Monday, May 14, 2001

3 groups will fill
accommodations in
the Hilo area

Hula dancers, runners
and biologists arrive
the last week of July

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The Big Island's native forest birds are in a race for survival against disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Biologists from around the world who come to Hilo this summer to learn about the birds will find themselves in another biological competition: the need for a place to sleep.

Besides 1,000 biologists and their families, Hilo and the surrounding area will host up to 3,000 hula students and another 700 off-island long-distance runners.

These 4,700 or more people will be spending their nights in an area that has 1,418 hotel and bed-and-breakfast rooms. Organizers of the three events plan to place the overflow in university dormitories and at Kilauea Military Camp dormitory and people's homes.

Biologists from as far away as Kenya and Russia will begin their four-day annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology on Sunday, July 29.

"This is a mega-event for this island," said Judith Fox-Goldstein of the UH-Hilo Conference Center (974-7555).

The caliber of attendees is suggested by the British keynote speaker, Sir Robert May.

His participation was in doubt for a while because he was advising the British government on how to handle the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease there, Fox-Goldstein said.

The kind of work the conservation biologists will do is indicated by the report on the birds vs. mosquitoes by biologist Carter Atkinson.

Hawaii's surviving native birds are mostly in the uplands, which are too cold for the mosquitoes, which carry avian malaria. But the mosquitoes are evolving to handle the cold. Can the birds evolve to resist disease?

Fox-Goldstein said the biologists chose Hilo for the conference not only for the natural environment, but also because the city is small and offers Hawaiian culture, too.

In fact, the opening ceremony of the 2001 World Hula Conference is the same day the biology conference begins.

Hula conference director Noenoe Wong-Wilson said the event includes a hula competition and elements of hula study, such as ponohula, the objects used in the performing hula.

Workshops start July 26, preceding opening ceremonies. Information can be had at 934-7722.

To further crowd the end of July, four Kilauea race events, from a 5-mile walk to a full marathon, will draw 1,000 runners and walkers to the Kilauea Volcano Wilderness Runs on July 28, the day before the opening ceremonies of the two conferences.

Race director Howard Shapiro said many of the 700 off-island runners make hotel reservations for the following year the same day as the race. Call him at 985-8725.

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