Damage to the environment affects everyone. So it’s counterintuitive to reverse the damage with separate, unconnected efforts – especially when everyone has the same goals in mind.
Yet, “conservation and restoration projects in Hawaiʻi are largely piecemeal and grant funded,” says Clay Trauernicht, wildfire expert and recipient of the 2019 CTAHR Dean’s Award for Excellence in Extension. “State and federal agencies, watershed partnerships, and other non-profit organizations are effectively working in silos.”
In a small but groundbreaking step toward unifying these efforts, the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management has created a new position: Assistant Extension Specialist in Conservation and Restoration of Hawaiian Ecosystems.
“Conservation and restoration draws on lots of different areas of expertise: ecosystem science, pest/disease management, plant propagation, wildlife science and management, plant population and community ecology, landscape planning, threat assessment, etc.,” says Clay of his new role.
“I've been working in natural resource conservation, but specifically within the context of wildfires. This position will require looking at the problem holistically – folding fire in among a wider range of natural resource threats, and enabling NREM to look at the problem more broadly.”
The position also represents the first large-scale, coordinated effort to identify best-management practices, explicitly link various programs across the state through CTAHR’s Extension mission, and widen the focus area.
"To my knowledge, this is only the second Extension position in the nation entirely focused on conservation and restoration, and there is no other Extension position focused on natural resource management on military-managed lands," says NREM’s Melissa Price.
She’s referring to a formal partnership with the Army Natural Resources Program, among others. The U.S. Army invests a lot of time and money in natural resource management, and has a mandate to minimize impacts incidental to training exercises. The Army administers very large tracts of land on almost every Hawaiian island.
“Bringing UH and the Army together will facilitate collaboration between researchers and land managers to protect species on military-managed land,” Melissa says. “Plus, having a fully funded position will help ensure a mechanism for information and lessons learned to be brought to a larger audience.
“Extension,” she adds, “is really about getting best-management practices out there and implemented – but it’s also about encouraging researchers to tackle questions and produce information that is relevant to the needs of Extension clients. We hope this will open up other opportunities, e.g. graduate assistant funding, to support new research.”