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The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Program (TCBES) has been awarded a second $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program. The award represents the second phase of funding of the original $5 million grant received in 2009 and covers a five-year period.

The interdisciplinary project unites research teams from several natural sciences under the overarching theme of Understanding Biotic Response to Environmental Change in Tropical Ecosystems Through a Place-Based Context.

fruit flies
Insects are often “the canary in the coal mine,” or an indicator species, when it comes to understanding climate change.

“To fully understand the impact of climate change you need to start with the leading indicators, which are those life forms, whose well-being is tied to the state of their environment,” says principal investigator and TCBES Director Donald Price.

The results of the research are expected to produce a deeper understanding of the impacts climate change will have on the geographic ranges as well as social and symbiotic interactions of species in Hawaiʻi and the broader Pacific region.

Beyond its discovery value, the CREST Project is expected to enhance faculty research capacity and attract students from groups traditionally under-represented in the sciences, whose participation will open up opportunities in PhD programs and professional careers. As involvement from students of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island ancestry grows, so too should the application of indigenous knowledge to environmental issues as they forge ties with federal and state agencies, along with researchers from institutions throughout Hawaiʻi and the U.S.

“In the span of its 10-year history, TCBES has established itself as a truly outstanding graduate program with both national and international distinction,” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Matt Platz. “Through the CREST project, the program is taking another important step in its development as a center of excellence for research and training.”

VIDEO: Discover UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

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