Maui News

Nature Conservancy Receives $1.1 Million Technology Grant

August 4, 2011, 8:10 AM HST
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By Wendy Osher

Cameras in the belly of small Cessna plane gather photos and data detailing weed types and their locations on the island of Kaua‘i. © Chad Riley.

The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i is poised to expand its use of technology in conservation efforts with the help of a $1.1 million grant from the Joseph & Vera Long Foundation.

The agency plans to use a portion of the funds on the aerial mapping of invasive weeds. They also plan to develop a web portal that will allow land managers across the state to access real-time conservation data. Officials say the use of new technologies in conservation are both improving effectiveness, and cutting costs.

“Conservation is traditionally boots-and-shovels work, but increasingly, the challenges demand much greater impact with fewer dollars, and we are using technology to accomplish that,” said Suzanne Case, director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.

The Conservancy is credited with developing and implementing several cutting-edge techniques in forest conservation. The technology, agency officials say, will help to revolutionize forest conservation in the state and beyond.


The Conservancy’s overall goal is to protect the state’s native watershed forests from invasive weeds and animals.


Four specific areas of work are planned under the grant:

  • Doubling the resolution of aerial imaging technologies for forest weeds.  This will allow for the identification of small-leafed weed species. The Conservancy plans to work with Resource Mapping Hawai‘i to develop new technologies to map 20,000 acres of forest land across the state.
  • Developing special low-toxicity herbicides and pinpoint-accurate helicopter-mounted application techniques.  This is expected to allow crews to go directly to individual weeds identified by the digital mapping system and to spot-treat them without impacting surrounding plants.
  • Developing a robust web portal that will allow land managers across the state to access the most up-to-date and best available conservation data as it happens.
  • The Conservancy will publish articles on its work, and help train others in the new technologies it is using. Quarterly forums will bring together leaders in conservation innovation, to help incubate new ideas and help partners to adapt new technologies to their own applications.

The grant is the Joseph & Vera Long Foundation’s first major gift to The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i. The foundation funds conservation, education and health care efforts in northern California and Hawai‘i.

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