Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

Summer 2023 Newsletter

In Memorium - Dr. Rob Schallenberger

Our friend and colleague, Rob Shallenberger, passed away on March 15th, 2023, in Sacramento, California. Rob was one of our Board members and a long-standing advocate for the conservation of wildlife and natural ecosystems. We all knew Rob as a knowledgeable and thoughtful scientist, conservationist, and wildlife photographer. He had a particular passion for the conservation of wildlife in the Hawaiian Islands.

Rob received his doctorate from UCLA, studying Hawaiian seabirds. He spent 25 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, notably as the director of all the Refuges in the Hawaiian and other Pacific Islands and served as the Chief of the National Wildlife System in the Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters in Washington D.C from 1990-1997.

 After his time as Chief of Refuges he returned to Hawai‘i and spent three years as the Refuge Manager on Midway Atoll where he helped start the Friends of Midway Atoll. His passion for the conservation of wildlife on Midway Island stood out in the later stages of his career. After leaving the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2002 he spent some time working with The Nature Conservancy until 2011.

His dedication and enthusiasm for wildlife photography took him to places all over the world. Rob visited five continents and participated in photography, film making, and wildlife touring. His work has been loved by many with photographs appearing in numerous magazines. 

For us he brought wisdom and experience to our efforts to support Hakalau Forest NWR and the Koa-‘Ōhi‘a forest ecosystem. He spent eleven years on our Board, offering invaluable perspective to conservation and refuge management. Rob was one of the founding/charter members of the Friends of Hakalau Forest Endowment and served on its Endowment oversight committee from its inception in 2016 to his passing. He helped to champion the notion that the key to preserving Hawaii’s unique forest birds lay in establishing a reliable source of funds, year after year, for habitat protection. We are forever indebted to Rob and everything he brought to the Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR.

We all miss Rob personally and our organization will miss his sage and respected counsel.

President's Perch Summer 2023

J.B. Friday

President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

In This Issue

In Memorium - Dr. Rob Schallenberger

Volunteers Needed!

Pockets and Pathways to Invasion Report

Refuge Update

Nēnē at Hakalau

Pretty in a Pot!

Hawai'i Conservation Conference

In Aotearoa New Zealand last month, I attended a workshop on how scientists can work together with local and indigenous people to protect nature. The New Zealand Māori call their most valued natural resources taonga, sometimes translated as treasures. The celebrated giant kauri trees such as Tane Mehuta and Te Matua Ngahere are taonga, but so are their iconic birds such as the kiwi and piwakawaka. Kauri trees, and also the ‘ōhi‘a-like pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), are threatened by new diseases, much as our ‘ōhi‘a are threatened by Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death. While Māori value science, there also have been rough spots and times in the past when the indigenous people did not feel their knowledge was respected by the scientific community. At the workshop, the scientists and Māori discussed ways to honor both traditional knowledge and modern science and work together on topics of importance to the local community. See below for pictures from my trip.

Here in Hawai‘i in the last 20 or 30 years Western-trained scientists have come a long way in terms of working with local communities and native Hawaiians in practicing conservation, but just as in New Zealand there is more to be done. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge plays a key role in connecting people with their natural treasures. While everyone, at least on Hawai‘i Island, has seen ‘ōhi‘a in bloom, and most people have seen an ‘i‘iwi or at least an ‘apapane, few people have ever seen an ‘ākepa or an ‘akiapōlā‘au. People value what they know. One of the most important values of the Refuge is to provide a place where people can go and see these native birds and appreciate the taonga of our islands. 

Images Clockwise from top left: JB with Te Matua Ngahere (Agathis kauri); Devil's Punchbowl Falls; Piwakawaka Gorse at Hinewai Reserve; Bealy Valley Boardwalk; Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) flowers and butterfly; Beccy Ganley and her needlepoint of Austropuccinia sp. rust.

Volunteers Needed

Want to get involved with Friends of Hakalau Forest? We are currently looking to fill the following volunteer positions:

Bookkeeper: The Friends of Hakalau need someone to assist the Treasurer with tracking income and expenditures, monthly financial reports for the Board of Directors, and filing of state and federal forms as needed. We currently use Excel and need help to move to an accounting software program. Estimated volunteer time is about 4-6 hours a month.

T-shirt Fulfillment: The steps of this activity involve: print orders from our e-mail store; pick up t-shirt(s) from storage; pack in box or envelope; purchase and print postage label; and arrange pick up or take to post office. Estimated volunteer time is about 4-6 hours a month.

For more information call Cathy at 808-961-6142. 

Pockets and Pathways to Invasion:

Developing Improved Mosquito Monitoring Methods in High Elevation Forests on Hawai'i Island

Stephanie Mladinich

Feral pig-created hapuʻu tree fern cavity filled with rainwater.

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge is and has been one of the most important sites for Hawaiʻi’s native forest birds, representing the key role that high elevation forests fill for native Hawaiian bird conservation and preservation. Despite increasing avian malaria prevalence across the islands, Hakalau has remained a major stronghold for native forest birds, but recent population studies have begun to show the decline of nearly all species, indicating that conditions at the refuge may be changing (Camp et al. 2010, Paxton et al. 2014, Kendall et al. 2022). Consequently, for these high elevation forest refugia, robust surveillance of both the mosquitoes that transmit avian malaria, and the conditions that drive their invasion is key to inform conservation action that can safeguard bird populations. However, the cost and labor-intensity of monitoring together with the difficulty of access to remote sites limit the frequency and efficacy of critical monitoring efforts. 

Funded by the Pacific Island Climate Adaptation Science Center and Friends of Hakalau to address the challenges state resource manager’s face, Hakalau Forest NWR together with University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Dr. Patrick Hart and graduate student, Stephanie Mladinich, explored a continuous, low-cost approach to monitor adult mosquito populations, feral pig-created larval habitat, and local climate conditions across a 300-meter elevational gradient at the refuge. From September 2020-January 2022, a total of 51 passive mosquito traps called Gravid Aedes Traps (GATs) were deployed in the lower reaches of the Pua ’Ākala and Hakalau units of the refuge (1300-1500 m). Extensive trapping effort from 5,721 trap-nights resulted in no mosquito captures within the refuge; however, one single Culex quinquefasciatus, the invasive mosquito that transmits avian malaria, was captured in November 2021 at 1671 m in an active BG CO2 trap during a comparative trap efficacy experiment

Graduate student researcher, Stephanie Mladinich,

checking the passive Gravid Aedes Trap for mosquito captures.

Although passive Gravid Aedes Traps (GATs) had low mosquito capture efficacy compared to conventional active CO2 and gravid mosquito traps, little evidence of invasion by C. quinquefasiatus was found across adult and larval mosquito surveys, despite suitable climate conditions for both vector and parasite development present over half of the year across all elevations monitored. There were, however, few larval detections and adult sightings of Aedes japonicus, an invasive mosquito species that could serve as a proxy for invasion of C. quinquefasciatus in a warmer future. While GATs are an appealing low-cost option for mosquito surveillance, the efficacy of the passive trapping system is likely too low to effectively serve as an early warning system for mosquito surveillance, and the more efficacious, active traps present a more reliable option to ensure detection, particularly in low-density mosquito areas.

Feral pig-created larval habitat availability was surveyed across 17 hectares of the refuge and was found in relatively low-densities, with significantly lower site-level density in fenced areas compared to unfenced areas within the refuge. As part of this research, hapuʻu tree fern cavity maps and coordinates were provided to Hakalau Forest NWR to support decision-making regarding larval habitat source reduction; however, hapuʻu cavities represent only one type of available larval habitat in high elevation forests, and previous reduction of hapuʻu tree fern cavities at other sites did not lower mosquito abundance (Atkinson 2000). At sites like Hakalau Forest NWR where larval habitat availability is already limited, source reduction is not likely to significantly reduce mosquito abundance, as compared to sites like Laupāhoehoe FR where the density of feral pig-created larval habitat density is high (Hobbelen et al. 2012).

The results of this study show the reality of climate conditions present in the mid-high elevation closed forest bird habitat at Hakalau Forest NWR. Overall, the lack of detection of mosquitoes is a good indication that they have not yet become established and underscores the importance of continuous monitoring efforts to ensure early detection of mosquito invasion at remote high elevation sites like Hakalau.

Refuge Update

Visitor Services Manager, FWS

Volunteers repairing the greenhouse roof.

The last 45 days have been very busy for the refuge! First up, Donna Ball will be the acting Refuge Manager through the end of the fiscal year (Sept 30) as Tom Cady will be on detail to Alaska. The greenhouse that was damaged during the December storms has been repaired with the help of volunteers from the Young Guns & the Birds of a Feather groups. The Young Guns assisted with re-roofing and Birds of a Feather helped install new side skirts so that sides can once again be opened allowing for a cross-flow of air. The volunteers groups have been busy with various outplanting projects and removing old ranching-era fence lines throughout the refuge. UH Mānoa Richardson's Law School students and a group coordinated by retired refuge biologist Steve Kendall, planted over 900 māmane and koa in upper Pua 'Ākala at the end of April. Over the last 45 days, 1600 trees have been outplanted!

Wildlife Biologist Eldridge Naboa with 'i'iwi during the forest bird avian disease surveilance project.

Wildlife Refuge Specialist, Springer Kaye completed an Early Detection Rapid Response Survey for invasive weed species at the Kona Forest Unit with members of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC). Additionally, BIISC has returned to the Hakalau unit and is working to eliminate Photinia davidiana from the refuge. Our Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) team members, Jason Austin and Adam Gruis, assisted with preparation for fence installation and are getting setup to re-roof the BRD cabin. The Pest Control operations team, David Bishop, Leland Jardine, and Will Naho’oikaika are working on a mile-long internal pig fence and conducting site preparation for koa and māmane outpanting by refuge volunteers. Wildlife Biologist Eldridge Naboa assisted state researchers with forest bird avian disease surveillance project and is working on development of Science Support Partnership proposals with USGS.  

In the month of April we had several team members at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, WV (pictured above). Springer Kaye attended the Refuge Academy, Pest Control Worker David Bishop attended the Intermediate Welding Course, and Leah Messer represented Hakalau Forest NWR at the National Friends Group Workshop. Finally, refuge staff finished out the month of May by attending a 2-day team building retreat at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the 23rd and 24th. 

We would also like to give a warm welcome to Len Malu Palakiko who will be detailing into the Fire Captain position under our Fire Management Officer Eric Johnson for the next 4 months.

Remembrances of Nēnē at Hakalau Forest NWR

Jack Jeffrey

In 1995, biologists at Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Joey Mello, Wayne Taka, Carol Terry approached me at Hakalau Forest NWR with an idea. The Nēnē population within the State was slowly increasing, and protected areas were needed to help provide new nesting grounds and dispersal sites. Since the upper grasslands of Hakalau Forest NWR were fenced and feral ungulates removed, this would provide a good area for Nēnē to nest and raise young. Directly adjacent to the refuge boundary were Hawaiian Homelands pastures being grazed by Parker Ranch cattle. it seemed logical to release Nēnē at the upper reaches of the refuge and allow them, over time, to disperse across the mid-elevation grasslands of Mauna Kea. With funding from DOFAW and assistance from refuge staff, a half-acre area, about a quarter mile above the Administration site at Hakalau Forest along the upper refuge boundary, was fenced with a predator-proof fence. Several small 4X4 foot roofed platforms were provided for Nēnē nesting, as well as food and water units. There was plenty of grass within the pen to provide food and cover.

In the spring of 1996, thirty young Nēnē from several areas around Hawai'i Island were sexed, banded, wing clipped, and released into the new predator proof “Nēnē pen.” By fall, all of these Nēnē had molted, were free flying, and had begun to form pairs. Soon after, we found the first Nēnē nest at Hakalau Forest NWR and so began the history of the Hakalau Forest NWR Nēnē population, which continues to grow to this day.

Several stories come to mind. During the second breeding season several Nēnē pairs had nested not far from the Volunteer Cabin, about a quarter mile outside the fenced Nēnē pen. The best protection for the goslings was the predator-proof enclosure. Baron Horiuchi, the Refuge Horticulturist, called me when he found the first 4 goslings that had recently hatched and were with their parents near the Volunteer Cabin. We decided to “herd” the family up the road and into the Nēnē pen for safe keeping. Later that year all 4 goslings fledged. 

The following year, soon after hatching in the same general area, Baron found the same pair with 4 goslings. This time they were walking up the road towards the pen. No herding needed. Baron just opened the pen door and they all walked right in.  

The following year, a UH Graduate student called me and mentioned that there were two adults and 4 goslings at the pen door. “What should I do?”. “Open the door” I exclaimed. The adult pair walked into the pen with their goslings. They knew a safe place to raise their young.  

Slowly the Nēnē population at the refuge grew and each year the new goslings were banded to keep track of dispersal, survivorship, and mortality.

In the late 1990s, a bad drought hit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP), and they lost almost 50% of their Nēnē population. The food sources dried up and the Park Nēnē being “home bodies” didn’t know where to go for food. At that time, Hakalau Forest NWR had plenty of green pasture, but the Park Nēnē didn’t know it was available. HVNP biologists Darcy Hu and Kathleen Misahan and I discussed possible remedies. One thought was to somehow get the HVNP Nēnē to learn to migrate to other sites, if something similar were to occur in the future. We wondered if it would it be possible to translocate a clutch of Nēnē goslings, right after hatching, and their parents from Hakalau Forest to HVNP? Since Nēnē re-nest near where they hatched, just maybe the goslings would think that HVNP was their home. The adults would at some point find their way back to Hakalau Forest with the fledged goslings. Later the young birds would migrate back to HVNP with their Refuge mates to nest, creating a migratory route between the two places.  It worked! Even today, HVNP Nēnē are seen at Hakalau Forest and refuge Nēnē can be seen at HVNP.   

Throughout my years as wildlife biologist at Hakalau Forest, we had interns during the Nēnē breeding season to help monitor nests, trap predators and help band the fledgling Nēnē when they came of age. My job was to train the interns. 


Early on we had an intern named Kelly Worley. One morning, I was teaching her how to find and check Nēnē nests for eggs. Once a nest was found it was checked every other day to determine when the eggs were laid and when they would hatch. To check nests without disturbing the incubating female too much, we use a 10-foot pole. We approached the nest and would move the end of the pole on the ground towards the nesting female. The female would then stand over the nest, and we would count the eggs. When the pole was moved back, the female would sit back on the eggs undisturbed. One male, banded JP, was particularly aggressive. I told Kelly to always be very careful when checking JP’s mate’s nest. I also told Kelly to watch carefully for JP, and if he was close to the nest, not to check it.  On this day, as we approached the nest, JP was no-where to be seen, so we checked the nest. we started to leave the area, I heard loud flapping wings and knew what was coming. Kelly was in front of me. I ducked and JP flew right over my head and landed on Kelly’s shoulders, beating her with his wings. I was able to remove the bird as Kelly ran as fast as she could. A few minutes later when she was in the clear, crying from fear she exclaimed “I can’t do this!”  Turns out, she did finish out her internship and was one of the best Nēnē interns we had over the years. And for years to come, JP and his mate produced the most goslings of any Nēnē pair. Being aggressive has its benefits. if you’re a Nēnē.

Pretty in a Pot

Marcia Stone

Generally speaking, native Hawaiian plants have not been cultivated for ornamental purposes. But if you have a desire to put a native plant in a pot and enjoy it indoors or on your lanai, you couldn’t do better than to choose ‘ala'ala wai nui or Peperomia. Peperomia is the genus name for an herb with 25 native Hawaiian species.


Peperomia is a mostly small, succulent plant with variations in leaf shape and color. Some are bi-color with a green leaf on top and an under-leaf of red. Another striking feature is the spikes that shoot up from the stem ends. These spikes are covered with flowers so minute you need a magnifying glass to appreciate them. The ripe fruits are easier to see as they are black and easily come off when touched. This makes for easy spreading around the forest floor where it acts as a ground cover. To start this plant on your own forest floor, you can spread some spikes with black seeds on the ground or a rotting log or a mossy rock. 

Another method is to put a pot of Peperomia in a likely spot for a few years and let nature takes its course.

To easily pot Peperomia, use moist, not wet, well-draining potting soil. A clay or cement pot works best. Being a succulent, Peperomia is wet-feet averse. If starting from seed, just lay down a few of those fruiting spikes nestled in the soil and keep in partial shade. If a friend is willing to share, you can take a cutting with a few nodes and nestle those in your potting medium. 

Good luck!

Visit Our Booth at the 2023 Hawai'i Conservation Conference!

If you are planning on attending the Hawai'i Conservation Conference June 27-29th at the Hawai'i Convention Center, please be sure to stop by the booth and say hello!

Purchase Your T-Shirts Here!

Back by popular demand! The Friends of Hakalau Forest T-Shirts are now available using the link above. We have men's, women's, and children's sizes in long and short-sleeved styles.

The Friends of Hakalau is a membership organization. Membership dues and donations to the Friends are our only source of funds allowing us to cover our expenses (for example this newsletter) and to make grants.
Every Wednesday on HPR listen to Manu Minute created by Patrick Hart, member of the Friends since its inception and a board member for multiple terms. Click the button to hear the segments that have already been aired.

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.




   J.B. Friday

Vice President

   Debbie Anderson


   Peter Stine


   Marsha Stone

Members at large

Ken Kupchak

Jane Mayo

Susan Miyasaka

Brett Mossman

Mike Scott  

Rob Shallenberger

Jaime Tanino

Ross Wilson

Chris Yuen


Assistant Treasurer

Cathy Lowder

Volunteer Membership Database Managers

Jane Mayo

Suzy Lauer

Newsletter Editor

Alyssa MacDonald

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