$70,000 prize offered for solution to save the swiftly-disappearing ohia tree

$70,000 prize offered for solution to save the swiftly-disappearing ohia tree

By Kimi Andrew
HNN Summer Intern

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) -- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is asking for help combating Rapid Ohia Death.

And the right solution could mean a $70,000 cash prize.

Since 2014, thousands of acres of native ohia lehua have died after being infected by invasive fungi.

There is no cure for Rapid Ohia Death, which is taking out ohia at a rate that's bringing the tree close to extinction.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Native Hawaiian Relations, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, and National Invasive Species Council Secretariat are working in partnership with Conservation X Labs to address the fungi by asking for the public's help.

Those with possible solutions to the crisi can visit the Ohia Challenge online and submit a project that offers a way to identify infected trees early, minimize the spread and eliminate the fungi that is killing the tree.

"Our goal is to use the best of human ingenuity to identify technological solutions that can save part of Hawaii's beauty," said Dr. Alex Dehgan, CEO of Conservation X Labs. "This is why we look to engage innovative thinkers within other advanced technology fields through this challenge prize. We don't have to accept ohia's extinction."

While the end goal of the challenge is clear – to stop rapid ohia death – the organizations seeking the public's help don't know what else they can do to save the ohia and hope that someone has the solution, and just doesn't know it yet.

"Someone somewhere out there has the vision and technological capacity to turn 'we can't' into ?we can!'" said Dr. Jamie Reaser, executive director of NISC. "This challenge prize will be awarded to that hero or team of heroes."

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