Science Cafe to Explore Pacific Island Plants and People

Paonangisi Beach by Phillip Capper

Tom Ranker on Twitter

This month’s Honolulu Science Cafe will feature a prominent Honolulu botanist who will talk about the plants and the people of the island nation of Vanuatu.

Tom Ranker is a professor and the chairman of the botany department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He joined UH in 2008, after an 18-year career at as a professor and curator at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He has also led the Botanical Society of America, and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and served as a program director in biology and biodiversity at the National Science Foundation in Virginia.

On Tuesday, Ranker will talk about an ongoing project to document and study the plants of Vanuatu, and how they are incorporated into the every day lives of the people who live there. The island is home to many plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.

His research was well received in Vanuatu. Ranker told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in October that he and his colleagues got the “rock star treatment,” with formal welcomes by the chiefs of villages they visited on the island of Tanna.

The paper described Ranker, who has published a number of papers over the last 24 years, mission as trying to “reclaim the name” and change the way people view botanists.

You can hear his story at the monthly Honolulu Science Cafe meetup at JJ’s Bistro in Kaimuki (3447 Waialae Ave.), which kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21 with an hour of dining and socializing (attendees are encouraged to buy food and drink from the venue). Ranker’s talk will start at 7 p.m.

For more information on this or future events, visit the Honolulu Science Cafe website. You can also follow Ranker on Twitter at @tomranker, or check out his photos on Flickr.

Photo of Paonangisi Beach in Vanuatu by Phillip Capper on Flickr.

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