15 November 2021

The Giant Killers

PEPS grad students bring home a national championship

The Giant Killers

Hoʻomaikaʻi e nā haumāna! to Karim Gharbi, Mitchell Kirsch, Michelle Au, Kenneth Choi, and faculty coach Mark Wright of the UH Entomology Team for its first-ever national championship!

Known as Ka Mea Kolo, the teammates representing the Dept. of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences were crowned following the Entomology Games Competition at the National Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, held in-person in Denver.

To reach the finals, the CTAHR team first had to qualify at the ESA’s Pacific Branch Meeting, held virtually in March. They matched wits with a number of West Coast teams, losing to former champ UC Riverside but beating everyone else and thereby qualifying for the finals.

In Denver, they overcame that loss, first by beating the Rutgers University team in the preliminary rounds, then by stomping UC Riverside 80 to 20 in the first round of the finals. In the championship round, Ka Mea Kolo faced off against Texas A&M – and dominated the perennial heavyweight by a score of 110 to 45!

“This is the first time the University of Hawaiʻi has won this competition and it reflects the hard work, skill, and dedication of our students and their coach, Mark Wright,” says Dan Rubinoff.

“They beat the giants convincingly,” adds Mark. “Not bad for a small program! I’m proud of our students; they worked hard for this. In addition to being a great accomplishment for students, this brings considerable attention to UH and CTAHR, and raises our national profile quite nicely!”

Karim, Mitchell, Michelle, and Kenneth are grad students in the entomology labs of Mark, Dan, Jia-wei Tay, and Zhiqiang Cheng. Mitchell also won Best Poster in the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology (MUVE) category. A big mahalo to the Tanada Family Entomology Fund and CTAHR New Faculty Start-Up Fund for helping to cover the students’ travel.

Watch video coverage of the UH team in action at the Entomology Games (fast forward to 1:01).

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