An award has been made to the University of Hawaii under the direction of Dr. Alison Sherwood to conduct a biological inventory of the freshwater algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Dr. Patrick Kociolek of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Dr. Jeffrey Johansen of John Carroll University are collaborators on the research. This project will produce the first comprehensive, well-illustrated freshwater algal flora of a tropical region for anywhere in the world. The principal freshwater habitats of the main Hawaiian Islands will be surveyed and collections will be identified using morphological and molecular analyses. The objectives are to 1) establish long-term archived collections of Hawaiian freshwater algae morphological and genetic studies, 2) make all data available through a project database and website, and 3) describe newly discovered freshwater algal taxa from the Hawaiian Islands. This project blends traditional taxonomy with bioinformatic analysis and data display. The survey brings together a top-tier team of algal taxonomists, all of whom have previous experience with the Hawaiian algal flora, to collect, document and describe the freshwater algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Work will be coordinated through the University of Hawaii and will bring together researchers from four different institutions and enhance partnerships with multiple agencies.

Five graduate students, five undergraduate students and a postdoctoral fellow will be trained in algal surveying and culturing techniques, morphological identification of freshwater algae and molecular methods. Pacific Islander undergraduate students will be hosted through research internships each of three summers through the University of Hawaii?s Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology program. A year-round undergraduate research internship for a Native Hawaiian student will be hosted at the University of Hawaii. A family program of stream exploration through the Hawaii Nature Center will be offered each summer, aimed at middle school students. Surveys in taro fields will foster communication between the researchers and farmers from the Native Hawaiian community. In addition, the results of the proposed surveys will be made available to the scientific community and beyond through the establishment of: 1) the online Hawaiian Freshwater Algal Database, and 2) a website providing summary data for species.

Project Report

. University of Colorado, Boulder. 02/17/2009-1/31/2012 $305,988.00. " With our collaborators at John Carroll University (Dr. Jeff Johansen) and at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, (Dr. Alison Sherwood), we organized and carried out 6 expeditions to Hawaii. Every island, except Nihau, of the archipelago was visited. The teams involved in the fieldwork included the PI’s, graduate students, graduate and undergraduate students as well as volunteers. Our questions were what freshwater algae live on these oceanic islands, are they unique to the islands and where did they arrive from? This is important to understand how the freshwater ecosystems of Hawaii are structured, since algae are the base of the food chain in these environments. In toto, over 1250 diatom samples were taken in the three years of the grant, to review and be processed for diatoms. Information from these collections (date, geographic, ecological and any taxonomic information gained from the field) has been databased. From these samples over 5000 permanent microscopes slides were prepared, and reside at the Kociolek Collection of the University of Colorado. This represents the most extensive collections of freshwater diatoms from Hawaii ever made. Our initial and on-going work has been to assess the diversity of diatoms present at the level of genus, to focus on several genera for taxonomic work, work in some specific habitats, and to begin to assess where possible geographic sources of the flora have come. Our analysis at the level of genus show there are over 70 genera of diatoms present in the freshwaters of the Hawaiian Islands. This is compared to a total of only 103 genera present in the freshwater flora of North America, as compiled in the Freshwater Algae of North America (of which both Lowe and Kociolek were authors of 3 of the 5 treatments on diatoms). Missing from the Hawaiian flora are many genera commonly found as plankters, a habitat that is not common in Hawaii due to its topography. There is at least one genus found in Hawaii that is not found on the mainland, Diprora Main, and it occurs in abundance in caves, especially on the island of Kauai. Our observations suggest that the freshwater diatom flora of Hawaii has its origins from 3 or 4 different places. The majority of the endemics we have described (with holotypes being deposited at the Bishop Museum of Natural History in Honolulu) have sister taxa found in the New World, primarily in South America. A second origin for the freshwater diatoms of Hawaii comes from Oceania and a third comes from S.E. Asia. These conclusions, however, are based on a few taxa, and there is still significant work to do on this topic. It will take much more time to fully document the entire freshwater diatom flora of Hawaii, and to pursue identifying connections with these areas. A final source of the freshwater diatoms in Hawaii has come from invasions from the marine realm. While the number of genera is impressive for the relative size of Hawaii compared to North America, the number of species present in Hawaii will be found to be modest. We continue to investigate this phenomenon. The species-level work will take several additional years, as the comparative literature must include Asia, the Americas, Oceania and even marine diatoms. Currently, based on research funded in this grant, 7 papers have been published or accepted for publication, and 2 others have been submitted from our work on the freshwater diatoms of Hawaii. 7 of these 9 papers include students as senior or junior authors. We made presentations based on our funded research at national meetings in the USA (North American Diatom Symposium, Phycological Society of America), Brazil (XIV Congresso Brasileiro de Ficologia, Joåo Pessoa, Brasil), and international congresses (International Diatom Symposium, Central European Diatomists meeting; Russian Diatom School). Presentations were given at institutions of higher learning in the USA (e.g. University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan) China (Shanghai Normal University, Xiamen University, Harbin Normal University) and at other research institutes (Academy of Natural Sciences, NEON Inc.). Overall we involved 2 Master’s students, 1 Ph.D. student and 6 undergraduate researchers in the project. One Master’s degree was earned through this project, and one of the undergraduates went on to graduate school, and two of the students presented their results at a national meeting. There were no major challenges to implementing this grant.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Simon Malcomber
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University of Colorado at Boulder
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