2020 Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Month



The State of Hawaii is hosting the 3rd annual Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Month (HISAM) for the month of February 2020. HISAM is an expansion on the past 7 years of hosting the Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week and is organized in coordination with the U.S. National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW). NISAW raises awareness of how people can protect natural ecosystems for future generations by preventing the spread of invasive species. HISAM seeks to promote information sharing and public engagement in what the Hawaii State Legislature has declared “the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s economy and natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.”




8th Annual HISC Awards 

Recognizing individuals and groups for their outstanding service to Hawaii in the fight against invasive species.

Award Categories :  

  • Business Leader: Recognizes an individual in the private sector or a business that has demonstrated leadership in their role of protecting Hawaii from invasive species.
    • Nominate A Business Leader Here
    • Congratulations to: Kualoa Ranch (John Morgan)
      • Kualoa Ranch has set the bar in Hawaii for how entities, business, government or private individual, responds to an invasive species issue. Kualoa has always been responsive to Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), but when the Ranch noticed something wasn’t quite “right” about ants they, which they submitted to the Hawaii Ant Laboratory (HAL) for identification. When the ID came back as Wasmannia auropunctata, the little fire ant (LFA), the response by Kualoa Ranch was quick and effective. Kualoa Ranch leadership and staff made it clear the presence of an LFA infestation was unacceptable not just from a business standpoint, but from Kualoa Ranch’s broader responsibility to the rest of the island of Oahu. This epitomizes HDOA’s past relationship with Kualoa Ranch and its commitment to environmental stewardship. Kualoa Ranch engaged in a partnership with HDOA and HAL to eradicate the 20-acre LFA infestation from their land. A 20-acre infestation is large, especially when the infestation goes up into trees and on into the canopy of those trees. Normally, institutions and organizations require institutional momentum change. Like a boat, you need to change the direction of movement and get everyone steered in the right direction. Kualoa Ranch, from top to bottom, did not need help changing their direction and moving forward. Kualoa Ranch has freely engaged its resources, both people and financial, to address the problem on hand. Staff assisting HDOA/HAL have been passionate and have worked closely and seamlessly with agency partners for a positive outcome.
  • Community Hero: Recognizes a community member or community-based group that has been a shining example of dedication to prevent and/or manage invasive species.
    • Nominate A Community Hero Here

    • Congratulations to: Ron Fitzgerald, Waianae HS
      • Ron Fitzgerald has been a shining example of a Community Hero in the battle against the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. He and his wife have allowed the CRB Response full access to their farm to conduct countless surveys and perform several experiments while maintaining great communication and collaboration with staff. Ron also provides outreach opportunities to the community such as presentations for his Agriculture classes at Waianae High School where he teaches, and often brings students for place-based learning experiences on the farm. This past year, Ron participated in a video for “Outside Hawaii” being aired on OC16 where he shares his experience with CRB and its impacts on Hawaiian culture. Ron is an amazing advocate for protecting Hawai`i as he has the forward-thinking mindset and the drive to put words into action.

  • Greatest Hit: Recognizes an individual, organization, or agency responsible for one of the major invasive species highlights in the areas of research, prevention, control, and/or public outreach.
    • Nominate A Greatest Hit Here

    • Congratulations to: Vernon Harrington, USDA
      • Vernon Harrington is the State Plant Health Director (SPD) for Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ). Most people do not know what that means but what it translates to is Vernon runs the largest program in the country to protect the Pacific, from invasive pest issues. Vernon is passionate about executing his charge but often times, PPQ policies and procedures and legal authorities limits what he can do in his role here in Hawaii. What Vernon accomplishes on a day-to-day much less a year-to-year basis has helped protect Hawaii and the Pacific from numerous threats. Over the years, Vernon has successfully increased the amount of funding that flows into the State for priority programs. This has been primarily through the Plant Protection Act 7721 (formerly known as the Farm Bill). Not only has there been an increase in funding levels, but the diversity of projects have increased and has included traditional agriculture related projects like coffee berry borer or fruit fly related issues, but also included projects for Rapid Ohia Death. There has been close to a 100 fold increased in Federal funding flowing into Hawaii since Vernon first took his position at the SPHD in 2000.
      • Vernon has also worked in countless other ways to benefit Hawaii and the Pacific. His work includes addressing existing issues with diagnostic support to the state, insuring critical new pests are identified quickly and efficiently. He has worked to raise awareness internal to USDA of concerns expressed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, examples include dedication of additional resources to analyze pathways for new pests established in Hawaii including Acalolepta aesthetica. His leadership has led to enhanced coordination of survey and detection efforts between Hawaii and Guam. Now, a single survey coordinator exists for the region, housed within the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and working closely with his office, Guam, American Samoa and the CNMI as part of the Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Program. This broader regional approach will help Hawaii be more proactive in its approach to addressing ongoing pest issues especially as China becomes increasingly important as a trading partner with islands within the Pacific. This regional work will also be melded with the inclusion of Hawaii on national pest detection committees. In 2018, it was documented in Hawaii the development of resistance within the melon fly to GF-120, the primary mechanism to control pest fruit fly populations. Research quickly showed this resistance mechanism exists in other species of Tephritids. These findings have global impacts. If resistance flies were to invade the US mainland, the economic impacts would be devastating. Vernon and his team found a way to fund the critical work to find alternative methods to control the most devastating of insect pests to global agriculture. A team from the University of Hawaii, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Washington State University have begun work with funding Vernon helped secure to elucidate the resistance mechanisms and find alternative controls for melon fly. The work is intended to branch out to include other species of tephirtid fruit flies such as the oriental fruit fly and Medfly.
      • Key programs have been built and grown due to Vernon’s behind the scenes work that keeps programs relevant and key decision makers informed and aware of consequences. The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Detector Dog Program is a prime example. Without Vernon’s foresight and leadership, this program was mired in bureaucratic processes. Vernon stepped in and insured the program developed and came into fruition in 2019 in the quickest, easiest manner which also is the manner which is most likely to succeed. There are now two canines present in Hawaii doing critical detection work in the field. While still in training, these dogs will be a valuable asset to help find beetle infestations for response teams to tackle and destroy. Along with the canine program, Vernon recognized the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle reached a critical juncture in determining if successful eradication could be achieved. To move things forward, Vernon called together Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the City and County of Honolulu, and Kamehameha Schools to develop an area-wide concept to implement a comprehensive green waste management plan. This plan creates a unique partnership between all agencies, the University of Hawaii and private entities to safely and securely process priority waste in the greater Waiawa area where beetle populations have steadily risen and will involve each partner agency engaging in specific actions to help the program forward. The program is being finalized yet, but without Vernon’s leadership and coalition building prowess the battle to save Oahu from the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle would likely be entering it’s closing phases.
  • Island MVPs: Four awards will be given in this category and are selected by the various island Invasive Species Committees to recognize an individual or group that has made substantial contributions towards advancing invasive species management in Hawaii.
    • Hawaii MVP
      • Nominate A Hawaii Island MVP Here

      • Congratulations to: Kim Takata, North Kohala Coqui Coalition
        • Kim was among the founders of the North Kohala Coqui Coalition and managed the group for 16 years, serving as a strong community voice and leader for coqui control. NKCC is the longest running and most successful community-based coqui control effort on the Big Island. Kim has been called since the beginning” with regard to fighting invasive pests in Kohala, and continues to raise money and raise awareness about coqui in North Kohala. More recently, the beloved market run by her family, Takata Store, has offered a central location for North Kohala residents to learn about little fire ants, pick up LFA test kits, and drop off ant samples to be submitted for identification. Kim has given so much of her time and effort to fighting invasive species, recognition serves as something of a lifetime achievement award, and is richly deserved.
    • Maui Nui MVP
      • Nominate A Maui Nui MVP Here

      • Congratulations to: James Fleming, HDOA Maui
        • Over the last year, as more and more populations of little fire ants have been detected on Maui, James Fleming, Plant Pest Control Specialist with the Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and based on Maui, has proven to be an invaluable partner in the efforts to prevent, contain, and eradicate little fire ants on Maui. Fleming built relationships with local nurseries and landscaping businesses and regularly checks the greenhouses, growing areas, and nursery perimeters for little fire ants. He follows-up on reports of little fire ants that go to HDOA, and without fail, every time a new infestation has been detected, Fleming and his team are present working alongside the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) to determine the extent of the infestation. The same goes with the treatments –when MISC crew are unable to get the job done, Fleming will be there to ensure the treatment is completed in a thorough and timely manner. This isn’t the only effort he puts forth, James has been instrumental in the control of coqui frogs and other invasive species
    • Oahu MVP
      • Nominate An Oahu MVP Here

      • Congratulations to: Dean Takayama, HDOT
        • Helpful with removing naio in HDOT plantings along roadsides and median to help stop the spread of invasive naio thrips. By doing so, HDOT has removed harboring habitat for thrips, slowing their spread and help protect wild naio populations. Wild naio populations provide habitat for nesting albatross and shearwaters, endangered yellow-faced bees, and forests birds like the ‘amakihi and ‘elepaio.
    • Kauai MVP
      • Nominate A Kauai MVP Here

      • Congratulations to: Mapuana O’Sullivan, DLNR DOFAW Kauai
        • When the super aggressive fungal pathogen that leads to Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (Ceratocystis lukuohia) was first detected on Kauai, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The island’s Forestry Management Supervisor had just transitioned to a new post on the incoming mayor’s cabinet, leaving the forestry position vacant. But not for long, because Mapuana O’Sullivan stepped up as acting supervisor to lead the Kauai DOFAW rapid response efforts. The day after the detection was announced, O’Sullivan was in a helicopter leading Digital Mobile Sketch Mapping efforts to identify any additional symptomatic trees. A couple weeks later, she scheduled a crew from University of Hawaii-Hilo to conduct unmanned aerial surveys, providing remote imagery to guide on-the-ground sampling efforts. Within a month, she’d organized a week-long sampling effect that involved multiple agencies from multiple islands. Since then, she’s orchestrated the creation and installation of boot brush stations at nearly 30 trailheads across the island. She’s hired three staff members with Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death response and management responsibilities. She’s encouraged visits from scientists across the state and country to more deeply understand the best management strategies to address this invasive disease threat to Hawaii’s most important native tree. O’Sullivan holds an undergraduate degree in biology from University of Hawaii and a graduate degree in Geographic Information Science from Penn State University. She’s previously served as a natural area reserves system specialist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.