Staff

Science & Conservation
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Scientific Staff

The NTBG Science and Conservation programs are led by dedicated science staff across several gardens and departments working together to fulfil NTBG’s mission and key strategic priorities.

Dr. Nina Rønsted

Dr. Nina Rønsted

– Director of Science and Conservation

As Director of Science and Conservation for the National Tropical Botanical Garden, Nina oversees the strategic development of science and conservation at the Juliet Rice Wichman Botanical Research Center (BRC) at NTBG’s headquarters on Kauai. Nina came to NTBG in 2019 from a position as Professor and Curator of vascular plants and Director of Science at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, where she continues to be adjunct professor. She is also affiliated with the EECB graduate specialization at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Following her PhD from the University of Copenhagen, Nina held research fellowships at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the UK and the University of Minnesota. Nina’s research is interdisciplinary and centered on the origin, distribution and conservation of plant diversity and the relationship between people and plants including the role of botanical gardens and collections.

Contact: nronsted@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile
Twitter: @ninaronsted

Katie Magoun

Katie Magoun

– Executive Assistant

As Executive Assistant Katie supports the Director, oversees the Botanical Research Center, serves as a point of contact for internal and external stakeholders, visitors and students, and manages higher level and ad hoc projects and accounting. Katie joined NTBG in 2022 bringing 12 years of experience as Executive Assistant to the Head of Island School.

Contact: kmagoun@ntbg.org

Dr. David H. Lorence

Dr. David H. Lorence

– Senior Research Botanist

Dr. David Lorence occupies the B. Evans Chair of Botany and came to the National Tropical Botanical Garden in 1987. Research specialties are systematic studies of tropical plants, floristics, and invasive plant species. His systematic research focuses on Pacific and neotropical members of the large and diverse Rubiaceae family, which includes coffee, quinine, and gardenias. He also studies Pacific island pteridophytes and the Monimiaceae family of the Malagasy region. David leads NTBG’s publication of regional Pacific Floras, including publication of the Flora of Marquesas Islands in 2020 and Flora of Samoa in 2022. He currently leads the work for a Flora of Micronesia.

Contact: dlorence@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile

Timothy W. Flynn

Timothy W. Flynn

– Herbarium Curator

Tim is Curator of the Herbarium (PTBG) at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. He has been working at NTBG since 1981. In addition to managing the herbarium he has also participated in fieldwork in Hawaiʻi, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, the Cook Islands, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Palau, Australia, New Caledonia, and Ecuador, and currently has a particular interest in contributing to understudied bryophytes.

Contact: tflynn@ntbg.org

Dr. Seana K. Walsh

Dr. Seana K. Walsh

– Conservation Scientist

As Conservation Scientist of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, Seana’s primary role is to lead in the development of the organization’s activities to implement the Hawaiʻi Strategy for Plant Conservation. She earned a Master’s degree in Botany from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and a PhD degree from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, from 2023, focused on science-based conservation management of threatened Hawaiian plants. Her applied research interests include plant breeding systems, pollination ecology, and population genetics.

Contact: swalsh@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile
Twitter: @Walsh_Seana

Kenneth R. Wood

Kenneth R. Wood

– Senior Research Biologist

Ken’s research focuses on the study and conservation of Pacific Island floras. His essential responsibilities include organizing and conducting botanical field surveys with a specialty in accessing rough terrain habitats. Other aspects of his research include: mapping the distribution and abundance of rare Pacific island plants (phytogeography); collecting herbarium specimens for scientific study, collecting seeds, spores, and cuttings for conservation, and DNA material for genetic sequencing; publishing conservation status data and new species descriptions; and contributing to conservation biology research and educational outreach through national and international scientific collaboration.

Contact: kwood@ntbg.org
ResearchGate Profile

Dr. Dustin Wolkis

Dr. Dustin Wolkis

– Scientific Curator of Seed Conservation

As Scientific Curator of Seed Conservation, Dustin manages NTBG’s Seed Bank and Laboratory and specialize in ex situ seed conservation biology with an emphasis on seed and pollen storage behavior, seed longevity and aging kinetics, seed borne pathogen abatement, and seed dormancy and dormancy alleviation of native Hawaiian plant species of conservation importance. His research aims to understand how seeds respond to desiccation and subfreezing temperatures, identifying regeneration intervals, and determining optimal seed propagation techniques. Dustin holds and MSc in Plant Biology and Conservation from Arizona State University and a PhD degree from 2023 from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, focused on seed conservation biology in the Hawaiian flora.

Contact: dwolkis@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile

Ben Nyberg

Ben Nyberg

– GIS and Drone Program Coordinator

Ben has an MSc degree in GIS (Global Information System mapping) from Penn State University from 2017. At NTBG he is responsible for management of organization-wide phytogeography data and GIS modeling, contributing data to NTBGs research and conservation work, as well as to over 400 NTBG led IUCN Red List assessments. Ben has also implemented an innovative drone program helping NTBG survey hard to access terrain which has located unknown populations of several threatened plant species. Ben is currently conducting a PhD thesis on Drone Applications in Plant Conservation in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Contact: bnyberg@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile
Twitter: @BenBotanical

Dr. Uma Nagendra

Dr. Uma Nagendra

– Conservation Operations Manager and Ecologist, Limahuli Garden

Dr. Uma Nagendra is the Conservation Operations Manager and Ecologist, at NTBG’s Limahuli Garden and Preserve on Kaua’i, where she is responsible for leading biocultural conservation projects within the 1,000-acre Limahuli Preserve. Uma has a PhD in disturbance ecology from the University of Georgia from 2017. Uma’s research interests span many aspects of applied ecological conservation. Overall, work at Limahuli aims to find appropriate management strategies for ecological and cultural resilience while connecting modern science to traditional ecological practice and knowledge.

Contact: unagendra@ntbg.org

Michael Opgenorth

Michael Opgenorth

– Director of Kahanu Garden and Preserve, Hana, Maui

Michael “Mike” Opgenorth is the Director of NTBG’s Kahanu Garden and Preserve in Hana, Maui. Mike came to NTBG in 2015 with a lifelong background in horticulture and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an academic minor in Plant Production/Plant Management from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawai’i. Prior to joining NTBG, Mike served in numerous capacities at the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture where he worked with a wide range of stakeholders at all levels in Hawai’i’s agriculture community. Mike is currently conducting a PhD thesis focused on Conservation Horticulture of Hawaiian Gardenia in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Noel Dickinson

Noel Dickinson

– 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.

Contact: ndickinson@ntbg.org

Dr. Julia Vieira da Cunha Ávila

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 floodplain Amazonian 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.

Contact: javila@ntbg.org
Google Scholar Profile

Research Associates

NTBG’s research programs are enhanced by dedicated partnerships with research associates who regularly utilize or curate NTBG’s living and herbarium collections, engage in collaborative research projects with staff, and contribute with complementary expertise.

Dr. Ruth Aguraiuja – Native Hawaiian Ferns, Tallinn Botanic Garden

Dr. Bruce Baldwin – Vascular Plant Systematics, University of California Berkeley

Dr. Michael J. Balick – Economic Botany, Ethnobotany, New York Botanical Garden

Dr. Christopher Baraloto – Tropical Biology, International Center for Tropical Botany at the Kampong (ICTB), Florida International University

Ms. Kelsey Brock – Invasive Plant Species, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa & Bishop Museum

Dr. David Burney – Paleoecology, Makauwahi Cave Reserve 

Dr. Thomas Croat – Systematics of Araceae, Missouri Botanical Garden

 

 

Dr. John Game – Hawaiian Pteridophytes, University of California Berkeley

Dr. Elliot Gardner – Science and Conservation, Breadfruit and collaboration with International Centre for Tropical Botany at the Kampong, Case Western Reserve University

Dr. Si He – Moss Flora of Hawaii, Missouri Botanical Garden

Dr. Jean-Yves Meyer – Pacific Biodiversity Conservation, Government of French Polynesia, Tahiti

Dr. Susan Murch – Plant Biotechnology & Natural Products Chemistry, University of British Columbia

Mr. Steven P. Perlman, Pacific Botany.

 

 

Mr. James Shevock – Hawaiian Bryophytes, California Academy of Sciences

Dr. Charlotte Taylor – Rubiaceae Systematics and Floristics, Missouri Botanical Garden

Dr. Warren L. Wagner – Hawaiian and Pacific Island Floristics, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Stephen G. Weller – Breeding Systems, Restoration Ecology, University of California

Dr. Kawika Winter – Biocultural Conservation, Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve, & Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology

Dr. Nyree Zerega – Breadfruit Systematics, Northwestern University & Chicago Botanical Garden 

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