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Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death Citizen Science Project Opportunity for Grades Pre-K through 12

Hawai'i students have the opportunity to partner with scientists conducting research on the relationship between ambrosia beetles and Rapid Ohia Death (ROD). The ohia tree is the most abundant native tree in the state and they are dying from a new fungal disease, ceratocystis. Scientists have determined that ambrosia beetles cultivate and move ceratocystis, and can even spread this fungus between ohia trees and ohia forests. Once healthy trees are infected with the fungus, they appear to die within a few days to a few weeks. This is very alarming.

In order to slow and/or stop the spread, scientists need to know where these beetles are currently found within each island and across the state. This is a huge task to undertake and will require widespread participation - this is where you and your students come into play. Getting students involved in citizen science projects, such as this, provides an opportunity to teach them about the importance of conservation and how it can be applied in their own backyard (literally). Students at The Volcano School of Arts and Sciences took part in a pilot study in 2019 with great success.This experiment is perfect for on campus or at home learning. It can be a stand alone short unit or integrated into larger units on ecosystems for pre-k through high school. And it only takes a week!

The methodology for this research project is relatively simple. Students will create their own "beetle traps," made from recycled 2 liter soda bottles and hand sanitizer, set up in various locations near students' homes. The hand sanitizer works to lure the beetles into the trap over the course of one week. They then get scooped out by the students and sent back into the lab.

For interested teachers there is also the option of:

  • Consultation with teachers by partner scientists and/or teachers who have experience with the project.

  • Opportunities for students to engage in identification, counting, mapping, and student research projects.

  • Partner scientist visit (via Zoom) at the beginning of the project to talk with students about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death and ambrosia beetles.

  • Partner scientist visit (via Zoom) at the end of the project to discuss the project results and how they might be used to protect ‘Ohia.

This project can be conducted any time during the month of March. You can sign up here, please respond by February 18. After signing up you will be sent sample lesson plans, student research resources, and details on how to do the project with students. There will also be an informational session held Thursday, February 18th at 3pm, for those who have signed up or are curious about learning more. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact coordinator Sarah Knox of Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests at

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