Breadfruit Institute Staff
The Breadfruit Institute is part of NTBG’s Science and Conservation program under the Director of Science and Conservation. Institute staff are based at NTBG headquarters in McBryde Garden on Kauai as well as in Kahanu Garden in Hana, Maui.
The Institute collaborates with many organizations and individuals in Hawaii, the Pacific and beyond. We are grateful for the many volunteers and students working with us in the agroforest and on projects.
– Coordinator, Breadfruit Institute
A small farmer, born and raised on Kauai, Noel Dickinson is passionate about rural food security and sustainable, diversified agriculture as a means of achieving it. As Coordinator for the Breadfruit Institute, Noel Dickinson is responsible for institute operations, conservation, horticulture, research, and outreach activities including the establishment and management of the Regenerative Organic Breadfruit Agroforestry (ROBA) demonstration at McBryde Garden. Noel attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she earned a B.S. in Horticulture with specialization in Tropical Plant Science and Agroecology, as well as Plant Tissue Culture certification. In addition to her responsibilities as the institute’s Coordinator, Noel is currently pursuing a PhD from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, focusing on the improvement of conservation, curation, and management of collections of heritage crops and their wild relatives within botanical gardens -specifically Artocarpus.
Dr. Julia Vieira da Cunha Ávila
– Tropical Crop Diversity Scientist, Breadfruit Institute
As NTBG’s Tropical Crop Diversity Scientist in the Breadfruit Institute, Julia participates in integrating research, conservation, and extension programs to support and improve the conservation and use of breadfruit in the Pacific Islands and beyond for sustainable agriculture and food security. A primary focus is the continued strategic development and conservation of the breadfruit collection as a globally significant plant genetic resource for food and agriculture following international best practices for ex situ crop conservation collections. Julia holds a PhD from the National Institute of Amazon Research, Brazil, focused on resilience of local communities agroecosystems in the context of climate change, which included a 9-month research stay at the University of Hawaii. She also holds MSc and BSc degrees in ethnoecology and ethnobotany from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, UFSC, Brazil.
Google Scholar Profile
– Collection Manager, Breadfruit Institute, Kahanu Garden, Hana, Maui
Kaitu Erasito came to NTBG in 2023 from Fiji, where he worked as an agriculture, horticultural and crops expert, specializing in Pacific Islands agriculture and natural Resources. He holds a Bachelor of Agriculture from University of the South Pacific and is the current Breadfruit Collection Manager at NTBG’s Kahanu Garden, Maui. Breadfruit characterization, orchard establishment, propagation, agroforestry and analysis of supply chain has been one of his assets and specialty. Over the past 10 years his work has focused on smallholder agricultural development that is both economically and environmentally sustainable – particularly in the face of climate change. In addition, he worked with rural schools and communities promoting the processing of breadfruit into flour, both for home consumption and to reduce the heavy reliance of imported food products like wheat flour and rice.
– Agroforestry Technician, Breadfruit Institute
As NTBG’s Breadfruit Agroforestry Technician, Neal is responsible for the management of the Regenerative Organic Breadfruit Agroforest (ROBA) in McBryde Garden, Kauaʻi. Neal is also supporting community engagement in breadfruit as well as other heritage crops and their contributions to diverse food systems and sustainability. Neal has previously worked and volunteered in the NTBG nursery, Limahuli Garden, the California Native Plant Society, and California Botanic Garden. Neal grew up on Oʻahu and is passionate about restoring regenerative food systems and relationships with ʻāina in Hawaiʻi. In addition to his horticultural experience, he has been engaged in environmental outreach and public engagement to help deepen people’s relationship with plants. He served as the art director for the award-winning documentary Saging the World (cnps.org/sagingtheworld) that spotlights the ecological and cultural desecration of white sage, commonly used in smudge sticks, by amplifying Southern California and Baja California Indigenous voices.
– Director Emerita, Breadfruit Institute
Dr. Ragone was the founder and Director of the Breadfruit Institute since its inception in 2003 until 2022 when she became Director Emerita. In this role she continue to supports the Institute and breadfruit with a primary focus on writing a legacy book based on her work. She is an authority on the conservation and use of breadfruit, and has conducted horticultural and ethnobotanical studies on this important Pacific staple crop for more than 30 years conducting fieldwork on 50 islands in Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Dr. Ragone is also an Affiliate Professor at the University of Hawai`i in the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. She has written or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers, technical reports, and book chapters, as well as popular articles on breadfruit. She has also developed extensive print and web-based information resources, including videos. Dr. Ragone received the Star of Oceania in 2013; UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture’s Distinguished Alumna award in 2015; the Garden Club of America’s Medal of Honor in 2016; and the Award of Distinguished Ethnobotanist from the Society of Ethnobotany in 2022.
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