Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences Graduate Program

TPSS Graduate Faculty

Meet our regular graduate faculty members!

Amore, Teresita

Assistant Researcher

Dr. Amore's research interest is in breeding and genetics of orchids and anthurium and tissue culture.


Baldos, Orville
Assistant Researcher

Dr. Baldos’ research interests include: 1) Native Hawaiian plant materials development for landscape and ornamental use; 2) Screening and selection of non-invasive ornamental species and 3) Development of sustainable ornamental production and landscape management practices. His past research includes the development of propagation, establishment and weed management protocols for a number of native Hawaiian groundcovers; seed dormancy, smoke-stimulated germination and seed harvest timing of pili grass (Heteropogon contortus) and weed management in sports turf.


Bittenbender, H.C. "Skip"
Extension Specialist in Fruit & Nuts

Since 2005 Dr. Bittenbender has aided Hawai‘i’s new cacao to the chocolate industry. His ten experimental ‘selections’ are growing across the state and taste evaluations are underway. His goal is to create the world’s best chocolate flavors in the islands using different techniques of genetics, fermentation, roasting and blending.


Cheah, Kheng
Associate Specialist

Dr. Cheah has over 30 years of professional experience in plant tissue culture and transformation, working for international agricultural industries as a scientist, research director, production and research manager, as well as managing director. She is also a certified professional coach with an emphasis on business management, project and productivity management.


Cho, Alyssa
Assistant Researcher

Dr. Alyssa Cho is the sustainable farming systems researcher with an emphasis in tropical fruit and nut production. Her past research includes varietal evaluation, intercropping peanut and cassava in tropical developing countries, and sustainable weed management. Current and planned research include cacao orchard establishment and management, best management practices for papaya production, and collaborative research in breadfruit, coffee, macadamia nut, lychee, and avocado. She meets regularly with industry associations, and is the co-PI for a two year project to conduct extension events in sustainable fruit and nut production with Extension Agent, Andrea Kawabata. Dr. Cho will be teaching TPSS403.


Deenik, Jonathan

Dr. Deenik's program focuses on assisting farmers and land managers in Hawai‘i implement soil management practices that maintain good crop production, and more importantly, enhance soil quality and protect the soil for future generations. His work integrates research and extension activities with a strong commitment to farmers throughout Hawaii.


DeFrank, Joseph
Specialist in Weed Science

Dr. DeFrank’s research involves weed control strategies in wide range of crops and growing conditions.  His program has involved weed control studies in potted ornamentals, wet and dryland taro, sport turf and native Hawaiian plants grown as ground covers on roadside rights of way. 


Kantar, Michael
Assistant Researcher

Dr. Kantar is interested in the intersection between genomics, agriculture and ecology. His goal is to examine complex interactions so that everyone can work toward creating food systems that are more productive and sustainable. Currently his research broadly focuses on the breeding and genetics of vegetable crops through the use of crop wild relatives.


Kaufman, Andrew
Associate Specialist

Dr. Kaufman research interests created the Tropical Landscape and Human Interaction Lab (TLHIL), which is a multidisciplinary research laboratory dedicated to studying the connection between plants, the outdoor landscape and the associated human responses. The lab draws upon the disciplines of environmental psychology, horticulture, sociology, psychology, and landscape architecture in order to reveal and understand people’s emotional, psychological, social and physiological responses to vegetation and outdoor designed spaces.


Kobayashi, Kent
Associate Horticulturist

Dr. Kobayashi's research project on Light Environment Management of Tropical Crops investigates photobiology and photomorphogenesis of tropical crops and different light source effects on hydroponic vegetables. Using flipped classroom and "Bring Your Own Device" techniques, he teaches courses on Crop Modeling, Communications in the Sciences, Tropical Production Systems, and Plant Growth and Development. His extension project focuses on iPhone/iPad applications in agriculture and computer applications in horticulture.


Leonhardt, Kenneth

Dr. Leonhardt's research interest is in developing improved varieties of ornamental plants for commercial producers.


Lincoln, Noa
Assistant Professor

Dr. Noa Kekuewa Lincolnʻs research examines indigenous crops and cropping systems in both the past and present. He studies pre-historical agriculture in the Pacific using soil science, ethnohistory, and archaeology to examine how humans and the environment interacted in pre-industrial societies as part of the Human Biocomplexity Project. He works closely with traditional farmers, restoration of traditional farming systems, and other farms that utilize traditional crops or cropping systems. Through this works he preserves traditional knowledge and practices by incorporating them into modern farming systems, bringing the lessons of the past to bear on modern issues of food and farming.


Manshardt, Richard

Dr. Manshardt's research interest is in improving papaya by conventional breeding methods, broadening the genetic base of papaya by inter-generic hybridization, using DNA markers to track gene flow via pollen and seeds from commercial papaya fields to better understand pollination biology and develop biocontainment methods, and evaluating horticultural characteristics and BBTV resistance in dessert banana germplasm.


Miyasaka, Susan
Professor of Agronomy

Dr. Miyasaka's research interest is in maker-assisted breeding of taro for increased resistance to Taro Leaf Blight; field trials of sweet potatoes to determine cultivars best adapted to conditions along Hamakua Coast of Hawaii; field and greenhouse trials of edible ginger to determine best management practices to control ginger wilt disease. Her extension focuses on promoting pasture-raised beef, locally raised fruits and vegetables through education of culinary students, chefs, and the public.


Muszynski, Michael
Assistant Professor

Plant morphology is determined by the coordinated activity of multiple interacting signaling and regulatory networks. These networks integrate both external and endogenous inputs to shape final plant form. Dr. Muszynski's research goals are to dissect the signaling and regulatory networks which underlie important developmental processes shaping plant morphology and use this information to develop a systems-level understanding of plant growth. His lab uses maize as a model system to identify key determinants regulating plant morphology, understand their molecular and biological functions and determine how they interact with other components within larger networks.


Nguyen, Hue
Soil Scientist

Dr. Nguyen research is in soil chemistry with particular interest in organic matter management (e.g., composting, agricultural use of sewage sludge), and in monitoring of environmental pollution. He also studies the soil acidity, aluminum and manganese chemistries, organic soil amendments and plant nutrition with focus on nutritional requirements of tree crops, especially coffee, or its processing waste water guava, and macadamia.


Ogoshi, Richard
Associate Biofuel Agronomist

Dr. Ogoshi's research is aimed at understanding how the quantity and quality of biofuel feedstock crops change in response to climate, soil, and management. The crops range from trees and annuals that produce vegetal oil to grasses that produce lignocellulose. Information generated from this work is being incorporated into crop simulation models and offered to stakeholders and students from elementary to college.


Paull, Robert

Dr. Paull's research focuses on the adaptation and application of newer technology to the improvement of postharvest handling in a integrated and systematic way. His research has led to improvement in production practices, and the postharvest handling and marketing. All of his research is done in conjunction with the support of local industies and individual growers, shippers and marketers.


Radovich, Theodore
Associate Specialist

Dr. Radovich's laboratory focuses on the ecology, yield and quality of food crops, with a special emphasis on the links between pre-harvest management practices and crop quality. Management strategies that his lab is particularly interested in include crop/variety selection and cost effective use of local inputs to promote plant growth. He also work closely with other cooperative extension faculty and staff, federal agencies, growers groups, industry and others to improve the awareness and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.


Saulo, Aurora.

Dr. Saulo is a Professor and the Extension Specialist in Food Technology of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Her areas of interest include food safety and quality, consumer behavior and attitudes, risk communication, tropical fruit processing, and new food product and process development.


Turano, Brian
Assistant Specialist

Dr. Turano's research interest is in the development of drought-tolerant forages, specifically napiergrass x pearl millet hybrids, and determining their maximal productivity potential. Selection of high yielding hybrids with improved nutritional value and increased disease resistance are a priority. He is also focused on the development of sustainability-related curriculum and teaching about renewable energy technology, their environmental impacts, and societal choices.


Wieczorek, Ania
Specialist Molecular Ecology/Biotechnology

Dr. Wieczorek’s work has two areas of focus, the Molecular Ecology Lab concentrates on conservation and the management of invasive species through the application of DNA technology and the Biotechnology Outreach Program, which provides public education about agricultural biotechnology to a wide range of audiences and includes the GENE-ius Day Program.


Yost, Russell
Chair and Researcher

Dr. Yost's research interests is in understanding, predicting, and control of factors affecting soil-plant interactions with special reference to plant nutrition, environmental quality, and site-specific soil and crop management.




TPSS Student Organic Farming Training (SOFT) is a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students who share common interests in growing food sustainably and having fun. SOFT was initiated in 2007 and the SOFT Student Farm began in the spring of 2008 with a handful of students and faculty dedicated to creating a place for student exploration and leadership in agriculture. Since then, the farm has flourished, producing wonderful things to eat and a great community of lively students.



Every year, graduate students are elected for the TPSS Graduate Student Oganization (GSO). For the 2015 - 2016 school year, the TPSS GSO officers are:

  • Kauahi Perez - President
  • Tia Silvasy - Vice President
  • Greg Hoover ​- Secretary​
  • Aimee Uyehara - Treasurer​

The TPSS GSO strives to enrich the graduate student experience in our department by orchestrating social events and activities. The goal of these events is not only to provide camaraderie among students outside of the classroom and laboratory, but also to bring the entire department together, including faculty and staff, for informal events.

Annual Waffle Party

Before the start of the Fall semester, Dr. Ania Wieczorek, the TPSS Graduate Program Chairman, hosts a waffle breakfast for the TPSS graduate department to introduce incoming new graduate students and faculty members. It's a time to sit, eat and get to know new and old faces. And enjoy delicious waffles made by the graduate program chairman!