Akito Y. Kawahara

 Contact Info 
E-mail: ak43 [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Post-doctoral Researcher
Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
3050 Maile Way, Room 310
Honolulu, HI 96822 USA

Fields of research: Systematics, taxonomy, evolution, phylogenetics



University of Maryland, College Park, MD.
  Ph.D. Entomology, 2010.
  M.S. Entomology, 2007.
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
  B.Sc. Entomology, 2002.
  Magna Cum Laude and Departmental Honors for distinction in research.


July 2010-present: Rubinoff Lab, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa Hyposmocoma systematics and evolution.

  • Phylogeny and evolution of the megadiverse Hawaiian cosmopterigid genus Hyposmocoma
  • Taxonomy of Hyposmocoma, specifically new species descriptions and revisionary taxonomy

2004-2010: Graduate Researcher, Jerome C. Regier Laboratory for Arthropod Molecular Systematics, Center for Biosystems Research, College Park, MD.

  • Conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis of the leaf-mining moths (Gracillariidae) based on 21 nuclear protein-coding genes (~15 kb) with collaborators from Europe and Asia. The dataset was combined with morphological data from fossil and extant leaf mines, in order to interpret life-history evolution in leaf-mining moths.
  • Also previously worked on a phylogenetic analysis of hawkmoth genera (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) using five nuclear genes (EF1-alpha, DDC, CAD, wingless and period) in order to examine evolutionary shifts in proboscis length and flower nectar feeding across the family.

2004: Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS)

  • Participated in the OTS 04-1 Tropical Ecology graduate level course, and conducted field research at five different research stations in Costa Rica. Course-related projects led to two separate publications (Kawahara and Adamski 2006, Watkins et al. 2006).

2002-2003: Project ALAS, La Selva Biological Station and Volcan Barva, Costa Rica.

  • Inventoried the Lepidoptera of a tropical rain forest at sea-level, 500m, and in a cloud forest at 2000 m.
  • Research involved collecting, identifying, spreading, and cataloging specimens with local parataxonomists and numerous systematic entomologists from around the world, in order to inventory the arthropod diversity of a tropical forest, and discover species new to science. This was a large-scale study funded by the National Science Foundation.

1999-2002: Undergraduate Researcher, Quentin D. Wheeler Laboratory, Dept. of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

  • Conducted an independent, three-chapter honors thesis titled, 'Systematics of the Snout Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Libytheinae), with an Emphasis on the Morphology and Phylogeny.'
  • Research involved: requesting specimens from museums, dissections, cladistic analyses, scientific illustration using camera lucida and computer illustration programs. Multiple papers were published from this research (Kawahara 2003a, b, 2006a, b, 2009, Kawahara and Dirig 2006).

Teaching Experience

2007-2009: Teaching Assistant. Workshop on Molecular Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, MA; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Český Krumlov, Czech Republic; and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, GA.

  • Co-taught an international course on molecular evolution, organized and directed by Dr. Michael Cummings. The workshop consisted of a series of lectures, demonstrations, and computer laboratories that are taught by established investigators, posdoctoral fellows, and graduate students with prior experience in molecular evolution and genomics. Participants in the course were taught programs such as BEAST, BEAUti, Clustal W, Clustal X, FASTA, Figtree, GARLI, GSI, MAFFT, MrBayes, PAML, PAUP*, Phycas, PHYLIP, and Seaview.

Fall 2006, 2007: Teaching Assistant. BSCI 120: Insects. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

  • Taught undergraduate students introductory entomology and pollination biology. Proposed an extra credit project allowing each student to observe the behavior of their own pet hatchling tarantula. Also presented lectures on cultural entomology and Japan.

June 2006, 2007: Teaching Assistant. Center for Biosystems Research, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, College Park, MD. Workshop on Laboratory Methods for Arthropod Molecular Systematics.

  • Helped teach 10 systematics students on laboratory techniques used in molecular systematics. The workshop focused on DNA+RNA extraction, amplification of nuclear genes, RT-PCR, primer design, nested re-amplification, gel purification, and sequencing. The course was taught with Dr. Jerome Regier and was supported through the NSF-AToL Lepidoptera Tree of Life project.

2000, 2001: Teaching Assistant, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

  • Entomology 212: Insect Biology (Fall 2000, Fall 2001). Teaching assistant for Dr. Quentin Wheeler (2000), and Dr. Cole Gilbert (2001). Helped students in weekly lab sections learn basic insect collecting and identification skills. Also gave lectures on the diversity of Lepidoptera, and graded laboratory examinations.
  • Entomology 331: Insect Systematics. (Fall 2001). Assisted Dr. Christopher Marshall teach and train students in Insect Systematics. Gave lectures on the systematics of Lepidoptera. Graded examinations, insect collections, and participated in discussion-groups.


Selected publications available at: http://entmcv.umd.edu/?name=kawahara

Mitter, K.T., Larsen, T.B., Collins, S., Vande Weghe, G., De Prins, J., De Prins, W., Sfian, S., Zakharov, E., Hawthorne, D.J., Kawahara, A.Y., Regier, J.C., Genetic evidence for multiple cryptic species of Pseudopontia (Pieridae: Pseudopontiinae). Systematic Entomology 36, 139-163.

Kawahara, A.Y., Sohn, J.C., De Prins, J., Cho, S. 2010. Five species of Gracillariidae (Lepidoptera) new to Korea. Entomological Research 40: 131-135.

Scott, J., Kawahara, A.Y., Skevington, J., Yen, S.H., Sami, A., Smith, M., Yack, J. 2010. The evolutionary origins of ritualized acoustic signals in caterpillars. Nature Communications 1: 4.

Kawahara, A.Y., Mignault, A.A., Regier, J.C., Kitching, I.J. and Mitter, C. 2009. Phylogeny and biogeography of hawkmoths (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae): evidence from five nuclear genes. PLoS ONE. 4(5): e5719.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2009. Phylogeny of snout butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Libytheinae): combining evidence from the morphology of extant, fossil, and recently extinct taxa. Cladistics 25(3): 263-278.

Kawahara, A.Y., Nishida, K., and Davis, D.R. 2009. Systematics, host plants, and life histories of three new Phyllocnistis species from the highlands of Costa Rica (Lepidoptera, Gracillariidae, Phyllocnistinae). ZooKeys 27:7-30.

Kawahara, A.Y., Saito, M. 2009. The current state of The Butterfly Society of Japan. News of the Lepidopterists' Society 51(4): 128.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2009. The Hawk Moths of North America: A Natural History of the Sphingidae of the United States and Canada by James P. Tuttle. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 111(4): 911-912. [Book review].

De Prins, J. and Kawahara, A.Y. 2009. On the taxonomic history of Phyllocnistis Zeller 1848 (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae). Nota Lepidopterologica 32(2): 113-121.

Regier, J.C., Zwick, A., Cummings, M.P., Kawahara, A.Y., Cho, S., Weller, S.J., Roe, A.D., Baixeras-Almela, J., Brown, J.W., Parr, C.S., Davis, D.R., Epstein, M.E., Hallwachs, W., Hausmann, A., Janzen, D.H., Kitching, I.J., Solis, M.A., Yen, S.-H., Bazinet, A., Mitter, C. 2009. Toward reconstructing the evolution of advanced moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera: Ditrysia): an initial molecular study. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9: 280.

Roe, A.D., Weller, S.J., Baixeras, J., Brown, J., Cummings, M.P., Davis, D., Kawahara, A.Y., Parr, C., Regier, J.C., Rubinoff, D., Simonsen, T.J., Wahlberg, N., and Zwick, A. 2009. Evolutionary Framework for Lepidoptera Model Systems. pp. 1-24 In Goldsmith, M. & F. Marec (eds.), Genetics and Molecular Biology of Lepidoptera. CRC Press, Boca Raton. [Book chapter].

Rubinoff, D., Osborne, K. H., and Kawahara, A.Y. 2009. Synonymization of the euphonious Arctonotus Boisduval, 1852 (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae) based on molecular phylogenetic analysis. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 63(4): 233-235.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2007. Thirty-foot telescopic nets, bug-collecting videogames, and beetle pets: Entomology in modern Japan. American Entomologist 53(3): 160-172.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2007. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of the hawkmoths (Lepidoptera: Bombycoidea: Sphingidae) and the evolution of the sphingid proboscis. Masters Thesis. University of Maryland, College Park. 144 pp.

Kawahara, A.Y. and Wahlberg, N. 2007. Libytheinae. Version 02 December 2007. http://www.tolweb.org/Libytheinae/12193 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

Root, H.T., Kawahara, A.Y. and R.A. Norton. 2007. Anachipteria sacculifera n. sp. (Acari: Oribatida: Achipteriidae) from arboreal lichens in New York State. Acarologia 157 (3-4): 187-195.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2006. Biology of the snout butterflies (Nymphalidae: Libytheinae), Part 1: Libythea Fabricius. Transactions of the Lepidopterological Society of Japan 57(1): 13-33.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2006. Biology of the snout butterflies (Nymphalidae: Libytheinae), Part 2: Libytheana Michener. Transactions of the Lepidopterological Society of Japan 57(3): 265-277.

Kawahara, A.Y., and Adamski, D. 2006. Taxonomic and behavioral studies of a new dancing Beltheca Busck (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) from Costa Rica. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 108(2): 253-260.

Kawahara, A.Y., Winkler, I.S., and Hsu, W.W. 2006. New host records of the ectoparasitic biting midge Forcipomyia pectinunguis (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) on adult geometrid moths (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 79(3): 297-300.

Kawahara, A.Y., and Dirig, R. 2006. Nectar source records for Libytheana carinenta (Nymphalidae: Libytheinae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 60(4): 233-237.

Ylla, J., Peigler, R.S., and Kawahara, A.Y. 2005. Cladistic analysis of moon moths using morphology, molecules and behaviour: Actias Leach,1815; Argema Wallengren, 1858; Graellsia Grote, 1896 (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae). SHILAP Revista Lepidopterologica 33(131): 299-317.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2004. Lepidoptera of Mt. Shirao: A survey from 1998-1999. Journal of the Entomological Society of Shizuoka (Suruga No Konchu) 205: 5714-5716.

Dirig, R. and Kawahara, A.Y. 2004. The brazilian skipper (Calopodes ethlius, Hesperiidae) in West Virginia. News of the Lepidopterists' Society 46(1): 22, 31.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2003. Rediscovery of Libythea collenettei Poulton & Riley in the Marquesas, and a description of the male. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 57(2): 81-85.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2003. Behavioral observations of Libytheana carinenta Cramer. News of the Lepidopterists' Society 45: front cover + 107-108, 127.

Kawahara, A.Y. 2002. Systematics of the Snout Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Libytheinae) with an emphasis on the morphology and phylogeny. Honors Thesis. Cornell University. 162 pp.

Kawahara, A.Y. 1999. A New Locality of Strymonidia mera (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in Fujinomiya. Journal of the Entomological Society of Shizuoka (Suruga No Konchu) 186: 5224.

Kawahara, A.Y., and Kobayashi, K. 1998. A New Record of Argyreus hyperbius (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Journal of the Entomological Society of Shizuoka (Suruga No Konchu) 184: 5163.

Grants and Awards

  • John Henry Comstock Award, Entomological Society of America (2011)
  • The Lepidopterists' Society Poster Presentation Award, Leavenworth, WA (July 2010)
  • University of Maryland Gahan Fellowship (August 2009)
  • Nouragues, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, French Guiana (May, 2009, Co-PI)
  • Smithsonian Institution Research Grant for Taxonomy (September 2008)
  • Explorer's Club, Exploration Fund Grant 2008 (June 2008)
  • OTS Organization for Tropical Studies, Christiane and Christopher Tyson Fellowship (May 2008)
  • ESA Student Travel Grant for the International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa (March 2008)
  • ESA Eastern Branch Display Presentation (First Place, Entomological Society of America Eastern Branch, Syracuse, New York, March 2008).
  • ESA Asa Fitch Memorial Award (Entomological Society of America Eastern Branch, November 2007).
  • Teaching Achievement Award (Department of Entomology, U. of Maryland, September 2007).
  • Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award (University of Maryland Center for Teaching Exellence [CTE], May 2007).
  • College of Life Sciences (CLFS) Travel Award (University of Maryland, June 2006).
  • President's Prize, First Place, Session A1 (Entomological Society of America, Ft. Lauderdale, FL., December 2005).
  • Cosmos Club Foundation Grant (Cosmos Club, Washington DC, February 2004).
  • Ilene H. Nagel Travel Award (University of Maryland, January 2004).
  • Graduate Student Scholarship (OTS, Duke University, November 2003).
  • University of Maryland Graduate Fellowship (March 2003-May 2005).
  • Harry K. Clench Memorial Award (Lepidopterists' Society of America, Charleston, SC, July 2002).
  • ALAS Project, Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui, Costa Rica (January 2002-February 2003).
  • Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellowship (Cornell University, May 2001).
  • CALS Undergraduate Research Scholarship (Cornell University, December 2000).