(BIVN) – The first-ever Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Science Symposium was held this week at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
According to the Hawaiʻi DLNR, which recorded video of the event, the symposium brought together scientists and managers engaged in the fight against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, in order to share the latest research findings and discuss next steps in battling the fungal disease.
Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has killed millions of ʻōhiʻa trees over the last decade, primarily on Hawai‘i Island, but also on a more limited scale on Kaua‘i. The disease is caused by two fungal pathogens: Ceratocystis lukuohia (destroyer of ʻōhiʻa), which is the name of the more aggressive fungus, and Ceratocystis huliohia (disruptor of ʻōhiʻa).
The keynote address was delivered by DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Thank you all for the incredibly hard work you’ve been doing these last few years on all fronts – from identifying the causes of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, to mapping its distribution and learning about how it spreads,” Case told the roughly 90 scientists and ʻōhiʻa advocates in attendance. “Experimenting with ways to contain it and all the outreach and education so everyone in Hawai‘i can know how not to spread it further. Your work is necessarily innovative and often ingenious because we’ve never encountered these pathogens, nor their effect on our beloved ʻōhiʻa forest.”
Following Case, Kumu Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani of Hālau ʻŌhiʻa took to the podium, surrounded by her haumana. The respected cultural practitioner told those in the room: “You’ve done your job to create this collaborative, this collective movement. Ritual practices taught me that your imaginings are the experimentation, is the meetings, is the movement, the working together and the innovative approaches.”
“I realized that all of my 30, 40 years of ritual training may in fact be for this moment,” Kekuhi said, “not just for the health and persistence and resilience for the ʻōhiʻa tree and our island landscape, but for people – we have to be able to see that the shift that we’re experiencing, like Susan said, is an experience in shifting the way that we do things with one another. We cannot be blind to that.”