The Ohia Challenge will pay up to $75k to help save the native Hawaiian tree


The Saving the ‘Ōhi’a challenge is presented here as an open challenge to solicit ideas and projects as potential solutions and encourage collaboration. Digital Makerspace members can share their ideas and projects and get feedback and support from the crowd to advance them. This challenge will be launched as a competition in Fall 2018 with a $70K+ prize purse. At that time, Digital Makerspace members can choose to submit their projects separately to the competition.

The first step to containment and eventual eradication of the disease is to be able to detect to it – before it kills and before it spreads. This challenge seeks innovative tools and creative solutions to rapidly and cheaply detect the fungal species Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia (formerly Ceratocystis fimbriata) in asymptomatic trees (i.e. trees that do not show signs of infection) as well as at the landscape scale in larger stands. We also seek tools that can detect the potential invasion transmission pathways (e.g., wind, streams, transported soil, forest products, tools, equipment, etc.) and potential reservoirs of the fungus that lead to its spread.

Most scientists who study fungal pathogens recognize that curing infected trees is difficult or near impossible, especially if the pathogen has spread across vast areas. Early detection is a critical component of all invasive species management programs, and improvements in our capacity to detect the fungus will help us contain it, and likely offer the best chance to eventually eliminate this disease.


This challenge seeks tools and solutions to address the following constraints:



The ROD fungus is an invisible killer. Its spores are microscopic, and without boring into the tree, it is currently impossible to detect the presence of the fungus. The fungus infects the tree’s interior sapwood and chokes the tree’s water transport system. Trees may be infectious but asymptomatic for over a year, yet the only visual cue of infection occurs when a tree’s canopy suddenly turns brown, and the tree begins to die. At this stage, teams are deployed to collect wood samples from the tree and submitted to a laboratory for analysis. When the leaves turn brown, it’s too late in the infection process to save the tree and/or prevent spread of the infection.



Many ʻŌhiʻa trees are found in remote sites or challenging terrain (hilly and mountainous, with steep slopes, and/or thick foilage, etc.). Being able to reach such sites is difficult, and there is a need to understand the spread of the pathogen at the landscape level to allow us to focus our efforts around control and eradication. We invite low-cost solutions for rapid field-based detection of the infection in trees across challenging terrain and in stands of trees of more than five acres, and preferably up to 100 acres.



We do not fully understand how trees become infected, what are potential reservoirs for the pathogen, and how the disease spreads through the environment. Understanding the spread of the fungus is critical, yet because the fungus is not visible to the naked eye, it is impossible to visually track it along suspected invasion pathways, including wind currents, soil samples, and possibly rain.

We invite low-cost solutions to detect (and predict) the invasion pathways and the spread of the fungus in the environment, as well as solutions that would help contain or reduce the spread without harming other beneficial species.



In addition to specific criteria of individual sub-challenges, we are considering the following criteria.

  • SCALABILITY: This challenge seeks tools that can detect the presence of the fungus in individual asymptomatic trees and/or in larger stands– sampling upwards of 100 acres. The highest performing tools for detecting the fungus would work for small and large-scale analysis.


  • COST-EFFICACY: New or adapted technologies must improve the cost-efficacy of detection compared to currently available options for individual trees and entire forests.

Read more about it here: