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Urban Re-Leaf

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 05/01/2014 More stories >>

Nate
Ortiz shows his app’s information on the monkeypod tree he’s standing under.

NateOrtiz shows his app’s information on the monkeypod tree he’s standing under.

Sometimes it’s the next generation of thinkers and learners that is best equipped to deploy the next generation of technology. Everyone has seen youths navigating the often bewildering technological landscape with ease, so it’s only fitting that a pair of students has created a fun, useful, and user-friendly app to bridge the increasing divide between the natural and the digital world.

CTAHRundergraduate Nate Ortiz, who works as a landscape assistant when he’s not taking classes, partnered with Zoology student Austin Stankus to develop the UHM Plant Map, which allows users to search, sort, and navigate through every single tree on campus from desktop or mobile devices. Each clickable tree yields an image, general information, and links to more detail, and searches can be delimited to yield all poisonous trees, agricultural crops, canoe plants, medicinals, and more.

Thebaobab tree on the UH Manoa campus may be the largest in the United States.

The baobab tree on the UH Manoa campus may be the largest in the United States.

The target audience is two-fold: landscape crew and supervisors use the system for grounds management, while the general public can more knowledgably navigate the landscape. This project supports sustainable management decisions while simultaneously increasing the educational potential of the landscape, in keeping with the campus’s recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation as a USA Tree Campus for its unique botanical treasures and its commitment to planting, preserving, and educating the university and the larger community about them.

Ortiz is also involved, along with fellow CTAHR students Andrew Dedrick and Mitchell Loo, in another type of collaboration between the green and the urban landscape. The three are co-founders of Urban Farm Hawai‘i, a nonprofit hui aimed at proving that just about any area can support food production. Witness their latest project: planting taro along a Kaka‘ako thoroughfare, in a patch of land fronting the former CompUSA store. The students expect to harvest huli, lu‘au leaves, and at least one crop of taro before the area is redeveloped. Likewise, they’ve planted a row of banana trees in a nearby parking lot that are already developing harvestable keiki. If proliferating technology and urban spread are the hallmarks of the future, we’re lucky that these students will be there to help integrate them with agriculture.