By Dr. Richard Steven, History
Participants in the UH-West Hawaiʻi Ambassador Program, working on the “frontiers of science” in how to restore the almost-extinct lowland dry forest, have brought “green” back to once-verdant Puʻu ‘Oʻo in the heart of the West Hawaiʻi Veterans’ Cemetery. Surrounded by ʻaʻa and covered until recently with invasive fountain grass, Puʻu ‘Oʻo has become a living laboratory where students from several schools, with their teachers and frequently parents, have weeded, planted, and learned about the lowland dry forest, the most endangered ecosystem in Hawaiʻi, and the Veterans’ Cemetery Reforestation Project. Students hike to the top of Puʻu ‘Oʻo, care for the ʻaina, and see evidence of early Hawaiian use of the area, blending culture and history with reforestation. Puʻu ʻOʻo, through the efforts of Ambassador participants, UH students, and others, has become a Kipuka, an “Island of Life,” with over 90 native species planted there, and many lessons learned from Ambassador experiments about what “works” in bringing the native forest back. Connections are one of the principle lessons: trees, soil, air, groundwater, ocean, and us. Community is another: togetherness is needed to restore a forest. Ambassador participants literally work on the frontier of science, showing the way to “green” Kona’s ʻaina.