November 4, 2004 :: No. 79
Cal State Fullerton Researcher Studies
a Foreign Invader in Hawaii
A Cal State Fullerton faculty member and several
of his students are focusing on the dry forest areas of Hawaii to
investigate a persistent invader — a non-native grass from
Thanks to continued funding from the National Science
Foundation, Darren Sandquist, associate professor of biological
science, is in the third year of an investigation into the effects
of African fountain grass taking root in Hawaii. Working with him
are several students, including Kenia Melgar of Norwalk, a senior
majoring in biological science, and graduate biology majors Nichole
Cervin of Brea and Peter Koenig of Los Alamitos. Bahama Paritosh,
a senior at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, also is collaborating
on the study.
The grasses, brought to the island for landscaping,
can grow up to four feet high and have taken over the habitat beneath
such large trees as the Koa, or Hawaiian acacia. The tall grasses
shut out light and limit the growth of native plant seedlings, and
also are a fire hazard that can threaten the trees.
Sandquist hopes to find a way to manage the grasses’
growth. To do that, he is delving into various aspects of the plant,
such as its water use and productivity, versus that of native plants.
The researchers also are studying the grasses’ “carbon
budget” — the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by plants
Melgar, Cervin and Koenig are performing experiments
at Cal State Fullerton to determine the difference in water use
and carbon gain in areas where the grass is competing with trees
and when the grass has been removed. Changes in water source and
light availability could change how well the fountain grass can
enter and overtake an area.
In Hawaii, Paritosh is evaluating the productivity
of an endangered species in the dry forest to identify how it may
be influenced by the presence of the alien grass and to help in
future management of the species.
“We’re also looking at how much carbon
the grasses absorb versus native plants and trees,” Sandquist
explained. “As fountain grass takes over an area where native
plants grow, it could change the levels of carbon sequestration
in that ecosystem.
“This project represents a great collaboration
between basic scientific and applied research,” said Sandquist,
“and it provides a excellent opportunity for undergraduate
and graduate students to participate in primary research.”
Since 2002, Sandquist has received $386,251 from the
National Science Foundation to study the fountain grass in Hawaii.
A portion of the funds is allocated for student research stipends.
Sandquist earned his bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in biology from Occidental College and his doctorate in
biology from the University of Utah. He resides in Buena Park.
||Darren Sandquist, associate
professor of biological science, at 657-278-2606 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at 657-278-4852