UH Hilo graduate awarded prestigious conservation science fellowship

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Y Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669
Dir, Media Rel, University Relations
Posted: Jan 30, 2018

Jonathan Koch
Jonathan Koch

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo alumnus and researcher has been awarded a 2018 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship by the Society for Conservation Biology and the Cedar Tree Foundation. Jonathan Koch was notified earlier this month that he was one of just five recipients selected from a pool of Ph.D. applicants from around the world.

Under his Smith Fellowship, Koch will complete a project titled, “The nalo meli ‘āpa‘akuma project: Characterizing population genomic diversity of imperiled Hawaiian Hylaeus bees to inform stakeholders on in situ breeding and habitat management strategies,” under the mentorship of Dr. Jolene Sutton, assistant professor, biology at UH Hilo, and in partnership with Cynthia King of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Koch graduated from UH Hilo with a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and a Bachelor of Arts in geography in 2008. He later earned a Master’s in biology and a Ph.D. in ecology from Utah State University. Koch returned to UH Hilo in 2016 as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) program specializing in the study of invasion genomics. He is currently an Adjunct Faculty & Postdoctoral Fellow in TCBES studying the evolutionary mechanisms that enable invasive species the ability to adapt to the mosaic of ecosystems found in Hawai‘i. 

Activities funded by his past NSF Fellowship include a survey of the invasive fly Drosophila suzukii throughout the major Hawaiian Islands and genome sequencing. 

His Fellowship to study endemic Hawaiian bees is named after the late Dr. David H. Smith, founder of the Cedar Tree Foundation, and pediatrician, inventor and conservationist. 

The Smith Fellowship, considered the nation's premier postdoctoral program in conservation science, seeks to find solutions to the most pressing conservation challenges. Each Fellow’s research is conducted in partnership with a major academic institution and an “on the ground” conservation organization to help bridge the gap between theory and application.