Learn, Plant, Grow!

Please consider making a contribution to our Learn, Plant, Grow initiative this year. You can read more about our program below or visit our webpage here. 

Our Future Foresters program is an absolute joy to host! The students that participate in the program learn about the natural and cultural history of Waikoloa, they plant trees that will become the future forest of our ‘ili, and they grow as learners, as friends, and as stewards of the unique environment in their own backyard.

This year, we have more students enrolled in our Future Foresters program than ever before with 56 students per week, every week, throughout the school year! These students learn to identify plants, birds, and insects while exploring in the forest and our lessons encourage them to go deeper into the history, lifecycle and cultural relevance of these amazing creatures. They take field trips to inspiring places, and they make connections between the preserve that they know well and other efforts to protect natural resources on the island. 

Education is a rewarding and important part of our strategy to preserve, protect and restore our native dry forest. By raising awareness, connecting people with place, and providing opportunities to experience the forest and participate in restoration, we are ensuring that there will be a community to support our efforts and to steward the forest into the future. Empowering people with knowledge and training has inspired many volunteers, classes, and businesses to join us in replanting the forest. The Future Foresters are some of our youngest participants, and they too, are making a real difference in the forest and in our community. 

Thank you for considering a donation to support our educational programs. Future Foresters is always free to students and families and we strive to include as many students as we can by rotating children on the waiting list into the program when possible and visiting classrooms with our interactive lessons. Your contribution helps us to reach and teach these students with fun activities that convey the importance of environmental stewardship to the next generation!

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is an exempt organization as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; EIN # 45-2589264

Your donation may be tax deductible. 

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s Learn, Plant, Grow program is supported in part by Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s Aloha ‘Aina Program. 

Dusty Donkey Luncheon!

Dusty Donkey Luncheon!

We’re hosting a fun luncheon to celebrate the Dusty Donkey Emporium and raise money for our thrift shop and the Waikoloa Dry Forest. Sunday, November 25th from 11:30am-1:30pm at the Waikoloa Stables, home of the Dusty Donkey EmporiumWe’ll be serving a tasty menu and bubbly beverages with entertainment and an exclusive silent auction featuring many unique treasures. Tickets are only $35 and all proceeds benefit WDFI! Please purchase your tickets, or reserve a table for 8, in advance on our webpage. 


Wasps & Wiliwili

Across the state and out in the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve, a small wasp is causing huge problems for our beloved wiliwili. By now, many of us have heard of the invasive pest that has been badly damaging Hawai`i’s wiliwili tree, but for those of us that haven’t- that pest is the Erythrina Gall Wasp (EGW). After first being observed in Hawai`i in 2005, this tiny wasp (smaller than an ant) began laying its eggs into the new stems, leaves, and inflorescence of both our native and non-native coral tree species. A substantial amount of Waikoloa’s wiliwili were killed by these infestations within the first few years, but luckily the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture was able to quickly identify, locate, research, and release a known predator to the gall wasp- the Eurytoma Parasitoid Wasp. Yes- a wasp that attacks and destroys another wasp!

The eurytoma parasitoid wasp seeks out the galls on wiliwili and lays its eggs into said galls so that its larvae can feed upon the EGW larvae before they can emerge as a fully formed wasp. Eurytoma were first released in 2008, and provide an excellent example of what a successful biocontrol is meant to be. The parasitoid wasps quickly began finding galls and laying eggs and a dramatic decrease in gall wasp infestation was seen. Over the past 10 years since the original biocontrol release, and the rate at which wiliwili were dying due to EGW infestation was significantly reduced and a new equilibrium was attained. We still observe both gall wasp and the eurytoma, but what we now see is an ebb and flow in which the EGW populations begin to rise, shortly followed by an increase in eurytoma population, and the eventual tapering off of the wasp populations as eurytoma eradicates the EGW and food sources become scarce.

However, the gall wasps continue to be a problem- especially during the flowering time for our wiliwili. Currently, as the wiliwili begin to send out their flower buds, the EGW begin to infest the new tissues of the inflorescence, and the Eurytoma just can’t ramp up their numbers before the harm is done. Although the wiliwili are no longer dying, the EGW are still causing significant damage to the inflorescence- resulting in aborted flower buds, improperly formed fruit, and ultimately lower than expected seed production.

This year, the staff at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative has decided to take the next step in the battle against the gall wasps and have undertaken a new and potentially groundbreaking project to raise and release Eurytoma during this flowering period to curtail the gall wasps and maximize the available wiliwili seed set to ensure lasting wiliwili for generations to come. We’re finishing up this year’s project and will be sharing the results soon!


-Contributed by Robert Yagi, Preserve Manager for Waikoloa Forest Initiative

Future Foresters

The Future Foresters program is in full swing at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve! This year started off with a bang with an impressive amount of student interest in our afterschool program. With so many eager applicants, we extended our program to four days a week to accommodate the demand. Currently, 56 students ranging from fourth through seventh grade make their way to the preserve each week to participate in our outdoor learning curriculum.

Our first sessions consisted of our new and returning students becoming familiar with the abundance of native plants that now reside within the dry forest preserve. As we hiked through the vegetation, students marveled at the size and age of the wiliwili trees as well as the amount of effort, time and dedication it takes to restore a dryland forest ecosystem that has all but disappeared. We went on to discuss the importance of scientific observation and how to properly record this information in their field notebooks. Each student was given the opportunity to adopt a specific plant to monitor and continue to care for throughout the year. Students recorded information about their native plants, including their traditional uses, species characteristics and Hawaiian name. As many of the students have found out, eradicating non-native plants is a large part of making sure native dryland species thrive. They are more than eager to regularly don work gloves and pickaxes to help remove these harmful intruders.

As our preserve boasts a somewhat difficult climate and terrain, safety remains a main priority during our program. During our first aid lesson, the students learned how to properly prevent and respond to field related injuries. Through various scenarios, the students were able to put their skills to the test when responding to minor abrasions, open wounds, broken bones, and heat-related illnesses. Each week, one student is selected to be the medic. Their role is to carry the first aid kit, wear the medic armband and serve as the first responder to any and all injuries that may occur that day. The students have shown great responsibility in this task and take pride in making sure their fellow foresters remain safe on our excursions.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is not only committed to the restoration of the tropical dry forest habitat, but to ensuring that these resources are around for generations to come. Our mission in the Future Foresters program is to provide a science and conservation-based curriculum meant to foster the next generation of environmental stewards. For as we know, “E mālama ‘ia nā pono o ka ‘āina e na ‘ōpio”– the traditions of the land are perpetuated by its youth.


Contributed by Jackie Milligan,  Education Coordinator for Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative