Travel Grant Series: Botany Field Work in Big Island and Maui

EWCA Hawai’i Chapter Travel Grant Report
by Pei-Luen Lu
East-West Center Degree Fellow
Phd Candidate in Botany

pei-luen lu kohala forest reserve

(Pei-Luen Lu collecting plants at Kohala Forest Reserve on Hawai’i.)

I did the field work to collect plant samples at Manuka Natural Area Reserve, Koahala Forest Reserve, and Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve, in the Big Island this summer with cooperation from Natural Reserve Area, State of Hawaii staffs. I also did field work at Kanaio Natural Area Reserve and Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui for the species genetics comparison by cooperating with PEPcoodinator on Maui. During those field works, I was able to learn field skills and ecological knowledge with botany senior researchers and give them the current new informations associated to this subject.

My summer project is part of my dissertation and is the final step to complete the field work for “Population genetics of the endangered endemic Hawaiian plant species Pleomele hawaiiensis.” Basically, this summer project is aiming at preserving endangered and endemic to Hawaii plant species Pleomele hawaiiensis. Throughout understanding the endangered species, the data will contribute towards making proper policies to preserve endangered species, to increase their survival in the long term, to pass the severe environmental change, adapt into the changing climate, and promote the new findings of bio geography of the genus Dracaena/Pleomele. Pleomele hawaiiensis plays the essential role in the development and evolution in the whole genus Dracaena and Pleomele. This species might be the ancestor to all of the species in the genus. This special funding will become a special case in the science.

Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui

(Collecting plants at Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui. This collection of leaf samples was very difficult because the trees are over 12 meters in height.)

There are only few plants that could have so fast rate of evolution. More stories behind that is waiting for me to discover. When we preserve this endangered species, it will benefit not only the species’ survival but also decipher the significant question of the whole genus’ origin and its trace the past back to at least 23 million years ago. After I finished the field work, I did the lab experiments and data analysis. Moreover, I presented my research data as an oral presentation in the important 18th International Botanic Congress 2011, in Melbourne, Australia on July 26, 2011. During this conference, I was able to share the conservation knowledge with other scientists and discuss the further protection and research in this displine.

pei-luen lu collecting samples

(Collecting plants at Kanaio Natural Reserve, on Maui.)

Finally, I want to thank Hank Oppenheimer, Nick Agorastos, and Xiaofeng Kang’s for their great help in the field works; Asheshwor Man Shrestha, Neeraj Dangol, Shailesh Joshi, and Nu  Tang’s assistance in DNA extraction in lab work for this project, and the East-West Center Alumni Summer Travel Grant 2011 for the financial support.

pei-luen lu manuka natural reserve

(Recording the GPS information after collecting plants at Manuka Natural Reserve on Hawai’i.)

Thank you very much for my advisor Dr. Clifford Morden and his lab members’ support and advice.