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2013 Awardee

My name is Chelsie Malia Javar-Salas and I am the plant biologist on the Hawaiʻi Island and Maui nui Island Team at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office in Honolulu. I started my career as an intern with the Keaholoa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, and Student Career Experience Program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo in Geography and a Master of Science in Botany with a focus on conservation from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The primary objective of my exchange is to gain a broader understanding of plant conservation techniques and applications used in New Zealand and the Pacific to prevent the extinction of native plants. My mentor is William (Bill) Lee, a conservation ecologist with Landcare Research in Dunedin. I will also be working with Peter Bellingham, a plant ecologist with Landcare Research in Lincoln. We plan to visit the kettlehole bogs, botanic gardens, fenced sanctuaries, conservation nurseries, restoration sites, and other plant conservationists with Landcare Research.

The Pacific Exchange Emerging Professionals (PEEP) program seeks to provide professional development opportunities for the next generation of conservation leaders with the recognition that the global conservation effort has much to gain by enhancing dialogue between similar social, cultural, and political systems. It is HCA’s goal that through peer learning and the exchange of information and experiences, PEEP participants will become part of a larger network of conservation professionals who share resource stewardship concerns across the large, complex biocultural area between Hawai‘i, and the Micronesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian archipelagos.

Chelsie Malia Javar-Salas is a Botanist for the Hawai‘i Island and Maui nui (Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Kaho‘olawe) Island Team at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office in Honolulu. Raised in Nā‘ālehu, Ka‘ū on Hawai‘i island, she began her career in conservation as a Keaholoa STEM program intern at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo followed by another internship with the Research for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Prior to being hired as a biologist at the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, she was an intern in the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP) in their office.

The goal of her exchange was to learn about the rare plant conservation programs in New Zealand. To look more closely at the plant conservation techniques and applications used in New Zealand to prevent native plants from extinction. To comprehend what she learned from this exchange, she compared what she knew about Hawai‘i to what she learned about New Zealand. For example, are there similarities in the threats to plants both in New Zealand and Hawai‘i.

Javar-Salas sought out Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand as possible host agencies because she heard they were the biggest conservation agencies in New Zealand. She selected Landcare Research which is one of seven Crown Research Institutes formed in 1992 and is responsible for conducting research for the management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources.


Her mentor was Dr. William “Bill” Lee at Dunedin’s Landcare Research office. Dr. Lee is an ecologist on the Biodiversity and Conservation Team, who has a broad interest in indigenous plants and factors influencing their form and function. Javar-Salas spent 11 days in Dunedin on the South Island and visited rare plants in the Otago Region.  Her mentor and other’s showed Javar-Salas the tiny, cryptic characteristics of the rare plants in New Zealand. She also visited a coastal dune restoration site on the Otago Peninsula and the Orokonui Ecosanctuary (pest-proof fence) near Waitati.

During the second part of her exchange she spent seven days in Christchurch and Lincoln on the South Island. Her mentor at Lincoln’s Landcare Research Office was Dr. Peter Bellingham an ecologist on the Ecosystems and Global Change Team, who has worked extensively on island ecosystems looking at the interactions between natural disturbances and invasions by nonnative plants and animals. While in Christchurch she toured one of the last remaining stands of native bush in the Canterbury region at Riccarton bush. Approximately 17 acres is protected by a pest-proof fence that was constructed in 2000. The reserve is home to towering native podocarp trees and other native shrubs, vines, and ferns. In addition, the reserve serves as a safe haven to raise juvenile kiwi before releasing them into the wild.

In addition, she visited the Banks Peninsula and saw more cryptic, rare plants of New Zealand. She met up with the manager of Hinewai Reserve at Banks Peninsula, which is owned by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust since 1987. The reserve is fenced and encompasses approximately 3,000 acres. It is open to the public with numerous hiking trails leading to the ocean below to catch a glimpse of the white flippered penguin and stand among an old totara tree (Podocarpus) that is more than 600 years old. Voluntary restoration activities at the reserve include controlling introduced possums and nonnative weeds such as gorse. Hinewai Reserve is an excellent example of how private landowners are taking interest into conservation and sharing in the need to conserve and protect our natural resources.

To see plant conservation in action Javar-Salas visited the Motukarara Conservation Nursery located just outside of Christchurch. The nursery is managed by the Department of Conservation and propagates native and rare plants of the Canterbury Region for restoration purposes. It sells plants to private landowners such as farmers that are interested in planting native plants on their lands. The seeds are locally sourced from the Canterbury Region and carefully recorded to provide buyers with plants that were grown from seed collected near their property. This nursery is one example of techniques used for rare plant conservation in New Zealand.

One of the most memorable experience she recalls is hearing and seeing the reaction of the people in New Zealand when she told them the story of the extinction crisis in Hawai‘i. Many of them were astonished at the sheer number of extinctions in Hawai‘i with more than 110 extinct plants compared to only six extinct plants in New Zealand. Sure New Zealand is much larger than Hawai‘i. But the rate of plant endemism is similar for both New Zealand and Hawai‘i, around 82 percent for New Zealand and 90 percent for Hawai‘i. However, she was told that the number of extinctions in New Zealand should not be taken lightly. They have lost high levels of phylogenetic traits and currently most rare plants are now spatially restricted to unique geological features and climatic conditions.