Conservation of endemic biodiversity in Polynesia
My work on endemic radiations of oceanic island plants and their pollinators has strong conservation implications. Glochidion are actually one of the largest endemic plant radiations in southeastern Polynesia. A number of species are threatened and endangered (IUCN France et al., 2015), and three are legally protected in French Polynesia for this reason.
Despite being an important part of the botanical heritage of Southeastern Polynesia and probably highly suitable for ecological restoration, Glochidion have been notoriously difficult for morphological taxonomists. My work has revealed several unrecognized taxa from the southern Cook and Austral islands (Hembry, unpublished data), and a likely insect extinction from a remote island (Hembry 2013). My ongoing research gathers information about pollination ecology and the genetic status of described taxa that will be essential for the conservation of this endemic diversity. Accordingly, I collaborate actively with government and private sector conservation biologists in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, and Fiji. I’ve given outreach talks about my work in American Samoa and French Polynesia (the latter in French), and my research has been featured in local media (Tahiti Nui TV, La Dépêche de Tahiti, Cook Island News, and EBM Fiji Newsletter). I was also a consultant for the recently updated (2015) IUCN France Red List for the endemic vascular flora of French Polynesia.
I’m also involved in a project being led by Erica Newman (University of Arizona) and Jean-Yves Meyer (Délégation à la Recherche, Government of French Polynesia) looking at the effects of human-induced wildfires on native cloud-forest communities in the Society Islands (Newman et al., in revision). Because of their inaccessibility to humans, these habitats are the most pristine terrestrial communities left on these islands and are vital refuges for endemic plants, insects, snails, and nesting seabirds. However, they are believed to have evolved without fire.
Field biology and outreach in the Southwestern United States
Much of my current field research takes place in the Southwestern United States and I am actively communicating the findings of my research to interested management and lay audiences in communities where I do this fieldwork. To date, this has included an outreach talk to the Arizona Native Plant Society annual meeting and letters to Las Cruces, New Mexico newspapers (Las Cruces Bulletin and Las Cruces Sun-News) concerning the importance for scientific research of the neighboring Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (whose monument designation is currently under review by the US Department of the Interior). Additional outreach talks to are planned and I will post updates here.
International perspectives in Japanese academia
One of the recurring themes in my experiences in Japanese academia is the curiosity and admiration my colleagues have for how science is done in the United States. In recent years, Japanese governmental and academic institutions have tried to attract Western researchers to Japan for short-term and long-term research stays by dedicating resources to them. In an attempt to reach a broad audience, I’ve written Japanese-language essays on my experiences in both scientific cultures for publications of the Ecological Society of Japan (Hembry 2013) and the Society for Population Biology (Hembry 2014).