Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
Fall 2021 Newsletter
Endangered forest birds and plants need your help!

Hakalau’s 2021 Matching Gift Campaign for the Endowment
Thanks to an extremely generous offer by 5 donors, if we can raise $75,000 this fall, they will match it with $75,000 to grow our Endowment by $150,000.  Your gift comes at a time when threats are increasing rapidly and will support a management program that will mitigate or eliminate those threats before they can impact the native species of Hakalau Forest NWR and the ecosystem that they call home. A robust endowment is essential to ensuring that there are no lapses in funding for needed management activities.  Reliance on uncertain Federal appropriations from year to year will seriously jeopardize the success of highly effective refuge management programs at Hakalau Forest NWR. The endowment will be able to provide funds when Government funding is insufficient to continually protect Hakalau.

While our goal for this current initiative is $150,000 we will happily accept all donations that could accelerate us to our long-term goal. The challenges are only increasing so the faster we can reach our goals, the sooner we can achieve all our intentions to help with the vital management needs of this incredible place.

Donations are being managed by our friends at the Hawai'i Community Foundation.
Presidents' Perch Fall 2021

J.B. Friday

President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

In This Issue

2021 Endowment Campaign



Research News

ROD Update

Stories from the early history of the Refuge

Many things have been put on hold during the COVID epidemic. In my job, we have postponed having face-to-face forestry workshops and moved to online programs. Weddings and graduation ceremonies have been put off. Even the Olympics were postponed for a year. One thing that hasn’t stopped is the threat of invasive species. Weeds continue to spread seeds and try to take over the native plants. Pigs roam around outside the Refuge and constantly test the fences. Mosquitoes may be moving up into the Refuge from lower elevations. Fortunately for our native birds and plants, though, the Refuge staff and collaborators have remained on the job. Because feral sheep have been spreading north from areas around Saddle Road, the Refuge has been building 6-foot-tall fences on the mauka border to replace the 4-foot-tall fences that have sufficed to keep out cattle and pigs. The Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) has been camping up to the Refuge and removing invasive plants such as Photinia and holly. Dr. Pat Hart, UH Hilo biology professor and former FOHF board member, describes in an article in this newsletter how he and colleagues are developing an early warning system to detect malaria-carrying mosquitoes on the Refuge. Your Friends organization is among Dr. Hart’s funders for this essential project.

Because invasive species don’t wait, the Friends has been developing an Endowment to fund emergency conservation efforts needed when the usual funding streams are lacking or too slow. This fall we have a goal of raising $150,000 to the Endowment, and we already have $75,000 in pledges of matching funds. Please consider a gift to help ensure the continued protection and restoration of Hakalau Forest, with all the rare and endemic birds and plants that depend on that habitat. The easiest way to donate is to click the green DONATE NOW button in the above article. Donations to the Endowment are managed by our partners at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. Please don’t wait; the invasive species won’t.
Refuge Update – Fall 2021
Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Aloha Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR.

I hope everyone is well and staying safe a year and a half into the covid pandemic. Hakalau staff have continued field operations since the pandemic began in March of 2020. Our facilities contract is near completion and our fencing and road contracts are moving along. We have managed to conduct several long overdue outplanting projects this summer while maintaining covid safety precautions. A big mahalo to the Maunakea Watershed Alliance, KUPU, Boys Scouts, and ‘Young Guns’ volunteers who have assisted with refuge volunteer projects during the summer! Our Visitor Services Manager, Leah Messer, will be on Active Duty in Georgia until early October and we hope to host more volunteer groups later this year pending covid-19 restrictions.
One of the outplanting projects conducted on the refuge this summer was by the Maunakea Watershed Alliance (MKWA) and KUPU program. The group assisted in planting 588 ʻōhiʻa which is part of a larger Science Support Partnership (SSP) project with USGS looking at the influence of reforestation methods on grass cover. Assistance from the MKWA is supported by a grant to the watershed partnership by American Forests. American Forests funding provides for a two-year field assistant to help with greenhouse and forest restoration at Hakalau NWR as well as on adjacent watershed partnership lands. 
The Refuge is welcoming Adam Gruis to its staff this month. Adam has been hired as permanent full-time Maintenance Worker through funding supplied by the Great American Outdoors Act. He will be joining our other maintenance staff at the refuge and will focus on continuing to decrease our deferred maintenance load. He will also be working on projects at other stations throughout the Pacific.

Adam comes to us from the USDA, Agricultural Research Services (ARS) in Ames, Iowa where he worked for about 15 years. At USDA/ARS Adam started his career as a maintenance mechanic repairing laboratory equipment. He was then promoted to Facilities Maintenance Mechanic Supervisor then to the Laboratory Maintenance Mechanic supervisor. He came to Hawaii with his wife and 3 kids to enjoy the weather, gardening, hunting and fishing. He and the family are settling in well to their new island home and are very excited to be here.
Hakalau refuge currently hosts one KUPU intern, Marcela Ramos-Rodriguez. Marcela has been a KUPU intern at the refuge since January 2020 and is a graduate of Pahoa High School. She intends to continue her education at HCC when her internship at the refuge ends in December. Marcela has assisted the refuge with a number of projects including data entry (forest bird and vegetation data), maintenance projects, and in coordinating and assisting with outplanting and habitat restoration. Mahalo Marcela!
The annual state nēnē survey was conducted at Hakalau Forest NWR on July 28-29 with thirty-five nēnē counted. The survey was done by refuge volunteer, Steve Kendall (retired Wildlife Biologist, Hakalau Forest NWR). Mahalo nui Steve!

That’s all for now. Stay well and stay safe!

Patrick Hart
Department of Biology
University of Hawai`i at Hilo
Towards developing an “early warning system” for mosquitoes and
mosquito-transmitted disease at Hakalau.
The Hawaiian Honeycreepers play important ecological roles as pollinators, seed dispersers, and insect-pest consumers in most Hawaiian forests. They are also incredibly important in Hawaiian mythology and culture. Unfortunately, as most of us are well-aware, they are also the most threatened bird group in the world. Over half of the more than 55 Honeycreeper species have become extinct since human arrival to the islands over 1000 years ago, and more than half of those remaining are endangered. The primary reason for the continued decline of Honeycreepers is mosquito-transmitted diseases such as avian malaria that are spread by non-native Culex mosquitoes. Because of this, most Honeycreepers today can only be found in high elevation forests above approximately 4500 ft (1370m) elevation where it is generally too cold for Culex mosquitoes and the malaria parasite to live. Unfortunately, as temperatures rise with global warming, mosquitoes are slowly invading these last refuges for the birds and most Hawaiian Honeycreepers such as the iconic `i`iwi are predicted to go extinct within our lifetime.
Hakalau Forest NWR is home to the most intact native forest bird community in the state of Hawaii and is traditionally viewed as being above the “mosquito zone”. While large portions of the refuge have been fenced to exclude feral pigs and other ungulates, refuge managers still struggle to control pig populations in many areas. In areas that pigs have occupied over the past decade, a legacy of tree fern cavities has been left behind. These cavities are made by pigs as they consume the starchy core of the ferns and, along with rock pools associated with streams, are often the primary breeding habitat for disease-carrying Culex mosquitoes in Hawaiian forests. Very few Culex mosquitoes were detected during the last survey conducted across Hakalau in 2012, even at elevations as low as 4200 feet (1280m). However, as mean daily temperatures continue to rise over the coming decades, there is a very high likelihood that mosquitoes will increase their elevational range into the refuge. This would lead to catastrophic effects on the native bird populations in one of their last strongholds. Such an event would go undetected until it is too late unless more frequent monitoring protocols are implemented.
In order to proactively address this looming threat, Patrick Hart, and graduate students Stephanie Mladinich, Andre Nguyen) , along with researchers from USGS (including Dennis LaPointe and Lucas Fortini) and Hakalau Forest NWR (Steve Kendall, Donna Ball, Tom Cady), with funding support from the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Center (PI-CASC), have begun to implement an “early warning system” for invasion of mosquitoes and disease at the refuge. The first objective was to establish mosquito-monitoring transects into low-elevation sections of Hakalau where outbreaks of Culex mosquitoes would most likely begin. While bird surveys occur annually at the refuge, these surveys are conducted along transects that run from approx. 6200 ft to 5200 ft elevation (which is more or less at the lowest fence line on the refuge). In the summer of 2020, we extended two established forest bird monitoring transects (1A and 8A) from the lowest fence line (5200 ft) down to approximately 4200 feet elevation. These new transects are about 5km long each and required a massive field effort to put in place, as the forest is quite dense (as well as incredibly beautiful) at these elevations.
Especially big mahalos to LOHE lab members Andre Nguyen, Don Carter, Robbie Justice, and Caleb Kow for long days (and nights) on these transects! With the transect infrastructure into low elevations at Hakalau established, Graduate student Stephanie Mladinich (with mentorship from Dennis Lapointe) began monitoring mosquitoes along these transects in September 2020 by placing mosquito traps at stations separated by approximately 600 meters. These mosquito traps are checked twice per month for the presence of mosquitoes, and are an important part of our early warning system. Stephanie also deserves a very big mahalo, as setting up and monitoring these traps requires an almost superhuman level of effort and perseverance! She has been ably assisted in this effort by a number of undergraduate students, including Timon Skinner, Kaija Jacob-Kline, Amelia McDonald, Mackenzie Fugett, and Violet Hart. In addition to monitoring mosquito traps along the transects, Stephanie has also been conducting surveys for mosquitoes in tree-fern cavities along all 14 established forest bird transects across the refuge (from the Pua Alaka tract in the south to the Maulua tract in the north).
Mosquito GAT trap.
We are happy to report that so far, no Culex mosquitoes have been detected in any of the more than 20 traps over more than 1000 trap nights, nor has Culex larvae been detected in tree fern cavities! While this is good news for the birds at Hakalau, this situation can change at any time, which makes it particularly important to keep up our monitoring effort as far into the future as possible. Also,our traps represent just a sample from a very large refuge, and it is quite possible that mosquito outbreaks could occur in other portions of the refuge and go undetected by our traps. Surveys for Culex larvae within rock pools along streams on our transects is also scheduled to begin this fall through a related PICASC funded project, and should further improve our ability to detect incipient outbreaks of mosquitoes as they occur.
So- what’s the plan if an outbreak of mosquitoes is detected? Small scale treatments using larvicide in affected areas is one tool that could be used. Another is the mechanic removal of tree-fern cavities to reduce larval habitat in areas where outbreaks are detected. Perhaps most exciting is the new incompatible insect technique using Wolbachia to reduce populations of Culex across the landscape (see FOHF Summer 2020 Newsletter). This latter tool may be available within two years or less. Knowing where and when outbreaks of Culex mosquitoes occur at Hakalau will allow us to implement various mosquito-control techniques at the appropriate place and time, thus slowing or even stopping disease events before they begin to impact populations of our native birds at Hakalau.
Friends of Hakalau Forest has granted partial funding for this project in 2022 from our general fund (which consists of membership dues and donations to the friends).
For an update on the Wolbachia based Birds, Not Mosquitoes project, visit:
Protecting the Refuge from ROD

J. B. Friday, PhD
Extension Forester
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
After the reforestation of thousands of acres of former pastures on the upper reaches of the Refuge, perhaps the main accomplishment at Hakalau has been the fencing and removal of cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep from the intact native forests in the middle of the Refuge. Protecting the forest has allowed Refuge staff and volunteers to plant thousands of rare native plants and stop the forest from continuing to degrade. New evidence also shows that the fencing is keeping Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death at bay.
Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) is a new fungal disease that has killed over a million ‘ōhi‘a trees on Hawaii Island since about 2010. The fungi that cause the disease (Ceratocystis lukuohia and C. huliohia) need a wound or injury to infect a tree; they cannot penetrate bark or leaves and they do not seem to be taken up by healthy roots. Browsing animals such as cattle, goats, and sheep peel bark and create wounds that get infected by the ROD fungi. How pigs might spread ROD is not completely clear, but a likely possibility is that they damage roots when they are rooting in the soil for earthworms and the ROD fungi then enter the roots. In one experiment on ōhi‘a growing in pots, researchers mulched the pots with wood chips made from Ceratocystis-infected wood. The seedlings remained healthy for three months. The researchers then poked a knife into half the pots several times, injuring the roots, and those trees died from ROD while the other seedlings remained healthy. Researchers are now working on the questions of how long the ROD fungi can live in soil and whether pigs are spreading the pathogens as they move through the forest.
Researchers have documented several side-by-side locations where half of a forest is fenced and protected from feral animals and half is left open, and levels of mortality from ROD are about 100x greater in the unprotected areas. The main unit of the Refuge has been fenced and largely free of large feral animals for decades, and to date there have been no detections of ROD on the main unit of the Refuge. On the other side of the fence, both on the state forest reserve and the lands managed by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, there have been large numbers of feral animals, including cattle, pigs, and sheep, and there have been many ōhi‘a trees killed by ROD. Aerial surveys also show a high level of ōhi‘a mortality in those forests. The fencing that protects tree seedlings and rare plant outplants also seems to be protecting the forest from ROD. Recently, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands fenced a large area of relatively intact ōhi‘a forest on their property adjacent to the Refuge, is removing cattle and pigs, and has begun restoration efforts there. This will provide a welcome buffer for the refuge.
Map of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, the Hilo Forest Reserve, and the Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands upper Piihonua lands. The Refuge is almost completely free of feral ungulates, while there is a significant cattle herd remaining on the DHHL lands and high populations of pigs in the state forest reserve and on DHHL lands. Red dots indicate ōhi‘a trees that died and were diagnosed with Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD), green dots were ōhi‘a trees that died but were not diagnosed with ROD, and blue dots and areas are trees that showed ROD symptoms from aerial surveys. The Hakalau boundary is the red dashed line. Although there are many ōhi‘a trees killed by ROD in both the DHHL lands and the state forests, to date no ROD has been detected in the Refuge. The DHHL has recently fenced and protected the block of relatively intact forest on their northeast corner.
Stories from the early history of the Refuge
This issue covers the University of Hawaii's presence at Hakalau Forest NWR.

If you have any stories and/or photos to share please send them to so I can include them in the future issues.
A short history of the University of Hawai`i at Hakalau

Patrick Hart
In the summer of 1991, I was living in Kyoto Japan and had just gotten word of my acceptance into the Department of Zoology graduate program at UH Manoa. I quickly made a long-distance phone call to Dr. Lenny Freed, who would be my Ph.D. advisor. Picking up the line at the other end was Lenny’s Ph.D. student Jaan Lepson, who informed me that I was the first person to ever call in on the new cell phone (almost unheard of back then) the Freed Lab had just acquired for use at their new field station at Hakalau. Back in those days, the current UH Field Station near the refuge offices and bunkhouses didn’t exist.
Lenny Freed, along with Jaan and new Ph.D. student Scott Fretz (now DOFAW Branch Manager on Maui) were in the process of constructing a UH Field camp at Pua Akala. This camp consisted of a rain shelter (primarily for cooking, dining, and writing) and four weather-port tents for sleeping. Up to this point, Jaan, under Lenny’s supervision, had been the only student conducting research at Hakalau, which he began in the late 1980’s while living out of a primitive tent in upper Pua Akala. Jaan’s nearest neighbor at Hakalau was Willie Andrade, a rancher who was still leasing land, occupying the Pua Akala koa cabin, and running cattle on the now-refuge lands just mauka of the new field camp being built. For those of you who have been birding at the Pua Akala tract, you will recognize our old rain shelter which still stands and also remember the last gate you go through before reaching that shelter. Back in those days, that fence and gate marked the upper refuge boundaries. Cattle were still in the process of being removed below the fence and the understory of the refuge was completely unrecognizable compared to today. In particular, the pasture grasses were much more extensive and heavily grazed, and mid-canopy tree species such as ōlapa, kōlea, and kawaū were hard to find due to over a century of cattle grazing. While the open understory was bad for the ecology of the forest, it did make it much easier to see and study the birds, which primarily were found in the upper canopy of the old-growth `ōhi`a and koa trees. The rain shelter and weather ports (long since removed) were our home for field research from about 1991 through the late 1990’s. I have great memories of waking up in the forest to the Hakalau dawn chorus, making a quick breakfast, then heading out for a long day of mist-netting, nest-observations, mixed-flock following, and all sorts of other research projects.
Anyhow- Lenny Freed’s work at Hakalau was being funded by a fairly large MacArthur grant he received (with others) in the late 1980’s. This grant supported Lenny’s grad students, but a large portion of this grant was also earmarked for the construction of a new, and much larger, biological field station at Hakalau. Because even then it was recognized that Pua Akala was the area of highest native bird density on the refuge, the plan was for UH to construct the new field station in the relatively open former pasture lands near the Fish and Wildlife Bunkhouse.
With architectural plans donated by `Oahu Architect Doug Ackerman, construction on the new UH Field Station began in the summer of 1995 and was led primarily by students! These included UH Mānoa graduate student Reuben Wolff, along with Lenny’s three PhD students who were conducting bird ecology studies at Hakalau (myself, Scott Fretz, and Eric VanderWerf), along with many undergraduate helpers. Constructing such a massive and complex building in a remote area with no power or running water was no easy task. Reuben left the project after less than a year, and the lead carpenter role was taken over by Kevin Horne, a contractor and big-wave surfer from the North Shore of Oahu. Kevin’s expertise and positive energy were key in seeing the construction through to the end.
Particularly challenging was the onsite construction of the large trusses that support the roof of the main building. Kevin and Scott, along with contractor Trent Johnson (brother of well-known Hawai’i based musician Jack Johnson) were running the job and wanted to try to get the giant trusses in place without bringing a crane in, so they built a crane out of the timbers on hand and some sail boat block and tackle that happened to be laying around. It took them all day to hoist one of the trusses up and muscle it into place. With about 12 more to go, they called in a crane from Hilo! The building was finally ready to be occupied by 1998.

In the early 2000’s, Lenny and his grad students continued mist-netting and bird behavior studies that resulted in a number of publications. One of those students, Wendy Kuntz, is now a Professor in the Biology Department at Kapi`olani Community College on Oahu. UH Hilo undergrad Mark Kapono helped Lenny manage the field station during much of that time. By around 2010, the work of the Freed lab at Hakalau came to an end. As a Professor of Biology at UH Hilo by that time, I agreed to take on the role of the Director of the station.
One of the most noticeable changes at the station since I was a grad student has been the re-growth of koa, primarily through volunteer out-plantings. The station was once in a relatively grassy field with few trees in sight, and now visitors can watch `akiapōlā`au forage on koa branches from the comfort of the lanai! While our ocean view is long gone, it is well worth it. As Station Director, I primarily manage the calendar for scheduling visitors, and put a lot of effort into making sure the lights always go on, the stove and fridge work, and the water is hot! Just about everything that is done regarding maintenance at the station is supported by the $10/person/night station fees charged to (most) guests. We continue to welcome a variety of students and researchers from Hawai`i and around the world, including many graduate and undergraduate students from my lab (LOHE Lab) at UH Hilo. It has been incredibly gratifying to witness the great work being accomplished by everyone and ultimately for the birds!
Uluhe: The Healing Fern

Marcia Stone
Uluhe is often thought of as an annoying plant. To hikers it can be scratchy, and its tangled webs call out for the machete to clear the trail. To Volcano’s gardeners it makes a mess. Its dead lower fronds form a brown, unattractive sight and in droughts may pose a fire hazard.

But for most people it goes completely unnoticed. Uluhe is a climber and a sun-lover, so in Volcano it quickly shoots for the tree tops where it blends in with the leaves. But unlike the climbing morning glory which smothers the tops of trees, uluhe sits just below the top, content with its secondary position. How considerate!

You may well ask, if uluhe is a sun-lover, what is it doing in Volcano? The simple answer is it is here to heal. Uluhe often gets its start on disturbed areas, such as landslides or cleared lots where lots of sun is available. From there its forking pattern forms mats and covers the ground stabilizing the soil. The native seed bank can then use this protection to grow. For this reason the indigenous uluhe is referred to as a healer plant.
One special feature of this fern is its attractive fiddlehead, which is tall, thin and dark purple. Although uluhe does not command much respect generally, its fiddlehead is often photographed and featured in art.

Our commonly-seen uluhe has the scientific name Dicranopteris linearis, which is a member of the false staghorn family. Other family members, which are not commonly seen in Volcano, are Diplopterygium pinnatum and Sticherus owhyhensis. These three uluhe are sometimes referred to as Dic, Dip and Stic. Dip is a large-leaved uluhe, without forked branching and Stic has a lot of branching.

To see the two uncommon ones, you might have luck on the Army Road off Stainback Highway. It comes as a surprise to see these two such unusual-looking uluhe. And as an added bonus, these two forms are both endemic to Hawaii.
Dicranopteris linearis
Diplopterygium pinnatum
Sticherus owhyhensis
The Friends of Hakalau is a membership organization. Membership dues and donations to the Friends are our only source of funds allowing us to cover our expenses (for example this newsletter) and to make grants to support projects (for example Pat Hart's early mosquito warning project)..
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Every Wednesday on HPR listen to Manu Minute created by Patrick Hart, member of the Friends since its inception and a board member for multiple terms. Click the button to hear the segments that have already been aired.
Friends of Hakalau Forest, National Wildlife Refuge is a 501 (C)(3) organization and is recognized as a tax exempt non-profit organization by the Federal government and the State of Hawaii. We appreciate and thank you for your membership and your donations.

   J.B. Friday
Vice President
   Debbie Anderson
   Bret Mossman
   Blaire Langston

Members at large
Charlene Akina
Ken Kupchak
Creighton Litton
George Robertson
Mike Scott  
Rob Shallenberger
Marcia Stone 
Jaime Tanino