16 Jun The Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry
Based out of Hilo, Hawaii you can find a well-managed facility that is home to some of those who are known to be caretakers of some of the most beautiful forests on Hawaii Island. Ideally, there would be more hustle and bustle here but covid has put a filter on not only our faces but on the number of individuals who can be in the office or at the facility at a given time. So… it’s been fairly slow-paced and reminiscent of an old Hawaii, a time where there was not much of a human population and everything was done with a leisurely tone. Stress-inducing time crunches, coffee-sodden coworkers, or unobtainable deadlines are not the daily topic or common mindset around here. Most who are in the office walk with a lite step and smiling eyes that let people know they are having a great start to their day.
There is an interesting dynamic here between the forest service and worksites as there are no National Forests besides those lands owned by the National Park Service and most of the Forested lands are managed by the state, nonprofits, or can be found on private property which can be tricky gaining access to. That being the case there will be a lot of community engagement as well as a fair share of time spent communicating with other organizations before being able to enter a forest.
Most of the native forest ranges are found in higher elevation areas which include the Ohia tree and the koa tree as dominant tree species. The ohia is a member of the myrtle family and the koa tree is a member of the Acacia family. Ohia is a pioneer species that has an amazing elevation range spanning from sea level all the way up the mountain slopes at about 7150′-8500′. This tree species is a big part of the watersheds here and are also very important culturally. The Koa tree is also a very important tree. Its can grow from sea level to over 2000 though it has a sweet spot ranging from 1000m to 2000m where the densest populations on this island can be found. The state forest reserves are scattered across the island which include these native forest types. Lowland forests consisit of a mixture of native and non native plant species which definitely adds diversity but could also mean highly invasive plant species have found thier way into the mix.
From the office that is filled with smiling faces to the varying forest types of the island i find that this is where i want to be. Communicating with the community, old Hawaii vibes, walking among the native plants, and trudging through the thickets of invasive plants leave me feeling excited for the job ahead.