Friends of Hakalau Forest
National Wildlife Refuge
Fall 2018 Newsletter
Presidents' Perch September 2918
J.B. Friday
President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
In This Issue
Presidents Perch

Refuge Manager's Report - Lane

Challenge grant for Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR Endowment

Paradise Lost?
192 year mosquito history

            We were up to the Maulua section of the Refuge last weekend when I saw a small, grey bird flitting up and down a koa tree, headfirst. Thinking it was an endangered Hawai'i creeper, I took a few photos, but when I download them later I saw it was only an 'amakihi. The Hawaii creeper isn't the correct name anymore, anyway: last year the bird was re-named the ‘alawī, which apparently was its old Hawaiian name. Like the bird formerly called the Maui parrotbill and now called the kiwikiu, the ‘alawī has been given a Hawaiian name partly to re-connect it with local people and especially Hawaiians, who can now be proud to know that their ancestors knew and named this tiny, hard-to-find bird.

           Connecting people to the Refuges and the wildlife there is what Friends groups are all about. Here in Hawai'i, we're seeing a resurgence of interest in our rare birds. Each island has some sort of rare bird recovery project. On social media you can see almost daily reports on the progress of the 'alala that have been re-introduced into the forest on Mauna Loa (and we hope someday will be back in the South Kona unit of the Refuge). Not many people in Hilo have seen a palila, but almost everyone has seen the palila mural above the farmers' market. The upcoming Festival of the Birds in Kona, for which the Friends is a co-sponsor, is drawing people from across the state and nation.

           Through the Friends of Hakalau, we - both the Board and you, our members - seek to connect community and the Refuge through sponsoring trips up to the Refuge, holding lectures, and being present at various conservation events around the Island. Thank you all for your support, both in projects up on the Refuge but also in projects that connect the community and the Refuge. Thank you also for sharing your enthusiasm for the rare creatures that share this island with us with your friends and neighbors. The health of the land depends on people who care about it.



       Cashell Villa, Acting Project Leader

       EVENTS: During a three day rain event resulting from Hurricane Lane, the Refuge was battered with an unprecedented 42” inches of rain at its upper elevations. This is half the average annual rainfall for that area of Mauna Kea. The barrage of water brought down trees and fence-lines, ripped out gulch barriers, and turned roads into raging rivers. The good news was the buildings, machinery and other facilities handled the rain without incident. The aftermath brought a flurry of activity to the Refuge with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel coming in from the Pacific Northwest to help Refuge staff with recovery efforts. In addition Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans, deployed to assist us with road work. Crews repaired downed fences, removed trees and debris collected at fences and gulches, and patched impassable roads. It’s amazing how much work was accomplished in the last few weeks since the storm. Normal operations will resume by the 2 nd week of September.

STAFFING: The Big Island is preparing to fill three vacancies. Applications are currently under review for the Project Leader position. We expect that position will be filled by the holidays or at the latest the end of the calendar year. In addition, recruitment is underway for new Maintenance Mechanic. This person will be responsible for facilities, roads, and machinery. We are hopeful that this position will be filled by the end of the calendar year as well. The last position we are hiring for is a Crew Leader for the Pest Control Workers. This position should be advertised by the holidays and filled sometime after the New Year.
Leland Jardine, Hakalau Forest personnel, stands in a run-off channel on Middle Road created when flood waters breached gulches and ran into roadway
Flattened grass and a large section of downed fence near the entrance of Pua Akala Gate give an understanding of the amount of water that moved across the landscape during Hurricane Lane.  
Doug Currie, a sawyer from Inland Northwest Refuge in Washington, removes a large Ohia off the fence
Team Rubicon works to get more gravel and road matrix back on roads after storm waters removed large amounts of road material from driveways and roadways.
Dollar for Dollar Challenge Grant
for Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR Endowment
Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge is the top refuge for native Hawaiian forest birds, but it is threatened by a constant onslaught of weeds and feral animals. To ensure the future of the Refuge, the Friends of Hakalau Forest have established an Endowment to fund ongoing protection. Ben and Yvonne Godsey have established a $10,000 Challenge Grant to fund the Endowment. Every donation to the endowment through the end of 2018 will be matched dollar for dollar, up to a max of $10,000. 
The Godsey’s love of Hakalau started back when they were young aspiring biologists, fresh out of college. Yvonne spent the summer of 1995 as a Hakalau Intern. She worked on the forest bird project, banding native honeycreepers. She convinced Ben to join her for the summer and found him a job on the predator project “chasing rats around the rainforest at night”. After returning to the mainland, they returned to Hawaii in 2005 when Ben acquired ProService Hawaii. Yvonne now teaches biology at Iolani School and Ben runs ProService Hawaii, which provides HR services to over 2,000 Hawaii businesses. 
Yvonne and creeper (`alawi`) Hakalau 1995.
In spring of 2018, the Godsey’s again visited Hakalau. This time with Jack Jeffrey and their 3 sons. What a beautiful trip! Jack helped them find all of the native forest bird species in Hakalau and told stories of the Refuge’s history, as well as its threats and opportunities. The funding, staffing and fence maintenance challenges facing Hakalau were clear, but so was how the refuge had thrived since 1995. As Ben said, “The beauty and health of the refuge’s native bird population was stunning, but the fragility of the refuge’s
protections was equally
concerning.”  Their experiences inspired the Godseys to create this challenge grant to help fund the Endowment, which will help maintain the health of Hakalau..
Paradise Lost? Hawaii's 192 year mosquito history

Dr. Jolene Sutton
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
Imagine Hawai‘i without mosquitoes. We would need to go back 192 years to know what that was like! Hawai‘i was mosquito-free until ~1826 when the southern house mosquito ( Culex quinquefasciatus) was accidentally introduced to Maui ( 1-3). Eight introduced mosquito species have now become established in Hawai‘i, six of which are “biting” species ( 4). It wasn’t long after mosquitoes arrived that the Islands began to experience outbreaks of new diseases. In 1903 the first dengue epidemic occurred, resulting in an estimated 30,000 cases ( 4). Around the same time, a new disease infecting native wildlife was noticed to be common in endemic forest birds, and was linked to the southern house mosquito ( 5). In 1904, the “Hawai‘i Citizens’ Mosquito Campaign Committee” formed in Honolulu with the goal of reducing mosquito populations ( 3). Four additional dengue outbreaks have occurred since then, with the most recent outbreak on Hawai‘i Island in 2015-2016 resulting in 263 confirmed cases ( 6,7). Collectively, the mosquito species that are now established in Hawai‘i are capable of spreading illnesses such as Zika ( 8), dengue ( 4), chikungunya ( 4), West Nile virus ( 9,10), encephalitis ( 10,11), filariasis ( 10), canine heartworm ( 12,13), avian malaria ( 14), and avian pox ( 14). With increasing rates of global travel, human population size, and mosquito densities, it is predicted that there will be corresponding increases in outbreaks of dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses in Hawai‘i ( 6).
Mosquitoes impact on native forest birds

Introduced mosquitoes have had particularly devastating impacts on native Hawaiian forest birds. To be sure, native birds face several threats, but a driving force behind many of the past century’s extinctions, and the on-going declines, is the southern house mosquito. Native birds succumb to two diseases that are spread by this mosquito: avian malaria and avian pox. Hawaii’s unique avifauna evolved over six million years in isolation from mosquitoes and the diseases they spread ( 15 ). Thus, most of the evolutionary history of Hawaii’s avifauna did not include selection for immunity against mosquito-borne diseases. Several native bird species are now restricted to high elevation, where transmission of these diseases is low or absent. However, recent climate and disease models suggest that warming temperatures are causing increased disease transmission at high elevation. The impacts are currently being felt strongest on Kauai, where at least two species, the ‘akikiki ( Oreomystis bairdi ) and ‘akeke‘e ( Loxops caeruleirostris ) are experiencing recent and rapid population declines that leave their futures very uncertain ( 16,17 ).
Recent progress and emerging technologies

In September, 2016, local, national, and international biologists, biotechnology experts, wildlife managers, and public health specialists gathered on Hawai‘i Island to discuss emerging technologies that might be able to mitigate mosquito-borne diseases in Hawai‘i ( 6). Strategies that we reviewed included traditional sterile insect techniques (using radiation or chemicals to sterilize male insects before they are released), as well as more novel incompatible insect techniques, and genetic-based strategies.
One strategy we examined was the use of male mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia . Wolbachia bacteria naturally occur in many insect species, including native Hawaiian insects ( 18,19 ). These bacteria are safe to humans and other vertebrates, because they survive specifically within insect cells. In nature, Wolbachia are passed from female insects to their offspring, but new strains of Wolbachia have been introduced into insects in the laboratory by injecting the bacteria directly into freshly laid eggs. One incompatible insect technique that has been used to mitigate mosquito-borne diseases involves crossing mosquitoes that have different strains of Wolbachia , because these crosses often fail to produce living embryos. Thus, when male mosquitoes with a new Wolbachia strain are released to mate with wild females, mosquito offspring are not produced ( 20 ). Such Wolbachia male-based insect control programs have been successful for reducing local mosquito populations around the world ( e.g., 21-24 ), and this approach has received U.S. federal, state, and local approvals of field trials in California, Florida, and Kentucky ( 23 ).

  In addition to the use of Wolbachia for mosquito population suppression, other Wolbachia -based strategies have been developed to reduce disease transmission rates ( e.g., 25 ). For example, yellow fever mosquitoes don’t normally have Wolbachia , however, the Eliminate Dengue Program injects Wolbachia into yellow fever mosquitoes in the laboratory, to prevent these mosquitoes from being able to vector dengue and some other diseases ( 26,27 ). After extensive research and community outreach these new Wolbachia -infected yellow fever mosquitoes have been successfully introduced to urban areas in Australia and elsewhere to replace the original mosquito populations and limit dengue ( 28,29 ). This strategy has the advantage of being self-sustaining, as the female mosquitoes pass on the Wolbachia to their offspring.
One emerging technology that is rapidly gaining scientific and public attention is “gene drive”. By definition, a gene drive system facilitates its own spread through a population over multiple generations. Some gene drives exist naturally, while others are synthetic. In theory, a gene drive system could be used to spread an “effector gene” through a population, and it is this effector gene that could mitigate disease spread. Because gene drive systems have profound implications for human health and culture, agriculture, conservation, and the environment, it is important to evaluate different gene drive systems on the basis of 1) safety, 2) effectiveness, 3) ethics, and 4) community wishes. For example, ensuring that the drive system has a built in “off-switch”; i.e., that it is reversible and won’t spread indefinitely. A useful gene drive system also needs to be proven to work for its intended length of time, and the synthetic genetic construct shouldn’t break down unintentionally. Every potential gene drive application also needs to be evaluated on its desired outcomes, and whether research and community desires align and are ethically acceptable. For example, suppressing mosquito populations may be considered ethical where mosquitoes are non-native and invasive, but in locations where mosquitoes are native and may play important ecological roles, it may be preferable to change their capacity to spread disease-causing pathogens. One example often held up as a case study of best practice when it comes to developing, evaluating, and communicating novel technologies for controlling mosquito-borne illnesses is the Eliminate Dengue Program ( 28,29). On September 7, 2018, Riley Taitingfong from University of California San Diego presented an open seminar at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo that was titled, “Community Engagement and Gene Drives: Challenges and Ethical Considerations”. She emphasized that successful community engagement models such as those taken by the Eliminate Dengue program display three understandings: 1) community engagement is about two-way communication, 2) community engagement requires flexibility and creativity, and 3) community engagement is necessary, and is hard work.
Research at University of Hawaii
At the University of Hawai‘i, we have been researching gene drives and Wolbachia . In 2009 a novel, synthetic gene drive system was established in a laboratory colony of fruit flies ( Drosophila melanogaster ; 30 ). This system was designed to be reversible and geographically stable, to prevent unintended spread. The system (RPM-Drive) has now been functional for over 200 generations in our laboratory fruit fly colonies, which indicates that in addition to being reversible and geographically stable, the system is extremely robust ( 31 ). RPM-Drive should be adaptable for use in other insects, and so in January 2018 a local student from O‘ahu joined our team to begin investigating this. By March, a group of undergraduate students taking a genetics laboratory course became the first people at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo to attempt genetic engineering in laboratory colonies of southern house mosquitoes. While we were not at that time attempting to establish RPM-Drive in the mosquitoes, we were successful in establishing a fluorescent protein gene in our colonies as a proof of principle. Since these very, very early results are promising, we hope to have wider community discussions about how to develop this research based on local interests.
We are also researching Wolbachia-based strategies. With start-up funding and support from the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have removed naturally occurring Wolbachia from locally-sourced laboratory colonies of the southern house mosquito, and are using standard techniques to attempt to give these mosquitoes a strain of Wolbachia that naturally occurs in the local tiger mosquito. To date, we have injected > 4,000 southern house mosquito eggs with Wolbachia, and our goal is to inject a total of 10,000 eggs. To help speed this research, we have also begun the process of applying for import permits to be able to import a southern house mosquito that already has a different strain of Wolbachia into our laboratories. We could then conduct crosses in the laboratory to assess the degree of incompatibility ( i.e. “birth control”) between “wildtype” local southern house mosquitoes and those with the different Wolbachia strain.
How to get involved

Mosquitoes were first introduced to Hawai‘i 192 years ago, and the first official efforts to get rid of them began over 114 years ago. Clearly old strategies are not working and we need new ones, especially given current predictions for increasing rates of mosquito-borne illnesses. This is both a human health concern, as well as a concern for native wildlife. New and emerging control technologies could offer effective solutions, which could positively impact human health and possibly reverse the tide of extinction experienced by Hawaii’s unique avifauna. However, these technologies will only be useful if they are developed responsibly and with transparent community engagement. Many residents of Hawai‘i value the unique natural heritage that exists here, and do not want to lose anymore of it. Perhaps the most important things that we can all do are to learn more and to get involved. Let’s talk to our friends (and our legislators) about mosquitoes in Hawai‘i. Let’s have more conversations about community needs and wants, and how to incorporate these into research, especially that being done right here in Hawai‘i. Let’s talk more about the amounts of funding and accessibility to funding that are necessary to do both community engagement and technology research. Working together as a community we can identify ways to adapt technologies so that they meet the needs of this community, as well as the needs for regulatory approval. This is an exciting, hopeful time. For some of our native species, it is also a precarious time, as their population declines speed them on their way toward extinction. There is a lot at stake. Not all of Paradise has been lost yet.
About the author

Dr. Jolene Sutton is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where she teaches Genetics and Tropical Conservation Biology. Her research includes developing and evaluating emerging technologies for controlling mosquito-borne illnesses, including Wolbachia-based strategies and gene drives. All research with live organisms is subject to institutional biosafety review, approval, and compliance. She can be reached for comment by email at: .

To get a list of references cited in this article, please contact the author.
Become a Member

Friends of Hakalau Forest, National Wildlife Refuge is a 501 ( C ) ( 3 ) organization and is recognized as a tax exempt non-profit organization by the Federal government and the State of Hawaii. We appreciate and thank you for your membership and your donations.