The 'Ōhi'a Challenge application deadline is less than 2 weeks away!


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The Ōhiʻa Challenge: Solutions to Detect Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death before it kills & spreads

We are less than 2 weeks from the application deadline for the ‘Ōhi’a Challenge!!

Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death (ROD) is wiping out ‘ōhi’a trees on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and now Kaua’i. Two newly discovered invasive fungi, Ceratocystis huliohia and Ceratocystis lukuohia, are responsible for ROD. Since 2014 when first identified, the fungi have infected thousands of acres of forest and, if unstopped, could irreversibly change Hawai‘i’s ecosystems and culture by eliminating the beloved ʻōhi‘a tree. These newly discovered invasive fungi are just two examples of the broader problem of fungal pathogens affecting plants and animals alike. Invasive fungal pathogens are responsible for a number of diseases killing native animal species such as frogs (i.e. chytrid) and bats (i.e. white nose syndrome) in addition to a number of plant species that are important food sources (i.e. wilt, rot, and blight).

Unfortunately, we do not yet possess the means to detect the invasive fungi before it’s too late for the ʻōhi‘a – by the time we can detect the infection, the tree is already dead. The ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge seeks solutions and tools to identify infected trees early enough to minimize the spread, with the ultimate goal of saving this iconic tree.

As part of our effort to galvanize technology development to address this critical problem in Hawai’i, we want to reach diverse innovators from all backgrounds and sectors that have the potential to create new solutions to this threat.

The needs are known: identify trees that have been infected with the Ceratocystis huliohia and Ceratocystis lukuohia fungi before they die, and prevent the spread of the fungi and the infection of new trees. While the end goal is to develop a treatment for infected trees and ultimately eliminate the pathogen in Hawai‘i’s forests, this first step of identifying infection is crucial and therefore the focus of The ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge.

Our goal in this Challenge is to use the best of human ingenuity to identify technological solutions that can save part of Hawaiʻi’s beauty. This is why we look to engage innovative thinkers within other advanced technology fields through this Challenge. Although The ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge is focused specifically in Hawaii on one tree species, the potential solution we uncover through the Challenge could be applied to a number of other invasive fungi-related diseases.

Applicants have the potential to win up to $70,000 in the ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge! The application period is open until April 8, 2019. Visit https://www.savetheohia.org/ for more information and contact ohia@conservationxlabs.org with your questions.