The “Ohia Challenge,” an open challenge inviting the community to help save Hawaii’s iconic tree, is officially on this fall.
The competition, launched by the U.S. Department of the Interior in partnership with Conservation X Labs in Washington, D.C. today, invites the global science, entrepreneurship and technology communities to submit ideas for tackling rapid ohia death, the fungal blight decimating hundreds of thousands of native ohia lehua trees in Hawaii.
“When invasive species reach our shores, they care little for whether the lands are federal, state, local, or private,” said Scott J. Cameron, U.S. Department of the Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget, in a news release. “Cooperation and innovation are needed when confronting the issue of invasive species and the Ohia Challenge is a step forward in addressing that need. We must be good neighbors and seek ways to solve this problem together.”
The Department of the Interior has provided a starting seed purse of $75,000, and Conservation X Labs is seeking additional sponsors and partners to increase that amount, as well as to help promote the challenge among other communities.
Conservation X Labs hosts the Digital Makerspace, described as “a platform where science, entrepreneurship, and technology communities come together to start projects and co-create tech-enabled solutions to conservation problems.” A number of challenges are listed on the platform, along with an ideas bin.
Two invasive fungi — Ceratocystis huliohia and Ceratocystis lukuohia — are responsible for rapid ohia death. Since 2014, the fungi have infected thousands of acres of forest and if unstopped, could irreversibly change Hawaii’s ecosystems and culture.
Some needed solutions include ways to identify infected trees early, minimize the spread of the fungi and prevent the infection of new trees. The ultimate goal is to develop a treatment for infected trees and eliminate the pathogens to save Hawaii’s iconic tree.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge and the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) Secretariat are also part of the partnership with Conservation X Labs for the challenge.
More details, including deadlines for projects, will be revealed in coming weeks. Those who are interested can sign up at SavetheOhia.org.