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UH seeking volunteers to study breadfruit trees

Updated: 
November 10, 2017 - 9:28am

HILO — University of Hawaii researchers need the help of Big Island residents to gather information about the natural cycles of breadfruit trees.

Assistant professor Noa Lincoln and graduate student Blair Langston of the University of Hawaii at Manoa recently launched the Breadfruit Phenology Catalog, a crowdsourcing initiative to gather data about the traditional Hawaiian fruit.

“There’s not a lot of information about ulu out there,” Langston said, using the Hawaiian word for breadfruit. “It’s pretty understudied.”

In light of the dearth of ulu data, Lincoln started the project to create a map of ulu phenology — their periodic cycles and how they are influenced — throughout the state.

The project seeks to help farmers, vendors and customers statewide to better understand the flowering and fruiting cycles of the trees by gathering data about trees on the major islands.

Any Hawaii resident can apply to participate in the project online. After applying, residents are asked to “adopt” an ulu tree for continual observation — any tree will do, so long as it is easily and regularly accessible. To adopt a tree, participants must be able to note its location, sun exposure, estimated age and height and its diameter at breast height.

After adopting a tree, participants are asked to submit information about its status every two weeks.

Langston said the project does not require advanced arborical or botanical knowledge. Rather, participants are simply tasked with recording the presence of flowers, the number of immature and mature fruit, how many fruits have fallen and how many have been harvested.

“It should take 10 minutes at most,” Langston said.

Participants are requested to submit data for at least one year, although the study is intended to extend for multiple years. Langston said reminder emails can keep participants from forgetting to submit updates, but noted that occasional lapses will not scuttle the project.

Residents interested in participating can visit breadfruit-phenology.herokuapp.com

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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