Graduate student film on climate-smart agriculture

Manager Climate Corps graduate Joanna Norton and her team released a short film in July 2019, offering a 6-minute overview of their work on completing their co-produced research project through UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program. Watch the embedded video below or on YouTube via the product button to the right.

In her project, farmers, invasive species experts, and researchers worked together to develop and test a climate-smart agriculture method of compost application utilizing an invasive species: albizia (Falcataria moluccana). Joanna’s research was co-led by Springer Kaye (Big Island Invasive Species Committee), Becky Ostertag (UH Hilo, Biology), Flint Hughes (Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry ecologist), and Bruce Mathews (UH Hilo, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management).

The team worked to address climate change mitigation and Hawaiʻi’s contemporary lack of food sustainability which is a subject of much concern locally, both because of the under-utilization of available land for agriculture and the vulnerability that dependence on long-distance shipping brings to the food supply through climate change impacts.

Additionally, albizia is a public safety concern and drives ecological disruption, particularly on Hawaiʻi Island. With their massive canopies, treefall during Tropical Storm Iselle in 2014 generated over $10 million in damage and left many households in Puna without utility services for weeks. Albizia also displaces native forest and deposits large amounts of carbon and nitrogen into soils, which drive further invasion.

This project investigated whether albizia can replace chemical fertilizer and store carbon in agricultural lands in East Hawaiʻi. A key finding of the research is that in a cassava trial (Manihot esculenta), the albizia compost produced equal yields to the chemical fertilizer and had similar costs, emissions, and carbon storage. Congratulations Joanna!

MCC student Joanna Norton planting corn in field, surrounded by tall grasses and tall invasive albizia trees nearby.
Graduate student Joanna Norton planting corn at her research site in East Hawaiʻi. An invasive albizia canopy is visible in the background. Photo Credit: Norton.




Joanna Norton
Tropical Conservation Biology & Environmental Science, UH Hilo
Rebecca Ostertag
Professor of Biology, UH Hilo
Springer Kaye
Program Manager, Big Island Invasive Species Committee
Flint Hughes
Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, US Forest Service
Bruce Matthews
Professor of Soil Science, UH Hilo