Matthias gazes out of the window on the way up Ka'ala, Oahu's tallest peak.

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Many native Hawaiian plants have always relied on indigenous bird species to disperse their seeds. However, just as many of these indigenous dispersers are themselves extinct or endangered, largely due to the introduction of invasive bird and mammal species.

Rapid culling of entrenched, invasive species, however, could lead to unforeseen ecological instability. Researchers like Noah Hunt and Matthias Sirch of the Hawaii VINE project are trying to figure out how well invasive species are filling the niches of indigenous seed dispersers in the first place. The field work involved is slow and painstaking and researchers don't anticipate that there will be enough data to act upon for years.

May 2016

At the summit of Ka'ala.

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Noah looks for a suitable mist-netting location on Tantalus, an extinct cinder cone near Honolulu.

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Noah sets up a mist net on Ka'ala. The nearly-invisible mesh, when strung between two poles, resembles a volleyball net, and allows researchers to capture birds live and unharmed.

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A male Red-billed leiothrix seen caught in a mist net on Tantalus.

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Noah collecting a seed rain trap on Ka'ala. The traps, which are nothing more than small buckets with cloth bottoms that "trap" falling seeds, are spread in pre-determined patterns around field sites. Over time, they allow Noah's team to calculate the rate at which the seeds of invasive and native plant species alike are dispersed around the island—by wind, by birds, by rodents, by humans, etc.

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Matthias extricates a bird from a mist net on Tantalus.

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Noah takes measurements of a male Red-billed leiothrix on Tantalus.

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Noah checks the wing of a male Red-billed leiothrix for parasites on Tantalus.

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Matthias and Noah record birdsong on Tantalus.

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Noah switching out a seed-rain trap onTantalus.

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Noah attempts to untangle a mist net in rainy conditions on Ka'ala.

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