain interested in C storage and resource availability in the plots.

Why Conservation: I grew up in Hawai‘i, largely outdoors, and am dedicated to seeing the extraordinary ecosystems of Hawaiʻi and their cultural significance sustained and accessible to all.

Nicole DiManno

Role: I was engaged with the Liko Nā Pilina project as a Senior Research Field Technician from January 2013 – October 2019, working on all aspects of the project and diving into the hands-on field components as much as possible. In November 2019 I moved to Oregon and began working remotely on data management/analyses, manuscript writing, and general project oversight.

Why Conservation: The natural world has always intrigued me and I have always benefited greatly from the experiences of exploring different types of ecosystems. It is extremely important to me that as a community we support conservation; for the preservation of ecosystem health and all the benefits conservation actions will bring to future generations.

Photo of Nicole DiManno
Photo of Konapiliahi Dancil

Konapiliahi Dancil

Role: I am engaged with the Liko Na Pilina project as the current research field technician and am involved in day-to-day operations of all aspects in the project. Operations of the project range from data collection and restoration work in the field to data analysis and data processing for the Liko Na Pilina project.

Why Conservation: I grew up in Maui, Hawaiʻi with an immediate love for the outdoors. I was fortunate to attend Kamehameha Schools and throughout my journey I became dedicated to better understanding our natural resources and the state of Hawaiʻi’s naïve and endemic species. Ultimately, I am in this field to ensure that future generations here in Hawaiʻi have access to the forests that made me fall in love with conservation. 

Amanda Irish

Role: Senior Plant Ecological Research Technician. I worked on the project originally as an intern through the ORISE program and then transitioned to becoming a technician, and now work in agriculture.

Why Conservation: I’ve always loved being in a forest and working with plants. Those two interests have grown into a career that gives me the opportunity to learn about Hawaiian forests, ecosystems, and the invasive species threatening native and endemic species in Hawaiʻi.

Photo of Amanda Irish

Paul Banko

Role: I’ve been involved in planning the project, which was inspired after attending a conference presentation by Becky. Her description of the basic restoration experiment prompted me to wonder how the interactions among arthropods might be affected by the different treatments. I also attempted to see whether we could observe differences in how birds were affected by the treatments, but the plots are just too small to observe any effects. My role presently is to assist with interpreting the results of the project from a food web perspective.

Why Conservation: I became involved in Hawaiʻi conservation partly because of a family tradition due to my dad’s work with endangered Hawaiian birds. I spent many happy days helping him in the field, and together we developed the idea that threats to arthropod prey of birds were important factors in the historical extinction and decline of many forest bird species. That theme continues in my work today.

Amanda Uowolo

Role: My role with Pilina has varied over the years. At the beginning of the project, I collected the functional plant trait data on a wide range of plant species that were used to run the models to determine our experimental treatments in the project. I helped identify and clear the research plot areas, assist with project outplanting, mentored interns on the project, and have assisted with various field data collections and plot maintenance duties through time. My role has shifted most recently to be more of an administrative function to facilitate internships and logistics support.

Why Conservation: Why I am interested in research and conservation: I entered into this field of work due to my lifelong interest in plants. I care deeply about the habitats that support native plants and the many ecosystem services they provide, not just from a biological diversity perspective, but also from a human perspective. We need plants and forests to survive on this planet, and we need to figure out how they function so we can solve the many challenges they (and we) face to persist.

Photo of Amanda Uowolo

Esther Sebastián-González

Role:  I came into the project when we started wondering about how the different treatments would be affecting higher trophic levels throughout multi-trophic interactions. For this, I was involved in the conceptualization, project writing and idea discussing. I will be leading a network analysis approach to understand how these multi-trophic interactions work.

Why Conservation: We belong to nature and we are nothing without it. Humans have been (and continue) ignoring this and destroying nature, so much more effort is needed to preserve what we have left, and to restore what was lost. I work on conservation because I want to help both in conservation and restoration and because I aim to leave a “greener” world to my son.

Bob Peck

Role: My primary role in the Liko Nā Pilina project is to oversee the entomological aspects of the study. I will be collaborating with others to analyze and synthesize the results of the research. 

Why Conservation: The conservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems has been a focus of my interest for many years. I have been around long enough to see the tragic loss of much habitat and many species, but also have observed the protection of vast lands and the recovery of extremely rare plants and animals. With increased awareness and a concerted effort, much more conservation can be accomplished. In Hawaiʻi, I believe that protecting and restoring our forests and reefs are the kuleana of residents and visitors alike. 

Trebor Hall

Role: I was an arthropod technician on the project involved in our leaf litter arthropod study and continue to contribute from afar. When I first joined the project, my focus was mainly the field collection of arthropods and the methodology of our arthropod study. As the study has progressed, my focus has shifted primarily to lab identification of our specimens, specializing in macro arthropods.

Why Conservation: As someone who has been captured from a young age by the wonder of nature, it is personally important to me that we conserve and protect our ecosystems both for us and for the well-being of our planet. I am also particularly interested in conservation as an entomologist because insects are often one of the first groups to be affected by the alteration or degradation of ecosystems.

Maya Munstermann

Role: I was a member of the Liko Nā Pilina team as a forest entomology technician employed through USGS and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and am now in a Ph.D. program at Florida State University. The main objective of my position was a focus on microarthropod communities in native forest leaf litter. I mainly sorted and identified the microarthropods present in the soil samples collected from the native forest experimental plots.

Why Conservation: No creature in the history of Earth has shaped animal life as much as human beings. Anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems are expected to result in accelerating loss of biodiversity and concomitant changes in ecosystem structure. I hope to dedicate my career to learning more about the ecological and evolutionary response to global change and how to apply conservation management to species at elevated risk of extinction.

Casey Anuhea Robins

Role: My official role in the Liko Nā Pilina team is a Field Assistant, where I assist with the data collection of the project, and am also working on my M.S. degree. As a kanaka maoli, I also strive to provide a cultural perspective to the project in hopes of bridging the gap between western science and Hawaiian culture.

Why Conservation: I am interested in conservation because it’s a part of my culture; it’s a lifestyle and reflective of my identity as a kanaka maoli. My kupuna were intelligent in their interactions with the ‘āina and understood the importance of proper natural resource management in sustaining the multitude. I hope to embody that same understanding by contributing to the improvement of conservation in Hawai‘i.

Emma Stierhoff

Role: I am an ecological research and outreach technician with Liko Nā Pilina. I assist with ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the hybrid forest experiment, and spread the word about the project. I aim to have people from all different backgrounds engage with the space, and to inspire more lowland wet forest restoration efforts across Hawaiʻi.

Why Conservation: From a young age I felt a deep connection to nature, and an intense sense of responsibility to prevent the destruction of this beautiful, diverse planet. I am driven to protect the ʻāina that has nurtured me in so many ways, and give back as much as I can.

young woman stands in a forest holding a bowl full of Hala seedlings


Kūpono Aguirre

Role: I participated in Liko Nā Pilina as a student assistant who carries out the field and lab work with my team members.

Why Conservation: I enjoy building connections between people and the rest of the world. My passion for conservation stems from the understanding that humans have a role in nature because we are a part of it.

Maybeleen Apwong

Role: Field Technician

Why Conservation: My interest in conservation started long before I even knew there was a field like that to study. I grew up with parents and family that was well surrounded by agroforestry, I understood there was a connection between people and place, especially since people back home still to this day use plants for traditional medicines. My interest grew more in college when I took a botany class and saw that we (humans) depend more on plants than I originally thought possible. Then when I came to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, I realized that there is a field of study where you can be surrounded by nature. I have been working to improve my understanding of conservation through understanding plant, place, and people interactions. It is like a cycle, the more I learn about plants, places and people the more I want to help with conservation projects and these projects will in turn help push me to study these relationships between plants, places, and people.

Man stats in native forest wearing a bright orange vest.

Jonah Kuwahara-Hu

Role: I am a Biological Science Technician working with the U.S Forest Service and the University of Hawaiʻi. I assist with any needs that the Liko Nā Pilina project has, including plot maintenance, data collection, outplanting, and greenhouse work. 

Why Conservation: I was born and raised on the Big Island and grew up in a conservation-centric household. I have always been fascinated with our natural world, especially Hawaiʻi’s unique environment. Seeing first hand how delicate our native ecosystems are and the negative changes that have occurred in Hawaiʻi’s native forests inspired me to pursue my love of nature as a career. I strive to conduct work that reflects my interest in not only conserving, but restoring our native landscape.

Sophia Montoya

Role: I am a forest field technician. Fieldwork consists of surveying weeds and plants, collecting materials like leaf litter, collecting data such as phenology, seedling, and greenhouse work of taking care of plants, starting saplings, and out planting. Lab work consists of data entry, processing field collections, and preparing them for analysis. I also help to lead groups of volunteers for the project.

Why conservation: Growing up, I was always outdoors with my family, and my dad would tell us about our ancestors from the Tortuga Pueblo and what they did with the land around them. That is what got me into plants and their significance to the people around them. Wanting to get into conservation started when I went back to New Mexico and saw what had happened to all the agricultural land and all the knowledge that was lost. One of the main goals I aim to achieve in conservation is to recover knowledge that has been forgotten and help keep what we have left. 

Young woman measured DBH on a native tree and smiles at the camera

Jacey Savage

Role: My role as a field assistant for Liko Nā Pilina consisted of various tasks ranging from data collection, plot maintenance, greenhouse work, out plantings, and lab work, to outreach.

Why Conservation: Having been immersed in nature since childhood, I developed a deep appreciation for and curiosity in the great outdoors. This led me to major in Biology at UH Hilo, where I learned of the devastating impacts that human actions have had and continue to have on Hawaiian ecosystems. Being in the middle of a pristine forest surrounded by native plants and birds is a truly remarkable experience. I chose to pursue conservation in order to join the effort of helping to protect and preserve these valuable areas for future generations to come. 

Amy Patterson

Role: I hold a role as a Field Assistant for the Liko Nā Pilina project. My duties vary but encompass data collection, processing, and entry. I also help with greenhouse work, outplanting, and in providing support for educational outreach efforts.

Why conservation: I grew up closely intertwined with the ecosystems of Hawaiʻi.  Throughout my childhood, I found it exceptionally difficult to sit by and watch the land which raised me deteriorate.  Our climate changes beyond our comprehension as humans exploit natural resources. I want to promote a relationship of reciprocity between society and the environment by dedicating my career to conservation and natural resource protection.

Young woman stands in Native forest smiling

Visit our hui i hala page for information about previous team members.