Symposium Info

2019 Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium

This year is the 13th annual Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium. It will feature presentations by scientists, cultural specialists, community conservationists and others who are working to learn about and preserve Hawaiian dryland forest plants and ecosystems. The Symposium will be held at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on Nowelo Street in Hilo, on Wednesday, March 27th, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Early registration until March 15th is $75 and includes lunch. Student registration is $40. After March 15th, late registration increases to $90 ($55 for students). Registration is limited to 165 to preserve the quality of the event for everyone attending and to facilitate networking. There will be one accompanying field trip ($40, lunch provided) to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with Sierra McDaniel, of U.S. National Park Service on Tuesday, March 26 (a State holiday honoring Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole).


The dryland forests of Hawai‘i are fragile habitats that are home to many of the rarest plants in the world. Dryland forests were once considered to be the most diverse forest ecosystem on the Hawaiian Islands but today they are extremely deforested and degraded. Only remnant patches of the habitat remain to remind
us of the highly diverse community of plants and animals that once dominated the landscape of West Hawai‘i and many other areas of the State. This year we are having the symposium in East Hawai‘i, where, despite its soggy reputation, there are large extents of coastal, lowland and montane dry and mesic forest. The Dryland Forest Symposium provides a forum for hearing about recent developments in dryland forest conservation and restoration, and an opportunity to interact with others interested in dryland forest.

We are honored to have Hālau ‘Ōhi‘a open the event with a kīpaepae to help establish and strengthen our specific intentions as we engage in this symposium meant to help conserve a resource with profound biocultural significance.


Keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Powers comes to us from the University of Minnesota. An avid researcher of tropical dry forests in Costa Rica since 1994, Powers investigates the relationships among ecological processes, the patterns they generate, and the effects of anthropogenic environmental changes across a
range of spatial and temporal scales. She will help set the stage for our theme that emphasizes setting and achieving realistic goals for dry forest restoration in our uncertain era of climate change, competitive funding, diverse community priorities, and related green infrastructure initiatives. The title of her talk will be Radical In Every Sense of the Word: Restoration and Forest Regeneration in Guanacaste Conservation Area, Costa Rica.

Other speakers will include:
Dr. Natalie Kurashima of UH-Manoa will be discussing Restoring to the future: environmental, cultural and management trade-offs in historic versus hybrid restoration of a highly altered ecosystem.
Jen Lawson of Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative will provide information on WDFI’s unique approach emphasizing community involvement in a talk with the thought-provoking title of Finding Value in Degraded Forests.
Dr. Patrick Hart of UH-Hilo Biology will present on his exciting discoveries in acoustic ecology in Hawai‘i and other areas, covering dry forests among other ecosystems.
Pablo Beimler and Elizabeth Pickett of the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization will speak concerning a new and significant database that HWMO has been compiling in Fire Follows Fuel: A Collaborative Approach Towards Cross-Boundary Vegetative Fuels Management for Wildfire Mitigation.
Bobby Camara, an expert on botany and traditional ecology, will present a talk on the potential ecosystem and educational benefit (as well as certain interesting pitfalls) of utilizing native plants in commercial and institutional landscaping. His special guests will be a collection of real, live native plants, graciously provided by Kathy Kawakami.
Dr. Christian Giardina of the USDA’s Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry will present on Understanding Stewardship Across Geographic and Social Landscapes: The Stewardship Mapping & Assessment Project in North Kona-South Kohala
Philipp Lahaela-Walter of DOFAW will talk about Hawai‘i’s emerging carbon market.
Dr. Chris Balzotti, a postdoctoral researcher for Arizona State University, will prove a landscape overview of vegetation changes over time in dryland systems on Hawai‘i Island.

Strap on your helmets for our Speed Session, in which a dizzyingly diverse array of speakers will fling ideas and updates our way all within five minutes each, with a ticking clock and a merciless timekeeper. We expect to hear from several of Dr. Ryan Perroy’s UH Hilo students:  Eszter Collier, a TCBES student, on Mapping biological soil crusts in a dryland ecosystem; Mary-Fem Urena, an Environmental Science major, on Restoration mapping at the Hauaina Dryland forest site in Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a; and Kimo Melcher, a TCBES student, on Enhancing erosion mitigation practices on Moloka‘i and Hawai‘i islands via sUAS and LiDAR. Dr. Stephanie Yelenik will discuss Disturbance and plant community assembly in exotic-dominated arid landscapes on Hawai‘i. Dr. Elliott Parsons of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a will give highlights of Conservation & Restoration Progress at Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a, North Kona. Mark Hanson will update us on his sandalwood endeavors. Lena Schnell of Pohakuloa Training Area will let us know the latest on the base. Mary Metcalf, the President of Ka‘ahahui ‘o ka Nāhelehele, will present Establishing Dry Forest Corridors in West Hawaii: Update on Progress. James Akau, Executive Director of Nā Mamo o Kāwā, will give an update on the Kawa Dryforest and Coastal Revegetation Project. There may be a few more!

Poster Session

There will be a small poster session in the lobby outside the symposium conference room. Poster displays and other outreach materials about organizations involved in dryland forest conservation and education, as well as posters about research projects or findings, are welcome, but please note that poster space is
very limited this year, and priority will be given to student research projects. There will be a dedicated poster viewing session after lunch, including a dessert and coffee station to enhance your enjoyment! All presenters are required to be at their table during this time. Pre-registration for a poster table is required and must be submitted no later than February 15th. For more information about posters or to sign up for a poster, contact Ron Terry at, 808-969-7090.

Field Trip

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Burn Area.

Sierra McDaniel will lead this fascinating field trip exploring a burn area. The Keauhou Ranch Fire consumed nearly 4,000 acres of native shrubland and forest on the slopes of Mauna Loa in early August 2018. Impacts within the Park include fire damage to over nine miles of ungulate proof fence, loss of important vegetation communities that provided habitat for native birds, insects and bats, and increased potential for non-native plant invasion. Field trip participants will experience the recovery that has begun and learn how park managers are working to facilitate native recovery, increase biodiversity and build fire resilience and resistance through rehabilitation efforts. Participants will meet between 8:30 and 9:00 am at Kipuka Puaulu (Bird Park) at HVNP and the trip will begin at 9:00 am sharp. It will conclude at 2 pm. Participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation. The cost of the field trip is $40 and includes a sack lunch. This trip is limited to no more than 20 people, first-to-register, first-served. Must register before March 15. For more information about the field trip, contact Ron Terry at, 808-969-7090.


The Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium is a project of Ka‘ahahui ‘o ka Nāhelehele, a non-profit organization dedicated to dryland forest advocacy and partnerships. Sponsors of this symposium include the Hawai‘i Forest Institute through their Mahalo ‘Āina Initiative, and the State of Hawai‘i Division
of Forestry and Wildlife. If you would like to help sponsor the symposium or contribute to student scholarships, you may do so by contacting Ron Terry (see below) or going to

Have questions about the 2019 Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium? Contact Ron Terry at or (808) 969-7090.

See videos of past Dryland Forest Symposium presentations.

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