UH Hilo Students Recognized for Outstanding Research

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University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students were recognized for their outstanding research during the 11th annual Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) Research Symposium held April 11 and 12, 2019.

Undergraduate student Nicolas Vanderzyl won Best Five-Minute Talk for his presentation on “Microplastic Accumulation Patterns of a Newly Formed Beach.” His faculty mentor is Associate Professor of Marine Science Dr. Steve Colbert.

Another undergraduate student, Tyler Gerken, received Best 15-Minute Talk for his project on “Soil Sources of Staphylococcus aureus and Fecal Indicator Bacteria in the Hilo Bay Watershed.” Gerken was mentored by Professor of Marine Science Dr. Tracy Wiegner.

Graduate student Karen Gallardo took Best 15-Minute Talk for her research on “Examining the Effect of Helicopter Noise on Bird Assemblages in Hawaiʻi’s Protected Natural Areas.” She was mentored by Department Chair and Professor of Biology Dr. Patrick Hart.


Honorable mention awards in the Poster category were awarded to undergraduate students Duke Escobar and Keinan Agonias for their research on “An Update on the Survey of Antibacterial Efficacy of Native Hawaiian Plant Extracts: Focus on ‘Ohia Lehua and Gram-positive Bacteria,” and Michael Morrissey and Misa Webber, who presented on the “Modification of Body Regeneration Using Hawaiian Plant Extracts in Planaria.” Both projects were mentored by Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Stan Nakanishi.

“This annual symposium is an outstanding opportunity for students to present their work in a professional forum, to network, and to gain valuable organizational management skills,” noted Dr. Rebecca Ostertag, director, TCBES M.S. Program. “TCBES graduate students plan and execute the entire conference. They do everything, including applying for funding, inviting and hosting the keynote speakers, coordinating abstract submission, building the program, organizing the catering and rooms, soliciting donations for the silent auction, and more. The success of this year’s conference is due to their hard work and diligence.”

The theme of this year’s conference was “Emerging Techniques for Research and Conservation in a Changing Planet.” The annual student-organized symposium highlights undergraduate and graduate research through oral and poster presentations. Students are closely mentored by faculty through research collaboration, exemplifying UH Hilo’s hands-on approach to learning.


For more information about the UH Hilo TCBES program, go online, or email [email protected].

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