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4 C T A H R students
From left, Kenneth Choi, Karim Gharbi, Michelle Au and Mitchell Kirsch

A team of students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa won the national championship at the Entomology Games Competition at the National Meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), held in-person in Denver, October 31–November 2.

Karim Gharbi, Mitchell Kirsch, Michelle Au, Kenneth Choi and faculty coach Mark Wright comprise the UH Entomology Games team, also known as Ka Mea Kolo. The team represented the Entomology Graduate Program in the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR).

group photo in front of Transform. sign
Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences

To reach the finals, the CTAHR team first had to qualify at the ESA’s Pacific Branch Meeting, held virtually in March. They matched wits with a number of West Coast teams, losing to former champ University of California Riverside, but beating everyone else and thereby qualifying for the finals.

In Denver, they overcame that loss, first by beating the Rutgers University team in the preliminary rounds, then by stomping UC Riverside 80 to 20 in the first round of the finals. In the championship round, Ka Mea Kolo faced off against Texas A&M, a two-time winner and multiple finals appearance university. UH dominated Texas A&M, 110 to 45.

“This is the first time the University of Hawaiʻi has won this competition and it reflects the hard work, skill and dedication of our students and their coach, Mark Wright,” said Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences Professor Dan Rubinoff.

“They beat the giants convincingly,” added Wright. “Not bad for a small program! I’m proud of our students; they worked hard for this. In addition to being a great accomplishment for students, this brings considerable attention to UH and CTAHR, and raises our national profile quite nicely.”

The team members are all graduate students in the entomology labs at CTAHR. Kirsch also won Best Poster in the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology category. Funding to help cover the students’ travel came from the Tanada Family Entomology Fund and CTAHR New Faculty Start-Up Fund.

This effort/work/program/research/outreach/event is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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