The History of the Department at UH Mānoa

Spring 2017 Interviews with persons with long association with the dept.

1. Describe the history of your relationship to the Botany Department at UH Mānoa. I joined the Botany Department in the summer of 1975, as an Assistant Professor, filling the vacancy in systematics created by the departure of Bill Theobald when he left to assume the directorship of National Tropical Botanical Garden. I had been interviewed for the Hawaii position while still at UC-Davis, by Noel (Ned) Kefford, who was Chair of the UH Botany Department at the time. Having survived (barely) my first year teaching 4 courses for the first time and just turning in grades for my Spring 1976 courses, I proceeded up Ohikilolo ridge in quest of specimens of a then little known undescribed species of Dubautia. Fortunately, I was in the company of John Obata, who knew the trail and the location where the target occurred. The first chapter of this story ends at 8 p.m. with my delivery by helicopter (my first such ride) to the hospital with my femur cleanly separated at midpoint. Later that year, in December, I delivered my presidential address to the Hawaiian Botanical Society entitled “OHIKILOLO OR BUST: The true story of how a biosystematist fell for Hawaii.” The next spring I returned to Ohikilolo and collected the specimens needed to describe the species. Ultimately, it was published in PACIFIC SCIENCE as Dubautia herbstobatae in 1979, commemorating two prominent Hawaiian botanists, Derral Herbst, who first called the species to my attention, and John Obata, who also knew about the and quite literally is largely responsible for me surviving beyond my first year in Hawaii (or anywhere). As the plant systematist in the Botany Department, I assumed responsibility for instruction in that area and also served as Director of the (HAW) from 1975-2004. With the help of Intramural Research awards and a series of NSF grants I established an active research program centered on the Silversword Alliance, gained tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1981, and to Professor in 1986. The Silversword Alliance research attracted considerable attention and has been featured in two BBC films, a Television New Zealand production, and a number of texts, including “boxed essays” in “Raven Biology of Plants” and “Mader Biology 5/e”. International interest in the “Silversword story” resulted in my invited participation in the Jacques Monod Conference on “Mechanisms of Speciation” sponsored by CNRS and held at Aussois, France June 21-25, 1993. NSF grants over the years helped in some measure to support 8 graduate students that I mentored during my tenure in the Botany Department. During the years 1980-1988, I served several 1-3 month stints as Acting Chair and when Sanford Siegel passed away, I was asked to step in as Chair by Dean Patrick Flanagan. This appointment was from November1990 to July 1994, at which time Sterling Keeley was appointed Chair. Again in 2001, I was asked to serve as Chair until just prior to retirement in 2005. Having served as Chair of the Department for a total of about 8 ½ years, I was closely involved with the hiring of several faculty and staff, and provided recommendations regarding contract renewals and tenure and promotion actions in many more instances. I served on the board of editors for PACIFIC SCIENCE from 1985-2004 and assumed the duties of Editor-in-Chief in 1999, upon Alison Kay’s retirement. In 2004, I was able to persuade Curt Daehler to take over as Editor-in-Chief. I served as Chair of the Graduate Field of Botanical Sciences from 1987-1994 and as undergraduate advisor from 1997-2005. I was also appointed Acting Director of Lyon Arboretum during a period of administrative conflict in that unit during May and June, 2004. I retired in August of 2005, and in 2006, was granted Professor Emeritus status.

2. Describe what the Botany Department was like when you first became associated with it. At the time I joined the Botany Department, existing faculty had been listed under both the College of Arts & Sciences (Botany Dept.) and Tropical Agriculture ( Dept.). Some of the positions were still being sorted out of the Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station and were referred to as Botany-HAES. My position, wholly within A & S, was a 9 month appointment. At least some of the senior faculty had 11 month appointments with some portion of funding of their positions from each of the two colleges. This obviously was good for the senior folks as they received extra salary and support, but more than one junior faculty hired after me with split appointments faced scrutiny by two diverging units with potentially different expectations when it came to personnel matters, especially tenure and promotion. Eventually, positions became consolidated and this “double jeopardy” was eliminated as the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources materialized and matured. However, for several years the graduate program of CTAHR remained under the umbrella of Botany A & S and was known as the Graduate Program in Botanical Sciences. As I first knew it, the faculty of the Botany Department consisted of Professors Ned Kefford (Chair), Bruce Cooil. Max Doty, Doug Friend, Charley Lamoureux, Dieter Mueller-Dombois, Sandy Siegel; Associate Professors Ed Putman, Cliff Smith; and Instructor Ruth Gay. Kim Bridges was also in the Department but on soft money as he did not occupy a faculty position at the time. The Department ran smoothly with the assistance of a very capable trio of support staff: Harriet Matsumoto, Gerry Ochikubo, and Dora Tsuha.

3. Who were your key mentors in Botany? How did they influence you? Charley Lamoureux and Cliff Smith were my key mentors. Charley had been in the Department longer than perhaps anyone else and was a very stabilizing influence. I have a photo of him dangling me over the precipice of a pit crater on the Big Island as I was collecting a research specimen growing on the inner face of the cliff. I guess you could say I trusted him not only with my career but also my life. Cliff Smith was also very supportive as a close friend, confidant, and frequent lunch companion.

4. Who are some major figures in Botany in Hawaii? How would you describe the importance and contribution of these individuals? Do you have any stories to share about these individuals? Historically, Joseph Rock, Otto Degener, and Harold St. John were very influential in the development of systematic botany in Hawaii. Joseph Rock published important early treatments of Hawaiian plants, including books on Legumes and Hawaiian Lobeliaceae and is also responsible for the existence of a number of very interesting still surviving on campus. I had the pleasure of meeting and receiving correspondence from Degener in the 1970’s. He published an early of Hawaii in an interesting piecemeal fashion; the front side of each printed page comprised the description of a single species while the backside provided the corresponding illustration. Upon completion of a suitable grouping of species, the pages were assembled into a fascicle for distribution. At certain “milestones” fascicles were bundled into “volumes” for distribution. One story suggests that pages were assembled into fascicles and fascicles into volumes by guests at wine parties where stacks of each page or fascicle were arrayed around a long table and each guest marched around the table picking up a page (or fascicle) from each stack. This may account for the frequent observation that no two copies of a particular volume can be trusted to have all of the intended pages or have them all in the same order. Regardless, the information presented in Degener’s flora is quite valuable and the illustrations provided are among the best available for many Hawaiian plant species. I first became aware of Harold St. John while I was still in High School, and later as an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University where his FLORA OF SOUTHEASTERN WASHINGTON was used in my fist formal class. After joining the Botany faculty in Hawaii I had numerous occasions to interact directly with him up to the time of his passing at age 99. Professor St. John had been Chair of the Botany Department, retiring from UHM in 1950 to spend the remainder of his life working on plant revisions at the Bishop Museum. On one of my visits to the museum in 1980 I was surprised when he showed me specimens of what he thought might be two new species of Dubautia and invited me to coauthor their publication. He generally was very competitive when it came to publishing papers. Especially in his later years, St. John became somewhat of a taxonomic “splitter” and gave the folks at the museum considerable grief by publishing a flurry of new names and combinations while they were trying to finalize treatments for the Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii. In terms of productivity and acclamation, there is no doubt that Izzie Abbott (briefly mentioned elsewhere) deserves recognition as a major figure in Hawaiian botany. Despite the fact that much of her work was performed at Stanford, her origins were in Hawaii, she worked extensively on Hawaiian organisms, and she returned to Hawaii, not only to salvage Hawaiian , but to continue authoritative algal research in her final years.

5. Who taught you about the native Hawaiian flora (including canoe plants, marine plants)? I spent the first couple of years in Hawaii hiking on weekends with John Obata, Derral Herbst, and Dan Palmer. All three were very knowledgeable of the flora of Hawaii and years later Derral coauthored the MANUAL OF THE FLOWERING PLANTS OF HAWAII. John was a junior high biology teacher and learned the plants in the field and through interaction with Harold St. John. He also knew all of the trails in the Waianae and had the connections to access them. Derral had gotten his PhD with Charley Lamoureux, and later worked as point man for issues relating to rare and endangered plants, first for the Army Corps of Engineers, then with the USFWS. Dan Palmer was a physician who became very knowledgeable of the Hawaii flora and in retirement wrote the first manual of Hawaiian , having had many interactions in the laboratory and field with world renowned pteridologist William H. (Herb) Wagner. My research frequently took me to Maui and the Big Island where my knowledge of Hawaiian plants benefitted greatly from life-long Hawaii residents and graduate students Lani Stemmermann, Jim Jacobi, and Rick Warshauer. On one occasion, Lani led me and Alain Meyrat, one of my graduate students, on a 3 day trek into the remote reaches of the Upper Hana Rainforest, an experience that only briefly dampened my enthusiasm for Hawaiian botany.

6. What were/are some of your favorite plants that grow in Hawai‘i and why? Not surprisingly, I would have to say the complex of the three genera, Argyroxiphium, Dubautia, and Wilkesia, that collectively make up what is often referred to as the “Hawaiian Tarweeds” or “Hawaiian Silversword Alliance” is at the top of my list. This group was the primary focus of my research during the 30 years I was associated with the Botany Department at UH. I was fortunate to have attracted several extremely capable researchers and graduate students to join me in this research, for example, Bruce Bohm and Bill Crins (chemistry), Rob Robichaux (ecophysiology), Bruce Baldwin (molecular systematics), and Don Kyhos (cytogenetics). Among graduate students, Marti Witter (isozyme studies), In Sun Kim (anatomy), Alain Meyrat (morphometrics) and Libby Powel (breeding systems) made significant contributions. As a result of these collective efforts, the Hawaiian Silversword Alliance, comprising monocarpic rosette plants, trees, , and a has oft been touted as one of the most thoroughly studied and spectacular examples of adaptive radiation among plants. The group in Hawaii has been demonstrated to be monophyletic and has been linked to North American plants by molecular analyses, cytogenetic data, and hybridization. In addition, the silversword itself is a very striking plant in a striking environment that is well known in Hawaii, and is often sought out by tourists visiting the Islands. In keeping with my interest in speciation and adaptive radiation, and for sheer beauty, the endemic Campanulaceae are also among my favorite Hawaiian plants. I became intrigued with Lipochaeta in about 1977 when I learned that it included two groups of species with different chromosome numbers, now recognized as Lipochaeta (n=26) and Melanthera (n=15). I encouraged my first PhD student, Elisabeth Rabakonandrianina, to investigate this situation and she launched a biosystematic study incorporating hybridization and cytogenetics that elucidated the relationships between these two species groups in a remarkable program that she completed in just three years. This, after arriving in the US from Madagascar on an AFGRAD fellowship speaking no English only 4 months prior to her arrival in Hawaii. It undoubtedly helped that she was very motivated and already fluent in Malagasy, French, and German. Among other revelations, Elisabeth’s doctoral research indicated that what had previously been considered a single Hawaiian endemic genus actually was very likely the result of two separate introductions of apparent wedelioid ancestry. Though I did not fully appreciate it at the time, in retrospect I view her accomplishments over her short time in the Botany Department among the most impressive of all of the graduate students I observed during my time at UHM. That must be at least in part why Lipochaeta ranks among my favorite plants in Hawaii.

7. Describe the origin or any stories associated with the trees planted on the UH Mānoa campus. Stories about trees planted on campus may be found in a series of brochures (University Relations-Media & Publications) outlining a self- guided campus walk. I updated and expanded the brochure twice (1991, 1996) during my time on campus. I also mapped nearly all of the trees and shrubs on campus prior to my departure. Images and many additional facts, uses, and legends regarding campus plants can be found on my website: In 2003 Ned Weldon (Electrical Engineering) approached me with an interest in donating money to update/replace, and add labels to Campus trees. We selected candidate trees and I designed labels for them which he ordered and payed for. We installed some of them together, and my wife, Bobbie, and I took care of the rest. In all, about 135 trees sported new labels as a result of Ned’s interest and generosity.

8. Describe your current involvement with the Botany Department. I continue to serve the UH community through maintenance of instructional and research web materials in the area of systematics on a UH server via long distance FTP from Corvallis, OR.

9. Describe your current botanical or ethnobotanical work. I have held a Courtesy Appointment in the Department of Botany and at Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, since leaving Hawaii in 2005. Over this period of time my botanical activities have included volunteer work in conservation botany, interaction and collaboration with faculty and graduate students, consultation on cytogenetic research, and writing generic treatments for the Oregon Flora Project (Vols. 2 & 3 in progress). Throughout my period of “retirement” I have also been traveling extensively around Oregon in order to acquire multiple high resolution (mostly macro) images of each new plant species that I encounter. To date I have posted 27,042 images of 2,722 Oregon species. As with other materials I maintain at UH, this collection provides a basis for understanding plant relationships and plant family concepts and other systematic principles. In addition, these images serve as exemplars of species found in Oregon and elsewhere in the Pacific States and beyond (including several found in Hawaii). They are also posted on the image gallery of the Oregon Flora Project and have provided the majority of images used in the Oregon Wildflowers App. Images relevant to Washington also appear in the Image Gallery of University of Washington herbarium (WTU). My images are widely used in systematic instruction, conservation and management efforts, ecological studies, floristic documentation, magazines, brochures, textbooks, and by the general public.

10. What value has the Botany dept. added to your life? See #11.

11. What has been the role (if any) of the Botany department in shaping your life trajectory? I met Barbara (Bobbie) Myers (IBP student helper) on the 5th floor of St. John Plant Science Laboratory. We were married on Hawaii Statehood day in 1977 at the Manoa Valley Waioli Chapel, with several folks from the Botany Department in attendance. Happily, my life trajectory is still being shaped by that event.

12. What do you see as the main values or contributions of the Botany Department to Hawaii and/or the country more broadly? Do you have any stories or anecdotes to describe this? We owe our initial as well as our continued life on earth to plants. Much of the instruction and research in the Botany Department has focused on the characteristics of plants that make them unique among living organisms. Other efforts have focused on how plants interact with each other and with other organisms, sometimes predators, including humans, who often seek to gain some benefit from plants, be it as food, medicine, shelter, or other sustaining quality. Still other efforts have sought to gain understanding of how plants reached the barren lava of Hawaii and subsequently evolved, filling diversified habitats of mature islands with myriad forms often unknown in their continental ancestors. Because of their mode of origin and location remote from continental land masses, the Hawaiian Islands offer unique opportunities to address fundamental questions regarding biological and ethnological issues such as might arise out of the studies referred to above. Information from such studies has addressed issues of practical importance to Hawaii, e.g., Ohia dieback (Dieter Mueller-Dombois and students), and biological control of invasive species. More esoteric studies addressing evolution and/or adaptive radiation of plants that colonized Hawaii are relevant to Hawaiian natural history and at the same time provide greater understanding of the processes involved that are of interest to those who study such phenomena. Instruction and research in Hawaiian Ethnobotany by the Botany Department is of obvious relevance to the Hawaiian community.

13. What value do you see has been provided by the Ethnobotany Program? See # 12,14.

14. What has been the relationship of Ethnobotany to the rest of the Botany Department over time? (prompt for stories, anecdotes) Hawaiian Ethnobotany has long been a popular instructional offering in the Botany program. Prior to my arrival in Hawaii, Beatrice Krauss, a retiree of the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association who had such great enthusiasm for the subject that she offered it on a voluntary basis, was filling multiple sections of the course on a regular basis. It had been suggested to me that one factor increasing the popularity of the course was that it had a reputation as an “easy A.” Hawaiian Ethnobotany, much to my chagrin, having no previous background in either Hawaii or Ethnobotany, was one of two courses assigned to me in my first semester at UH. It was trial by fire for me and somewhat of a shock for most of the 220 students enrolled in the class who were expecting less botany and more experienced “talk story” about Hawaiian plants. Needless to say, although I survived, I emerged a bit scorched around the edges. Fortunately, the way was paved to have Izzy Abbott join the faculty and she provided enthusiastic and competent subsequent offerings of Hawaiian Ethnobotany while she continued her authoritative and celebrated research in as the Wilder Chair in Botany. As time went on, faculty were hired to cover a broader spectrum of instruction in Ethnobotany at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The initial benefit to the program was an increase in undergraduate majors as well as the ability to attract students interested in ethnobotany into the graduate program.

15. How has the local and Native Hawaiian community been integrated/related to the Botany Dept. over time? (prompt for stories/anecdotes) No further comment.

16. What are some key events that have occurred within the department? The maturation and divergence of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources from Botany A & S resolved negative effects of split appointments and eventually resulted in independence of the graduate programs of the two units. Enrollment in the graduate program of Botany A & S had been historically strong while the undergraduate BA program had been undersubscribed, largely because the BA requirements and existing curriculum had been tailored to support the graduate program. When Botany was authorized to design a BS degree, the BA requirements were appropriately restructured and enrollment at the undergraduate level began to increase. When Dora Tsuha (office staffer) retired, the position was filled with a person who proved unable to fill the responsibilities of the job. For a considerable time the position was tied up in a medical controversy and was eventually lost to the Department. Repeated attempts to regain the position fell on deaf ears and ultimately this loss had a permanent negative effect on the morale of the two remaining support staff as well as faculty who had come to depend on the support that had been previously provided by the lost position.

17. What would you say has been the emphasis or focus of the department in terms of research over time? How has this changed? Much of the research in the Department has made good use of the opportunity to carry out meaningful observations in the field during any month of the year. This natural advantage applies both to terrestrial as well as fresh water and marine environments. In addition, research has often taken advantage of the unique geological, geospatial, and geochronological factors associated with the rise and fall of the Hawaiian Islands. Thus, historically, ecology, systematics, evolution, biogeography, conservation biology, invasion biology, and rare species biology have been common themes of Departmental research. More recently, an upsurge in Ethnobotanical research corresponds with additional hires in that discipline.

18. Describe other major changes that have occurred for the department over time. No comment.

19. How would you suggest that Botany evolve (if at all) moving forward—any areas for improvement you see? Over the years the Botany Department has continually struggled to provide space suitable for new hires. Lack of money and ample bureaucracy generally precluded “official” solutions. Early on I adopted a do-it-yourself if you want it to get done attitude which at retirement earned me a hand saw inscribed with the title “Botany’s Mr. Fixit” accompanied by 35 Botany Department signatures. This now hangs on pegboard over my garage workbench. However, there is no doubt that the Department would have been much better served by a more responsive higher administration and physical plant. Another area that makes it hard for the Department to be more productive is the total lack of research/instructional support staff. Other botany departments that I have experience with have had at least one such full time position – UC Davis had several. My own research at UHM could have benefitted from a proper greenhouse facility, rather than space capable of supporting only succulents and .

20. Have you been associated with other Botany or Ethnobotany programs? If so, how do these compare to Botany at UH Mānoa in terms of research, culture, student body? See #19

21. What would you say are the major strengths and weaknesses of the department? Perhaps the greatest strength of the Botany Department is its continued emphasis on research and instruction that takes advantage of the unique opportunities presented by the very nature of the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, at the same time, disciplines such as and plant physiology, which get more or less directly at properties that define plants as unique among living organisms have fallen by the wayside. Unfortunate as this may be, it is a modern trend and generally becomes a fait accompli as Botany Departments are absorbed into larger biological units. A major asset of the Botany Department over a long period of time has been the entity currently known as the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit. When I joined the Department this unit was directed by Max Doty but this responsibility was soon transferred to Cliff Smith. Under Cliff’s management the unit’s activities grew rapidly and over the years generated large amounts of overhead that was returned to the Department. Not only was this of considerable direct benefit but also gave the Department a high profile when research dollars were compared among various campus units. This unit, currently directed by David Duffy, has continued to grow and presumably is now of even greater importance to the Department, not only for its overhead return but also through support of countless students involved in various research projects that have been sponsored by the PCSU over the years. Another major asset of the Botany Department is the Wilder Chair in Botany, which during my time in Hawaii initially made it possible to support Izzie Abbott’s phycological research and her continuation of instruction in the ever popular Hawaiian Ethnobotany course. Later, the endowment was used to hire visiting senior professors for 1-2 month appointments on a rotating basis in order to provide coverage of under-represented areas and/or provide different perspectives to on-going research in the Botany program. Overall, the program did much to energize and stimulate graduate students and faculty and in some instances ongoing collaborations were established.

22. What do you see as some major research/program gaps? See #21.

23. What is your impression of the current state of the department and the students? After 12 years away I am unable to provide meaningful comment.

24. What additional comments or areas of conversation would you like to add to our discussion? No Comment

25. What have we missed so far in this conversation that you would like to share? No Comment.