Ethnobotanist Jill Wagner is coordinating a Dryland Intern Mentorship Program at La‘i‘Ōpua and Pālamanui Dry Forest Preserves. Jill is teaching the interns to identify native and non-native species as well as in-depth taxonomy for a clear understanding of the origins and functions of a plant in the ecosystem.
The interns are being trained in the field and assist Jill in engaging students from Pālamanui College. K-12, Blue Zone Project volunteers, and other residents and visitors in dryland forest for service learning activities. The interns and volunteers learn all aspects of restoration including weeding, observing plant pollinators, collecting seed, planting, monitoring, and setting up irrigation. Jill shares her knowledge and expertise with a new generation of biologists and land stewards.
Only 5% of Hawaii’s endangered dryland ecosystems remain. Safe havens of learning in place-based settings were once the norm in the traditional hālau-style. Today they are rare due to changes in land ownership that fragment society and cause disconnect in communities. This project transcends these barriers in a partnership with the land, Hawaiian culture, and community residents and visitors.