Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

News and Announcements

TCBES students win Malama Aina Certificate as part of the University of Hawai'i at Hilo's Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership

Recognition Awards for the 2016-2017 school year. They were recognized for their collaboration and dedication in organizing

the TCBES Symposium and other activities this year. Pictured are winners Erin Busch, Kailey Pascoe, Keolohilani Lopes,

Jessica Kirkpatrick, and Rose Hart. Also pictured is alumni Nathan Stevenson who was also involved in planning this

year's Symposium.

Congratulations to all!

Congratulation to the TCBES mater that was awarded the Malama Aina Certificate

by the Ka Lama Ku Selection Committee!

Join us for the Ka Lama Ku Recognition Award Ceremony on May 3rd!

Rat lungworm disease in the news, relevant to UH Hilo research by TCBES student Kathleen Howe

and advisor in College of Pharmacy, Dr. Susan Jarvi.

Read the article here :


Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Graduate Program M.S. Thesis Defense

Who: Keolohilani Harold Lopes Jr.

When: April 13th, 2017 @ 2pm

Where: Wentworth 1


Abstract: Quantifying fish populations poses a myriad of obstacles by the complications introduced by the marine environment. SCUBA systems are used to increase the underwater observation time for marine scientist when conducting fish surveys. Though these methodologies are popular amongst fisheries managers this survey technique does have biases associated with them. This study examined the potential bias of SCUBA bubbles and noise on these fish surveys. We compared fish surveys conducted on the bubble free closed-circuit rebreathers (CCR) to ones conducted on conventional SCUBA gear at Kealakekua Bay (Hawaii Island), Old Kona Airport (Hawaii Island), and Pūpūkea (Oahu). There was a total of 30 paired transects consisting of 10 transects per location. For each location 5 transects were located within the marine life conservation district (MLCD) and 5 transects located outside of the associated MLCD). This study showed no significant differences in fish biomass and species richness regardless of the apparatus used. The results may have been heavily influenced due to legislation eliminating the SCUBA spearfishing. This may have contributed to fish not recognizing SCUBA divers as threats. Additionally, this study had a significant interaction between the apparatus and the protection status. The differences in fish biomass between SCUBA and CCR were lower in protected areas then non-protected areas (Pr(>|t|) = 0.025). The perceived threat of surveyors by fish is the underlying cause for the magnitude of difference between the two apparatus and due to the West Hawaii legislation banning SCUBA spearfishing, there was none.

Congratulations to our 9th Annual TCBES Symposium Winners!

Poster presentation:

Julia Stewart, UH Hilo, 'Ike Wai
Metagenomics and metatranscriptomics of the microbial community in diseased and healthy Montipora capitata

5 minutes talk:

Dominique R. Zarders, TCBES Student

Mechanisms of the possible host shift of Lantana lace bug from

Lantana camara to Myoporum sandwicense


15 minute talk:

Louise M. Economy, TCBES Student
Rainfall driven shifts in Staphylococcus aureus in Hilo Bay, Hawai`i 

Article on the TCBES program in the University Town special edition by Kirsten Johnson Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Full edition can be found here

The 2017 TCBES Symposium schedule is out!
Email Erin Busch: for any questions

Schedule here:

Detailed booklet here:

Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Graduate Program

M.S. Thesis Defense

Who: Ronald P. Kittle III

When: WEDNESDAY, April 5, 2017, 12 noon- 1pm

Where: Wentworth 1

Title:  Identification of gastrointestinal microflora in green turtles (Chelonia mydas Linnaeus), and the effects of glyphosate herbicide on green turtle gastrointestinal bacteria


Long-term conservation of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas Linnaeus), the largest marine herbivore in the Hawaiian archipelago, may depend on their microflora.  Using hindgut fermentation, green turtles rely on microbial degradation of cellulose and starch products from the seagrasses and macroalgae consumed. Few studies have examined bacterial communities of green turtles, and none has identified in situ hindgut microflora in green turtles.   Fresh samples were taken from five locations along the gastrointestinal tracts of eight green turtles that had required euthanization. Bacteria were cultured, aerobically and anaerobically, on nutrient agar and four differential and selective media. Fecal samples at three sections along the gastrointestinal tracts of two green turtles were analyzed using 16S metagenomics on the Ion Torrent PGM.  More than half of the 4,532,104 sequences belonged to the phylum Firmicutes, followed by Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, which are characteristic of herbivore gut microflora. 16S sequencing provides a better representation of the total gastrointestinal bacterial community, much of which cannot be cultured using traditional microbial techniques. Accurate and precise enumeration and identification of green turtle microflora will help to clarify connections between diet and digestive bacteria, as well as provide new tools for assessing the health of green turtles grazing in different locales. 

In some foraging areas in the Hawaiian Islands, for unknown reasons, green turtles are growing at reduced rates. In the Hawaiian Islands, glyphosate-based herbicides are frequently sprayed to combat weeds, and may be affecting non-target marine species. Glyphosate is toxic to beneficial gut bacteria in cattle and chickens, and can cause lowered digestive efficiency; however, no studies have assessed the impact of glyphosate on the digestive bacteria in marine herbivorous turtles.  Four microflora isolates obtained from freshly euthanized green turtles were exposed to fifteen different concentrations of glyphosate herbicide (2.2 x 10-4 to 3.6 g L-1glyphosate) and a control of DI water, using a modified Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion assay (Bauer et al. 1966). A response to glyphosate was observed in all taxa tested.  In three out of the four taxa, at 0.028 g L -1 glyphosate, zones of growth inhibition were significantly different than the control. Proteus sp. was the least sensitive to glyphosate. Additionally, aliquots of mixed bacterial communities from turtle GI tracts, cultured in nutrient broth, were exposed to six different concentrations of glyphosate (2.2 x 10-4 to 3.6 g L-1 glyphosate) and a control of DI water. Absorbance at 600 nm wavelength was measured before and after 24 h to assess bacterial density. Cultures with concentrations ≥ 2.2 x 10-4 g L-1 glyphosate showed significantly different absorbance than the control.  Reduced growth or decreased survival of GI tract bacteria in green turtles exposed to glyphosate could have adverse effects on turtle digestion and overall health.

Thesis Committee:

Karla McDermid

George Balazs

Lisa Muehlstein

Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

M.S. Program

Weekly Seminar

TITLEAll life aquatic and the duties of DAR

SPEAKER:  Troy S. Sakihara, M.S. (DAR)

WHEN: MONDAY, 3 April 4:00 pm

WHERE: Wentworth 9

All are welcome!

We are very pleased to announce the Graduate Assistanships within Tropical

Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) at UH Hilo

Please see the application guidelines:

TCBES Graduate Assistants

We are very pleased to announce three Graduate Student Assistantships

with the Hau'oli Mau Loa Foundation 

and TCBES Graduate Program starting Fall 2017.

Please see the information in the attached flyer:

 Graduate Student Assistantships with the Hau'oli Mau Loa Foundation 

and TCBES Graduate Program


TCBES Priority Application Deadline is December 1st for Fall 2017 admission.

After December 1st, applications will be accepted on a space available basis until May 1st.

TCBES Application Guidelines

TCBES Program Overview

Congratulations to Ann Tanimoto, a TCBES alumna, advised by Patrick Hart

for their featured article in Hawaii Tribune-Herald by Kirsten Johnson!

Read more about their research on the calls of the 'Alalā and the Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology program at the National Science Foundation here: 

Calls of the wild: Grants allow research of 'alalā vocalizations, other UH-Hilo projects

Photo credit: Hollyn Johnson, Hawaii Tribune-Herald


Congratulations to Heather Stever, a TCBES grad student advised by Dr. Jesse Eiben!


Heather was awarded first place in a graduate student oral competition at the the 25th International Congress

of Entomology that was held in Orlando, Florida from 25-30 September. She was in a session focusing on Biodiversity,

Biogeography, and Conservation of Arthropods and her talk was entitled: Arthropod biodiversity estimates for three native

subalpine plant species on Hawaii’s Maunakea Volcano.


Last updated: April 2017