Hawai'i conservation alliance

2007 HCA Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Isabella Abbott

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

The 2007 HCA Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Isabella Abbott for her more than 60 years of research, publications, and mentorship on limu and ethonobotany. The award honors exceptional service, personal effort and unselfish interest, embodying long-term dedication and tenacity in environmental conservation for the Hawaiian Islands.

Dr. Abbott has received many accolades over her 88 years. In 2005 she was a recipient of the Living Treasures of Hawai‘i award, and the David Marlo award amongst many others.

This wonderful researcher and author of more than 150 scientific papers and eight books is regarded as on of the world’s foremost experts on marine algae, or limu, in the Pacific region.

Dr. Abbott was born in Hana, Maui. She attended Kamehameha School for Girls. Abbott achieved many notable firsts. She was the first Native Hawaiian to earn a doctorate, the first woman faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. She has been a University of Hawai‘i professor for more than 21 years.

Her plant knowledge has played a key role in the revival of Hawaiian culture through her ethnobotanical publications, television and movies appearances, such as in Edgy Lee’s “The Hawaiians – Reflecting Spirit”. Dr. Abbott is keenly interested the protection of traditional plants and perpetuation of ancient knowledge about their cultivation and use.

Dr. Abbott is a commissioner for Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission working for the revitalization and revegetation of Kaho‘olawe. This has lead to the continuing restoration of plant life on the island since its demilitarization and partial clearing of unexploded munitions in the 1990s.

After 60 years she still is an active researcher at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and can be found there virtually six days a week. She is an active participant in marine issues with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Agriculture, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program and Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the State Legislature, and Bishop Museum, where she serves on the board of directors.