Exploration of seed dispersal through invasive species on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i
Hawaii is one of the world’s most novel ecosystems, home to some of the highest rates of species turnover recorded. Many fruiting plants in this environment are reliant on birds for seed dispersal, to ensure that the offspring of the plants are not competing with the parent plants for resources. As many native bird species have gone extinct, these native plants have lost their natural seed dispersers. However, invasive bird species have been introduced by humans and, in recent research, some of these bird species have been shown to disperse native fruits. These invasive birds, as well as native birds, however, have also been shown distributing seeds of invasive plants, which then compete with these native, endangered plant species. Further research is currently being conducted by the Hawaii VINE (Vertebrate Introductions and Novel Ecosystems) Project, a multi-university effort to understand these changes induced by extinctions and invasions, including professors and PhD students from the University of Wyoming.
As a member of the Tarwater-Kelley Lab since my freshman year, I have grown familiar with this system, and the researchers studying it, through lab technician work on this project, lab meetings, and attending numerous academic talks on this topic. I have been fascinated by the complexity of this system and the impacts it might have on conservation. For my project, I propose to explore these current, as well as historic, matches and mismatches of native and invasive bird and plant species in an artistic way. I have created a series of drawings to be gifted to the Hawaii VINE Project, to help educate the general public on the current research that is occurring.