Advanced to candidacy, Jon Wells: congrats!

Congratulations to Jon Wells for advancing to his Ph.D. candidacy this spring.  Jon successfully defended his proposal “Understanding carbon in large-scale agricultural production systems for bioenergy in the tropics: selecting soils, feedstocks, and conversion pathways” and will continue his soil, plant biopolymer, energy, and carbon investigations towards the completion of his degree.

Return to pristine wetlands

Getting back to my academic origin this week, I found myself in one of the remaining pristine environments in Hawaii – Pepeopae on the island of Molokai.  Pepeopae is a mountain top wetland protected within the Kamakou Preserve by The Nature Conservancy.  Aside from a stray “naughty deer” this week, the wetland is ungulate and invasive plant species free.  This magical place resembles wetlands worldwide from the United Kingdom to Svalbard – commonalities exist in the form and function of plant communities and sensory experience of the wet ground, cool humid air, and color palette. Why is this wetland here, why doesn’t the water drain down the mountainous terrain?  A clay layer exists in the bottom of the peat, is it a buried spodic horizon or a shrink-swell clay layer that swelled and never shrank under a suddenly wetter climate 14,000 years ago?


Proposal Defended

From machete to soil pit to thesis proposal, congratulations to Casey McGrath for her successful defense of her proposal to conduct a Deep Soil Warming Experiment in Andisols at the Lyon Arboretum in Manoa.

CTAHR Student Research winner

Congratulations to Ph.D. student Jon Wells for his recognition as the NREM Best PhD Student Oral Presentation on “Differential effects of lignin chemistry on conversion”.  Jon wrote that ‘”Global interest in renewable fuels is rapidly growing as the need for local and sustainable energy increases. In Hawaiʻi, local energy growth and creating new energy sources, specifically liquid fuels, are of high priority.  To this end, the structural properties of 12 potential biomass feedstock grasses were investigated to facilitate feedstock crop choice for two bioenergy conversion pathways: 1) anaerobic digestion (AD), and 2) hot water pretreatment followed by enzyme hydrolysis (HWP).”  He concluded “Selecting more readily convertible crops, with favorable lignin chemistry, could lead to an improvement of conversion efficiency by 2-5% and may prove to be a simple and effective way to select and screen feedstocks to improve the outlook of bioenergy production in the state.”  Jon also presented this work last year at the 25th Annual EUBCE 2017 conference.

Congratulations Annika!

image1Annika Little received her B.S. in NREM in December, thank you for your dedication to your work in the Crow Lab over the years.  From internship to independent research and writing intensive course work, it was fantastic to see the outcome of Annika’s hard work and research results all the way from inception to completion.  Enjoy the post-graduation down time and best wishes in all your future endeavors.

Aloha Steven!


Best wishes to Steven Leone on his new adventures in Colorado.  Thank you for your dedication to the machete, web site, and novel sensor network for the deep soil warming project.  A hui hou!

How can we make biofuels more climate friendly?

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 12.19.00 PMAsks the Science Journal for Kids, on our behalf.  This amazing outreach resource just completed the transformation of the thesis work of Meghan Pawlowski (Lind), first published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.  Using the high school AP Environmental Science curriculum as their guide, this team translated our tech talk into an accessible format ready for teachers and students! Here is the link to our paper, check it out!