2016 January-December Report

MFBRP started off the new year with a great group of volunteers planting in Nakula Natural Area Reserve in January.

In February, MFBRP began working with the Smithsonian Institute and US Geological Survey to help conduct surveys on Hawai’i ‘Amakihi avian disease and genetics. Avian malaria was introduced to Hawai’i in the 1930s and has caused dramatic declines in native bird populations. Some species, like the Hawai'i 'Amakihi, have been able to persist or recolonize in low elevation areas, where avian malaria occurs. The goal of the study is to characterize the genetic changes that are involved in the resistance and/or tolerance to avian malaria. RNA and DNA samples were collected from high elevation bird populations, where avian malaria does not occur, and low elevation sites, where avian malaria occurs. Samples were collected at Kula Forest Reserve, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Waikamoi Preserve, Nakula Natural Area Reserve (NAR) (high elevation sites), Garden of Eden/Hāna highway and Waihe’e Ridge Trail (low elevation sites). This research is also being conducted on the Big Island, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi. The study will have an impact on the conservation of Hawaiian birds and evolution of resistance.

April-June, MFBRP continued monitoring avian demographics and bird community composition in Nakula Natural Area Reserve through variable circular plot (VCP) point counts and color-banding birds to monitor the effects of forest restoration. This is the second year of doing this research. ~800 hours were dedicated towards banding this season. In Nakula, 251 birds were banded, including 47 Hawai'i 'Amakihi and 53 'Apapane. We had several recapture birds from last year and re-sights, which are used to calculate survival estimates.  

In addition to bird surveys and banding, we also planted a variety of native plants in Nakula. By January 2017, we will have planted 43,000 seedlings over three years. We are completing a technical report on the result of experimental restoration trials we conducted over the past three years. Look out for this report soon!

From January-September, staff and volunteers worked over 3,300 hours in Nakula! This year, 602 seedlings were sponsored from our Plant a Tree program.

Additionally, we are controlling non-native grasses. From our research, we learned that natural regeneration of ʻaʻaliʻi and koa seedlings can be increased rapidly by exposing bare soil. We have been busy weed whacking lines across the landscape to encourage this natural growth. Plots already have seedlings growing! The US Geological Survey is also monitoring these plots to learn more about these microhabitats.

Mosquito monitoring and invasive predator control were also done in TNC’s Waikamoi Preserve and Nakula NAR. This year will mark the second year of doing mosquito monitoring in Nakula. We anxiously await results from testing mosquitoes and avian blood samples, to see if avian diseases are present in the samples.

Thanks to our banding and field volunteers, assistants, and partners: Jerry Broadus, Adam Lottig, Joe Imhoff, Stephanie Yelenik, Stacy Montemayor, Lucas Fortini, Jason Gregg, Jason Tappa, Jason Preble, Julie Remp, Roberto Predromingo Kus, Zach Pezzillo, Michelle Smith, Kiele Braun, Erica Jernail, Madison Furlong, Becky Geelhood, Lynn Zhang, Eben and Kristina Paxton, Loren Sackett, Mandy Talpas, Brad Eichhorst, Kayla Shepard, Wilson Ethington, Emily Buonopane, Zach Wilson, Lynx Gallagher, Chase Alexander, Cody Lang, Eli Rose, Tracey Borneman, Jacob Drucker, Jenna Bogen, Kurt Adams, Lawrence Warnock, Yarrow Flower, Greg Kostanoski, Liat Portner, Christa Seidl, Justin Varaljay, Nils Eckart, Justin Watts, Tom Stuart, Andrew Blitz, Eric Hamren, Ben Davis, and Chuck Pezzillo. Thanks to DLNR-DOFAW, TNC, San Diego Zoo Global, and Bessie King and Mike Waggoner at the Garden of Eden.

Ariana Loehr started the year as our AmeriCorps intern 2015-2016, and Zach Pezzillo became our 2016-2017 AmeriCorps intern in October. Heather Mackey stayed on as a restoration assistant for the first half of the year and in October, restoration assistants, Elyssa Kerr and KJ Passaro, joined us. Bob Taylor joined the MFBRP crew as a Field Associate, but then started graduate school in the late fall.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature held its World Conservation Congress this year in O'ahu in September. MFBRP participated by attending, giving talks, and helping to organize a workshop.

Project coordinator, Hanna Mounce, also assisted in bird translocations in the Marianas. This was a learning opportunity to prepare for the Kiwikiu translocation that will be happening in the coming years. 

This was a very busy year for MFBRP!