About the Cornell-Hawai‘i Graduate Field Research Laboratory
In the fall of 2007, a conversation between colleagues—Dr. Matthews Hamabata, Executive Director, The Kohala Center; Dr. Jed Sparks, Associate Professor, Cornell University; Dr. Gail Makuakane-Lundin, Director, Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (UH Hilo); and Dr. Misaki Takabayashi, Associate Professor, Department of Marine Science, UH Hilo—led to the creation of the Cornell-Hawai‘i Graduate Field Research Laboratory. Designed to occur on a biannual basis, the program brings together young scholars from Hawai‘i and the U.S. Mainland to address critical conservation research questions and to facilitate exchange amongst the students. The program successfully, as described by Professor Sparks, “produces information critical to the conservation of the resources of Hawai‘i, and, of equal importance, allows for the cultural exchange of ideas and perspectives among the students.”
UH Hilo graduate students from the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center and the program in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences partner with graduate ecology students from Cornell University to conduct intensive short-term studies of threatened habitats on Hawai‘i Island. Under the guidance of Cornell professors, students in the “Tropical Field Ecology” course learn more about Hawaiian environments and the plants, animals, and microbes that inhabit them. The course provides graduate-level ecology students with an opportunity to learn about ecosystems that are often different from those which most of them are studying for their dissertations; also, from the start, students are challenged to think critically about how to carry out a collaborative research project with peers they may not know well—or at all.
The Kohala Center works with Hawai‘i Island scientific and cultural experts to orient the group to the cultural and natural landscape of the island. As in all Kohala Center initiatives, this program very carefully and respectfully engages Hawai‘i’s natural assets as intellectual assets for the benefit of our island and our island planet.
After two weeks of intensive field research on Hawai‘i Island in the month of January, the UH Hilo students remain in contact with their research teams by regular internet conferences. Later in the spring they join the Cornell graduate students on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York, to analyze the project data, prepare manuscripts, and participate in scientific seminars. Publications stemming from the projects completed on Hawai‘i Island are co-authored by UH and Cornell students.
In 2011, participants of the Cornell-Hawai‘i Graduate Field Laboratory studied the effects of invasive insects on dryland forests, factors which impact the prevalence of coral diseases, and anchialine pond food webs.