Counting breadfruit trees from outer space

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 July 2017, 12:00AM

The Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (P.R.B.I.) has taken another step and this time it’s up in space. 

Papali’i Dr. Tusi Avegalio, Director of the Pacific Business Center Programme at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, told Samoa Observer a Hawaiian student from Kapiolani Community College, Mervin Tano, has been accepted by the 2017 N.A.S.A. Summer Research Experience for Tribal College Undergraduates. 

“This N.A.S.A. Experimential Learning Opportunity programme is hosted at Haskell Native American University, Lawrence, Kansas,” he said. 

“Interns to the N.A.S.A. funded project, students undergo intensive training in climate science, geospatial applications for science research, and are required to develop and complete a research project to fulfill their program requirements.” 

Papali’i told the Samoa Observer that Mervin’s project will take the Pacific Business Center Program (P.B.C.P.), titled the ‘Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative’ (P.R.B.I.), to a higher level.

“This P.R.B.I. project is based on the seminal work of Dr. Diane Ragone, Director of the Breadfruit Institute, National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai.” 

He said P.R.B.I. points to significant agricultural and economic development opportunities in Hawaii and greater Oceania. 

“The Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs (O.I.A.).” 

The project had a particular challenge regarding counting or obtaining an accurate inventory of trees in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories spread out over 3 million square miles of ocean. 

“An area from Hawaii to Saipan in the north to far west Pacific, down to Palau in the south west Pacific, through the Federated States of Micronesian and Republic of the Marshall Islands covering the mid Pacific and to American Samoa in the south Pacific." 

“A total land area comparable in size to the continental United States."

“Even local colleges and government departments of agriculture did not have accurate or updated inventories of breadfruit trees for their respective island or archipelago to formulate an estimate or projections essential for industry development and manufacturing feasibility for both local and regional economic development." 

“What at first was considered an insurmountable challenge, has now become an exciting opportunity to expand and utilize remote imaging technological tools led by a young Hawaiian college student supported by an equally amazing program that has inspired and trained indigenous Native American students since the inception of the N.A.S.A. component seven years ago.” 

He said that Merv’s N.A.S.A. experiential project will focus on breadfruit identification and differentiation from surrounding vegetation utilizing remotely sensed multiple band satellite imagery. 

“These satellites’ take in light, break it into discrete spectral components called wavelengths and utilizing different band combinations can spectrally analyze phenomena occurring on earth’s surface." 

“These technologies are the industry standard for applications of remotely sensed data, and are at the core of N.A.S.A.’s strategic mission, to study earth from space." 

“Merv’s project will have broader agricultural, economic, food security, climate change, rising tides and disaster preparedness applications utilizing the most current cutting edge technology brought together through Kiksapa’s partnership with N.A.S.A." 

“For example, Merv will be introduced to the various remote sensing techniques to determine if breadfruit can be detected using remotely sensed data at varying spatial and temporal scales." 

“If this proves successful, he will expand the scope of his work to conduct regional and island by island count of standing trees and general phenology analysis." “Remote sensing capacities will include species identification, soils analysis, health conditions, moisture and organic content of the soils, climate conditions and sea level rise information and data to name a few,” Dr Tusi told Samoa Observer. 

Merv will be field supervised over the 2017 summer/fall project period by P.R.B.I. partners in Hawaii to conduct satellite G.I.S. analysis. 

 “All three are members of the Global Breadfruit Heritage Council (G.B.H.C.) that advocates for responsible agricultural practices that are sustainable through the weave of traditional wisdom and cultural knowledge with modern science and technology." 

“Where feasible, additional students, farmers and/or volunteers from Hawaii, U.S. Territories and Oceania will be recruited as active participants.” Papali’i said the major goal of the project is to present the findings at the N.A.S.A. program at the 2017 Samoa ‘Home of the Ma’afala’ Pacific and Global Summit in Apia, Samoa in October. 

“Workshops and student interactions where feasible in Hawaii and Pacific will be organized to compliment project strategies with results from remote sensing technology to be shared at the summit and disseminated through UH media.” 

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 July 2017, 12:00AM

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