Hawai'i conservation alliance

Resources Contact Us

2016 Awardees

Mesulame Joshua Tora

Mesu hails from the Fiji Islands and is pursuing graduate studies at Massey University in New Zealand. He grew up learning traditional knowledge from his grandfather who was a farmer in the village and this upbringing has always inspired him on ethnobotany interests with emphasis on the relationship between indigenous people and their crops/plants as well as to their general surroundings.

He has been involved with environmental conservation related engagements since graduating from the University of the South Pacific in 2013, where he joined the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) as their project officer. MES is an active environment society passionately committed to protecting the stunning marine and terrestrial environment of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji where a major component of their work was promoting turtle conservation and replanting of important native tree species on some of the major islands of the Mamanucas. In 2014, after attending the 55th and 37th annual joint conference meeting of the Society for Economy Botany and Society of Ethnobiology in Cherokee, North Carolina, he was determined to further his search for the greater aspects of TEK and the relationship it has on traditional crops and cropping systems of the Pacific cultures. Upon his return, he worked as a research assistant with Dr. Tamara Ticktin from the University of Hawai’i (UH) at Manoa in understanding the links between local ecological knowledge, ecosystems service and community resilience and was also involved with Dr. Ryan Huish from Hollins University concentrating on community mediated sandalwood conservation – both projects carried out in Fiji. Now at Massey University, he is currently working as a Junior Research Assistant on a project focusing on germplasm material collection of indigenous crops in the Maori community where they are looking at developing protocols for collection methods.

His area of interest is potentially drawn around germplasm material collection focussing on indigenous communities, their different traditional crops and cropping systems. With the HCA PEEP exchange program to Hawai’i, Mesu will be hosted and will be working together with his mentors; Dr. Carl Evenson (Interim Director of Lyon Arboretum), Mrs. Nellie Sugii (Conservation Lab Manager), and Dr. Marian Chau the Seed Conservation Laboratory Manager under the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program at the Lyon Arboretum. He will also work with Dr. Jay Bost from GoFarm Hawai’i where he will visit experiment stations at Wainamalo and Poamoho and the Malokai Research Farm. He will be visiting farming communities and learning advanced technical skills from his expert mentors on sites. He will use this exchange opportunity to understand the different types of seed conservation, germplasm material collection methods and the relationship of these practices around different cultures in the Pacific specifically relating Hawai’i, New Zealand and his native island of Fiji.

With issues of climate change thriving today, many communities are suffering and in some cases the old traditional way of storing germplasm materials for seeds for the next planting season are faced with severe difficulties. This exchange will assist Mesu in finding ways of marrying modern methods of collections with traditional practices for advancement in germplasm material management and preservation of important crop cultivars for food security of the future Pacific generation.

Emily Leucht

Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaiʻi, Emily Leucht currently works as an education associate for ʻImi Pono no ka ʻĀina (ʻImi Pono), the education and outreach program for Three Mountain Alliance watershed partnership. She received a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and a BA from the University of San Francisco. She shifted her career path from design to environmental education after becoming a team leader for Hawaiʻi Youth Conservation Core in 2009. She began working with ʻImi Pono in 2010, where she translates new experiences and knowledge into creative environmental education tools and programs.  Examples include rainforest and reef “Watershed Friend” masks and an ʻōhiʻa lehua anatomy and pheonology activity. In 2012 Emily began coordinating the annual Hawaiʻi Nei Art Contest.  This role positions her as a leader to build and cultivate natural resource stewardship through the arts.  Both in personal and professional settings, Emily strives to combine her two passions, creativity and the natural world, into a tool that can connect our human communities to the native environments on which we are so dependent.