The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa plays a vital role in researching and raising awareness about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a disease that is killing ʻōhiʻa lehua, Hawaiʻi‘s most important and widespread native tree.

One of its outreach efforts is the video documentary, Saving ʻŌhiʻaHawaiʻi’s Sacred Tree, produced by Club Sullivan through a grant from the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council. The film was nominated for six Emmys and took home three awards: Director (program, non-live), Editor (program, no time limit) and Photographer (program) from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Pacific Southwest Chapter.

Three women holding Emmy awards, click for larger image
From left: Liza Sullivan, Christy Martin and Annie Sullivan Kopsco

“The Emmy awards are a wonderful way to recognize the filmmakers for their excellent work in helping to tell the story of Hawaiʻi‘s sacred and beloved ʻōhiʻa, and they did so with clarity, grace, empathy, beauty and respect,” said Christy Martin, executive director of the film and leader of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species project in UH Mānoa’s Pacific Studies Cooperative Unit (PSCU) in the Department of Botany.

The film highlights the importance of Hawaiʻi‘s native tree, ʻōhiʻa, and the current threat of ROD. On Hawaiʻi Island, hundreds of thousands of ʻōhiʻa have become infected and have died. UH scientists are working with state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to learn about this disease and to assess what can be done to protect ʻōhiʻa for future generations. Part of that effort involves educating the public on the issue, what the team has learned and how people can reduce the chances of accidentally spreading the disease to new areas.

The film also features UH Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Forester, J.B. Friday.

With funding from the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, Saving ʻŌhiʻaHawaiʻi’s Sacred Tree premiered on Hawaiʻi Island and, through support from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, it was broadcast multiple times on the four public network affiliates for statewide reach in the fall of 2018. Partners such as the UH PCSU Invasive Species Committees hosted additional screenings of the film statewide, with question-and-answer sessions following the film.

Read more UH News stories on Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.