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Photo by Ron Fenstemacher

Ph.D.: University of Hawaii, 1996
Title: Assistant Curator
Research: Pacific Island Floras, Evolution, Biogeography, Rubiaceae, Loganiaceae

My research is focused on the study of plant evolution in island systems throughout the Pacific Ocean (Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia). My research interests are in the fields of plant systematics, population genetics, conservation, ethnobotany, and reproductive biology. I focus my research on the coffee family (Rubiaceae) and the strychnine family (Loganiaceae). However, I also have projects and collaborations concerning several other Hawaiian and Pacific plant genera and families: Scaevola (Goodeniaceae); Chamaesyce (Euphorbiaceae); Hawaiian mints (Lamiaceae); Hawaiian Araliaceae; Lysimachia (Primulaceae); Sicyos (Cucurbitaceae); Peperomia (Piperaceae); silverswords (Asteraceae); breadfruit (Moraceae); and Elaphoglossum (Elaphoglossaceae). One of my most recent projects was a botanical expedition to the island of Rapa iti, Austral Islands, French Polynesia. This was the first extensive botanical research project there since the 1930s. Our research team discovered many new species and new island records and we estimate that our collections increased the size of the existing flora by ten percent. This is the first part of a larger program to study the endangered flora and remaining vegetation in the entire Austral archipelago and I expect that the description and documentation of the botanical specimens and ethnobotanical data collected during this expedition should open ample research opportunities in the future years.

My curator painting is of the summit area of West Maui called Pu'u Kukui. This is an area of native Hawaiian rain forest and bogs often covered in clouds. This is one of my favorite places in Hawaii. During my doctoral research I was fortunate enough to be helicoptered (to avoid transportation of alien species) into the area by the Maui, Land and Pineapple Company to conduct research. The fact that the plants in this series of bogs displayed vegetative and floral adaptations that I had never seen and that the giant lobelia (Lobelia gloria-montis) and the greenswords (Argyroxiphium grayanum) were in flower left a lasting impression on me. This 8,600 acre preserve is the largest single private nature preserve in the State of Hawaii. The Maui, Land and Pineapple Company works with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and the State Natural Area Partnership to protect this vital watershed. The image depicts the `ohi`a (Metrosideros polymorpha) a dominant forest tree with red powder-puff flowers, three genera of woody Hawaiian lobeliads (Lobelia gloria-montis, Cyanea macrostegia, and Clermontia grandiflora), greenswords (Argyroxiphium grayanum), the endangered `eke silversword (Argyroxiphium caliginis), and my research plants, the yellow-flowered Labordia hedyosmifolia (Loganiaceae) and Hedyotis terminalis (Rubiaceae) in the lower right-hand corner, looking out onto an Oreobolus/Dichanthelium (Cyperaceae) bog. The fauna consists of two Hawaiian honeycreepers, the `I`iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) in flight and the Bishop's O`o (Moho bishopi). The Bishop's O`o had not been observed from 1904 until 1981 when it was recorded from East Maui. We have included this species in hopes that it might help others locate remaining populations of it. Lastly, a Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea), one of the two native Hawaiian butterfly species, can be seen on the stem of the Cyanea.

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