(BIVN) – The battle against the Ceratocystis fungus that causes Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death continues, with technology playing a big role in the effort to stop the spread of the disease that has already infected 75,000 acres of Hawaii Island forest.
Big Island Invasive Species Committee’s Forest Response Program Coordinator, Bill Buckley, was recently featured in a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources media release, as he and his crew worked their way through the Laupāhoehoe Forest Reserve, armed with a drill and a “lab in a suitcase.”
The DLNR media release explained:
Dr. Carter Atkinson a Research Microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey based at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, developed what the team from the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BISC) fondly calls a “lab in a suitcase.”
Recently the BISC team collected ʻōhiʻa samples from towering trees in the Laupāhoehoe Forest Reserve on the Big Island’s east coast. Prior to the development, earlier this year, of Atkinson’s portable testing laboratory, all samples were sent to the USDA ARS Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo. Since the cause of Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death was first discovered in 2014, Dr. Lisa Keith who runs the main testing lab, has been overwhelmed with samples.
Bill Buckley, the Forest Response Program Coordinator for BISC said, “The lab in a suitcase has been really nice. We can collect our samples in the field, and nearby under a portable tent the testing equipment is set and ready to go. Within a few hours we get preliminary results. In the remote location’s we often work in, this is really beneficial. If we get a positive result, we then can go immediately back out and do additional sampling to get a better sense of how widespread the infection is. This greatly speeds up management decisions.”
Positive samples are sent to Dr. Keith’s lab for further testing and verification.
The DLNR release also showed off two other high-tech survey/detection tools being used to fight Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death: unmanned aerial systems and the Carnegie Airborne Observatory. We will feature those, with video, in coming stories.