Research at PBRC encompasses biodiversity at all levels of biological integration, from genes to ecosystems, and seeks to integrate them through collaborations. Molecular, physiological, computational, and imaging tools are being used to document biological diversity, understand evolutionary relationships, and elucidate its functional significance. Behavioral studies, many in combination with physiological measurements, are being used to answer questions of the mechanisms of nervous system function and their role in evolution. Community and ecosystem projects include surveys, field-experimentation, and the development and implementation of sophisticated monitoring systems.
With Hawai‘i's unique island isolation and diverse human population it is a “natural laboratory” for biodiversity studies. Marine, terrestrial, lentic, and lotic habitats in Hawai‘i provide many opportunities for investigating evolution in native and introduced biota. PBRC researchers use comparative approaches to understand island biodiversity and the processes underlying adaptive radiation both within the archipelago and across habitats, while developing strategies for conserving the unique biota. This requires a transdisciplinary approach across the fields of molecular biology, development, systematics, phylogenetics, behavior, invasion biology, population genetics, and community ecology.
Additionally, PBRC faculty work with government and non-government entities on challenges facing Hawai‘i — including conserving natural resources, developing sustainable land use practices, reducing dependence on food and energy imports, and maintaining a healthy population — by developing new approaches to translational research to solve real world problems. Some research within PBRC focuses on assessment of potential threats to human and ecosystem health, implementation of new management policies complemented with research to monitor results, and education and training of stakeholders.
PBRC faculty have developed collaborative interdisciplinary programs in research and training. The three areas of focus of PBRC are: