The ʻŌhiʻa Challenge

Official Guidelines & Rules

Devastating fungi are killing Hawaii’s iconic ʻŌhiʻa trees. Are you ready to invent a way to help us detect and address Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death? Think you’ve got a good idea or potential solution? You could win up to $70,000 for your solution!

Applications are due by April 8th, 2019 by 11:59 PM HST on Challenge.gov. Please direct all questions to ohia@conservationxlabs.org.

CHALLENGE OVERVIEW

The ‘Ohiʻa tree is named after a Hawaiian legend that tells of the love and separation of the young couple ʻŌhiʻa and Lehua; Jealous of their love, the goddess Pele turned the warrior ʻŌhiʻa into a tree and Lehua into the tree’s flower.  If you pluck the red lehua blossoms of the ʻōhiʻa tree (Metrosideros polymorpha), legend says the lovers’ tears fill the sky with rain as they are separated again.

Today, the tears of many others are being shed over the future of the ʻōhiʻa tree because it is threatened by microscopic fungi that recently invaded the islands of Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i. These invasive fungi, Ceratocystis huliohia and Ceratocystis lukuohia, are responsible for the phenomenon named “Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death” or ROD. Since 2014 when first identified, the fungi have infected thousands of acres of forest and if unstopped, could irreversibly change Hawai‘i’s ecosystems and culture by eliminating the beloved ʻōhi‘a.

If ʻōhiʻa is lost, the countless native species that grow in the shade of the ʻōhiʻa will never be, the native birds that rest in the boughs of the ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees will have no roost, and rain that falls in Hawai‘i’s old growth forests will merely rush away, taking delicate island soils with it. Even the cycle of creation after a lava flow would be disrupted when there is no ʻōhiʻa to help bring life back to the land.
— Cindy Orlando, Superintendent for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death strikes at the heart of not only the Native Hawaiian people who revere the tree as part of their family, but to everyone who has ever been touched by the wondrous beauty of the Hawaiian islands. The importance of ʻŌhiʻa cannot be overstated, it is the keystone native tree species, and provides food and habitat for a myriad of species found nowhere else on Earth. Initially thought to be Ceratocystis fimbriata, researchers have confirmed that these two new pathogens are not just new to Hawaii, but also new to science, and are now called Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia.

Currently, the only obvious sign of infection is when a tree’s leaves suddenly turn brown, and the tree begins to die. Finding an infected tree before it dies is incredibly difficult, frequently requiring sample collection over challenging and rugged terrain, as well as lab analysis, either on or off-site. This makes saving trees expensive and near-impossible in many situations. Field sampling has been limited to trees exhibiting symptoms of infection and mortality, and there is no clear methodology to identify asymptomatic trees (i.e., trees without signs of infection). Once the leaves begin to turn brown, it’s already too late in the infection process to save the tree or prevent spread of the infection. These fungal pathogens can affect individual trees as well as entire forests so there is a tremendous urgency among land managers, cultural practitioners, and private citizens to halt the spread of the disease.

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 fungi will help us contain it, and likely offer the best chance to eventually eliminate this disease.

 

CHALLENGE STRUCTURE

We are incorporating industry innovation, best science, and best practices to improve environmental stewardship.
— Susan Combs, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior

This is an urgent and critical problem that needs attention now: The invasive fungal pathogens are threatening the ʻŌhiʻa tree with extinction. If the tree is lost, there will be devastating cultural and ecological repercussions. We are working on a short timeframe to solve the problem of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

The Challenge: This is an innovation competition that seeks innovative turn-key tools and creative solutions to rapidly and inexpensively detect the fungal species Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia 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 fungi that lead to its spread.

The first step to containment and eventual eradication of the disease is to be able to detect it – before it kills and before it spreads. Due to the urgency of the problem, we seek solutions & turn-key tools that can rapidly and inexpensively be deployed to solve the detection problem in asymptomatic trees and predict the spread of the disease. Ideal solutions are at a stage of development where they can be deployed in the field within the next two years.

Categories: There are 3 categories for solutions in this challenge (collectively, “Categories”). We invite low-cost, turn-key solutions to detect (and predict) the invasion pathways and the spread of the fungi in the environment, as well as solutions that would help contain or reduce the spread without harming other beneficial species. The Categories are defined by the following Challenge statements:

1. Field-based Detection Of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death In Asymptomatic Trees

The Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death fungi are invisible killers. Their spores are microscopic, and without boring into the tree, it is currently impossible to detect the presence of the fungi. The fungi 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.

2. Detection Of The Fungi At The Landscape Level

Many ʻŌhiʻa trees are found in remote sites or challenging terrain (hilly and mountainous, with steep slopes, and/or thick foliage, 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.

3. Environmental Pathway Identification, Including Predictive Assessment

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

 

APPLICATION PROCESS

●      All applicants must create a profile in Challenge.gov to submit an application.

●      Navigate to the The ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge page on Challenge.gov.

●      Select “Submit Solution” in the left-hand sidebar of The ‘Ōhiʻa Challenge page

●      Complete the fields and submit your application by the deadline on April 8th, 2019 (11:59 PM HST)

 

Your application must be uploaded to Challenge.gov by the deadline in order to be eligible.

 

SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION

Application Fields in Challenge.gov

 

A.   Title (Required): Provide a descriptive title for your submission. Include the challenge topic that you are  applying for in the title.

●      Field-based Detection Of Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death In Asymptomatic Trees

●      Detection Of The Fungi At The Landscape Level

●      Environmental Pathway Identification, Including Predictive Assessment

B. Image/logo: It is not necessary to upload an image or a logo.

C. External URL (Required): Provide a YouTube or Vimeo link of the video in this form field.

Create a short (3 minutes or less) video. The purpose of this video is to demonstrate the Technology Readiness Level (TRL, see https://go.nasa.gov/1OPJtq6) of development of your innovation – is it deployed in the field (for ROD fungi or other detection), is it tested in a lab, is it an idea modeled using software?

D. Solution Files (Required): Upload a document (.pdf, .doc, or .docx) that describes your solution. Refer to the Challenge Criteria in this document for more detail on how applications will be judged.

Your essay should include the following information and it should be no more than 1000 words.

●      A short description of the solution

●      Address the core criteria of the challenge:

○      Demonstrate the efficacy and impact.

■      How will the proposed idea make a significant contribution in advancing the detection of the ROD fungi and their pathways of spread through dramatic improvements in efficacy, speed, efficiency, or cost?

○      Demonstrate and describe how your innovation is scalable according to the terms of this challenge.

○      Demonstrate and describe how your innovation improves the cost of detection of the ROD fungi.

○      Demonstrate how your solution is culturally acceptable.

○      Demonstrate the technical feasibility of the solution.

■      Is the solution tangible and realistic?

■      Will the proposed solution work as intended, and not negatively affect other natural and cultural resources?

■      Where is the solution on the Technological Readiness Level scale (TRL), and what is the expected amount of time before the solution/tool can be used in the field?

■      Describe what is needed in order for the tool/solution to be deployed in the field to solve the problem described in this challenge.

■      Challenge submissions that include or are close to an existing prototype detection tool will generally receive higher scores than submissions that are purely ideas.

○      Demonstrate how your solution is sustainable.

■      Is the proposed idea environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable in both its design and tenure?

●      Introduce your team and why you are qualified to produce this solution.

●      Describe the barriers or constraints that your solution addresses.

●      Describe the intended end user of your product or solution.

 

E. Description (Required): In the “Description” text box, provide a short summary of your application (200 words max).

F. Accept the Challenge.gov Terms and Conditions (Required).

G. Select “Submit Solution” on Challenge.gov (Required).

H.  Utilization of Conservation X Labs Digital MakersSpace

We encourage applicants to create a project profile in Conservation X Labs Digital Makerspace https://conservationx.com/ to assist the applicant in the development of their proposed solution to the Challenge. The Digital Makerspace is an online open community working toward creating tech solutions for conservation's greatest problems. 

 

CHALLENGE APPLICATION GUIDELINES

Online application form: Applications must be submitted through the Challenge.gov website. In addition to answering the form questions on the web form, a proposal document (pdf or word format) must be uploaded that addresses the questions and topics outlined in the application process.

Ineligible applications: An application will be deemed ineligible and will not be reviewed by the Judges if:

  • the application is incomplete;

  • the solution described is not a response to the Challenge (i.e. the application does not address ROD detection according to the three categories described above); or,

  • the proposed solution harms healthy trees or otherwise harms natural or cultural resources.

Testing of diseased ʻōhiʻa material: Importers of Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia living cultures are responsible for applying for and receiving all permits associated with shipping diseased wood. Note that the process of applying for and receiving the permit can take about  3 months. The Challenge administrators cannot assist in the procurement of infected wood for Challenge Applicants.  However, Challenge Applicants may contact the Challenge administrators if they seek information on the permit process (ohia@conservationxlabs.org).

Challenge participants will comply with all local, state, federal laws. Any collection and movement of ohia wood and/or fungal pathogens within or outside of Hawaii will be done under permission from the respective land owner or agency, and may also require permits from USDA, APHIS, HDOA, or others. It is the Challenge Participant's responsibility to ensure legal compliance, take precautions necessary to prevent the spread of invasive species, and maintain records to demonstrate such compliance and precautions.

 

CHALLENGE CRITERIA

This competition encourages a portfolio of ideas to address the stated challenge. However, Judges may give higher scores to innovations with a faster development and deployment timeline (e.g. turn-key tools able to deploy in the field within 2 years or sooner). The Challenge administrators and judges may request access to the prototype to perform field testing prior to making a decision on the award; however, field testing is not a requirement for submission in this competition. Applicants should demonstrate the tool or solution in the 3 minute video as part of the application process. In the absence of access to the fungal pathogens and/or ʻŌhiʻa trees, consider demonstrating the feasibility of the tool or solution using other methods or evidence (research, partnerships, theory, evidence from adjacent fields or applications, etc.).

Challenge Criteria: A panel of experts from conservation, industry, and technological innovation will judge the Challenge entries against a number of important criteria.

Selection criteria: Ultimately the winners be decided based on scores within the following 4 criteria:

●    Scalability: This challenge seeks tools that can detect and predict the environmental pathways of the fungi, and detect the presence of the fungi in individual asymptomatic trees and/or in larger stands -- sampling upwards of 100 acres. The highest performing tools for detecting the fungi would work for small and large-scale analysis. The tools should be designed for easy adoption by the intended users, including ease of use and cost, with a clear plan for creating a product that will have a measurable impact.

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

  • Current costs:

■      Average lab cost per tree tested - $21.00

■      Average field costs per tree (includes instances when staff must drive and hike to remote areas to obtain tree samples) - $36.00

■      Total average cost per tree - $57.00

●      Impact: The proposed idea will make a significant contribution in advancing the detection of the ROD fungi and their pathways of spread through dramatic improvements in efficacy, speed, efficiency, or cost.

●      Feasibility: Demonstrate or persuade that the proposed solution will actually work as described. The proposed solution is tangible and realistic and, noting where it sits on the technological development spectrum (from idea to deployment), the expected amount of time before the solution/tool can be used in the field. Due to the urgency of the problem, Challenge submissions that include or are closer to an existing prototype detection tool may get higher scores than submissions that are purely ideas.

 

Cut-off criteria: These secondary criteria will be considered as minimum cut-off

●      Cultural acceptability: ʻŌhiʻa trees are culturally significant trees and solutions should not harm healthy trees or otherwise harm native natural or cultural resources.

●      Sustainability: The proposed idea is environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable in both its design and tenure.

 

JUDGING PANEL

The “Judging Panel” will be comprised of highly qualified and impartial Judges. The Challenge administrators, in their sole and absolute discretion, will nominate Judging Panel candidates. Each Judge will enter into a Judging Agreement with the Challenge administrators that will: (i) outline the Judge’s duties and obligations; (ii) require each Judge to maintain confidentiality of Challenge applicants’ Confidential Information in accordance with the Competitor Agreement; and (iii) require each Judge to acknowledge that he or she shall make no claim to any applicant’s Intellectual Property.

Independence of Judging Panel: The Judging Panel will be independent of the Challenge administrators, and all Challenge applicants. No Judge, nor any member of a Judge’s immediate family shall participate, nor have any financial or other material interest, in any applicant. All members of the Judging Panel shall promptly disclose to the Challenge administrators any such current, former, or expected future conflict of interest with any Challenge applicant.

Role of Judging Panel: The duties and responsibilities of the Judging Panel will include, but not be limited to: (i) evaluating each applicant’s compliance with these Rules for the Ohia Challenge; and (ii) the selection of the Challenge winner(s).

Grounds for Judging Panel Decisions: Official decisions made by the Judging Panel will be approved by a majority vote of the Judges, following careful consideration of the Challenge application as required by these these Competition Rules. If any vote of the Judges results in a tie, then the Judging Panel shall determine, in its sole and absolute discretion, the mechanism to settle the tie. Similarly, if one or more Challenge applicants are tied at any stage during the competition, the Judging Panel shall have the sole and absolute discretion to settle the tie. If no Entry meets the criteria for Challenge, then the Judging Panel will retain sole and absolute discretion to declare or not declare a winner of the Challenge and/or otherwise allocate or choose not to allocate one or more of the Awards and/or any other Award associated with the Challenge.

Decisions of Judging Panel Are Final: The Judging Panel shall have sole and absolute discretion: (i) to allocate duties among the Judges; (ii) to determine the degree of accuracy and error rate that is acceptable to the Judging Panel for all Challenge calculations, measurements, and results, where not specified in these Rules; (iii) to determine the methodology used by the Judging Panel to render its decisions; (iv) to declare the winner(s) of the Challenge; and (v) to award the Prize(s). Decisions of the Judging Panel shall be binding. The Challenge administrators and the applicants agree to not dispute any decision or ruling of the Judging Panel, including decisions regarding the degree of accuracy or error rate of any Challenge calculations, measurements, and results. No applicant shall have the right to observe other applicants’ submissions or evaluations, unless such information is made publicly available by the applicant.

Digital Pitch Session for Finalists: The Judging Panel will require finalists to participate in digital pitch sessions to give finalists a chance to describe their applications in more detail and respond to follow-up inquiries from the judges. These digital pitch sessions would occur in May-June, 2019. Detailed information about format, timing, and judges’ expectations for the digital pitch sessions will be provided to finalists in advance of the pitch sessions.

 

CHALLENGE RULES

Abstract: The Department of the Interior and its collaborators are seeking innovative tools and creative solutions to rapidly and inexpensively detect the fungal species Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia (formerly Ceratocystis fimbriata) in asymptomatic ʻŌhiʻa 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 fungi that lead to their spread.

Privacy Advisory: The savetheohia.org web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Department of the Interior (DOI).  The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with DOI unless an Applicant wins the Challenge.  To collect an award, Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to DOI.

Challenge categories & prize: This Challenge consists of three categories:

●       Field-based Detection Of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death In Asymptomatic Trees

●       Detection Of The Fungi At The Landscape Level

●       Environmental Pathway Identification, Including Predictive Assessment

Prize administration: DOI has a total cash prize purse budget of $70,000. The maximum full award amount is $70,000; however, DOI reserves the right to allocate different individual award amounts for a winner within each category as it deems appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by DOI and the judging panel appointed by DOI. A total of up to three awards (one for each category) can be made for the highest ranked submissions as described in the “Challenge Structure” section of the Challenge details.

Deadline: Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (Hawaii Standard Time) on April 8, 2019. Late submissions will not be considered.

Judging: After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and decide the winning solution(s). The Judging Panel may be composed of Federal and/or Non-Federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge.  All Applicants that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of the submissions. Decisions by DOI cannot be contested.

Important eligibility information: To receive an award, Applicants will not have to transfer their exclusive intellectual property (IP) rights to DOI. Instead, Applicants will grant DOI a non-exclusive license to use and practice their solutions. Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information. Accordingly, Applicants should protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal prior to submission).

Unless otherwise disclosed in the submission, Applicant represents and warrants that the Applicant is the owner of the submission and the submission does not infringe or violate any patent, copyright, trade secret, trademark, or other third-party intellectual property right.

This Challenge is being conducted by DOI under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. C. § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (PL-114-329), which states that cash prize purse awards for this Challenge may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by DOI before cash prize purses are awarded. 

See the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. C. § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (PL-114-329) for full details.

By participating in this Challenge, each Applicant agrees to assume any and all risks, and waive claims against the United States, and, indemnify, save and hold harmless, and defend the United States against all fines, claims, damages, losses, judgments, and expenses arising out of, or from any omission or activity of such person, organization, its representatives, and employees, and all entities it retains for the activities or any of its authorized sub-licenses arising from or related to Challenge activities.

Identity Disclosure.By making a submission to this Challenge, the Applicant gives permission to DOI to use, release, or publish the Solver’s identity (e.g., name and/or photograph) if the Solver’s submission is selected to win a prize.

 [FAW1]Required by 15 USC 3719(i)(1)(B). Also, consider if insurance is necessary based on 3719(i)(2)&(3). If you determine waiver is appropriate, document your file in a way that lends itself to including the waiver on the annual report to Congress, as required by the statute.

Participation by those not eligible for cash prizes: Submissions will be accepted from all Applicants regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. entities, and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any. Meritorious submissions from non-U.S. citizens, non-U.S. permanent residents, and non-U.S. entities may also be recognized in publications issued by DOI announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases.

Full eligibility details and other restrictions are found in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. C. § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (PL-114-329).

Notice: DOI reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the Challenge at any time. If any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Challenge, DOI, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the operation of the Challenge or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules. All interpretations of these Official Rules and decisions by DOI and judges are final and binding in all matters related to the Challenge. All dates are subject to change. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can we submit our application to the Challenge as a team?

A. You may submit your application as an individual or a team. However, you will need to select one Team Leader to create the account in Challenge.gov and submit the application on behalf of the entire team. You may briefly describe your team’s expertise in the application essay.

Q. I am not a U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident, or part of an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the U.S. Can I still apply to the Challenge?

A. Everyone is eligible to apply to the Challenge. However, prize money can only be directly awarded to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States.