Remembering the late Maui scientist Lloyd Loope


By Maddox Royce

When the invasive plant Miconia calvescens threatened to destroy Maui’s rainforest like it did in Tahiti, Maui scientist Lloyd Loope stepped forward to help organize a committee to successfully control it.

“Lloyd played a key role in setting the course,” recalls Teya Penniman, a Maui Invasive Species Committee official.

A celebration of Loope’s life is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 2 at the Maui Invasive Species Office in Makawao. Loope died on July 4 at his residence in Makawao. He was 74 years old.

Associates say that in the early 1990s, Loope’s expertise as a botanist placed him at the forefront of a battle against Miconia, a large leafy tree that at the time had destroyed around 70 percent of Tahiti’s native forest.

The formation of the Melastome Action Committee, later known as the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) in 1999, began as a public-private partnership under the auspices of the University of Hawaii that involved staff and to county, state and federal government resources as well as landowners and volunteers. He used helicopters to identify areas affected by Miconia and used various eradication methods including poisoning and elimination. Other invasive species committees followed on the island of Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu.

Loope openly criticized the lack of adequate government selection processes to protect the native environment, noting that the federal process to ban noxious weeds has taken too long. He also criticized allowing international flights to Maui without the facility of state agricultural control at Kahului Airport. State officials, facing a lawsuit opposed to extending the Maui runway for international flights, ultimately agreed to build the state’s first and only agricultural screening facility.

Loope, born February 4, 1943 in Virginia, combined his passion for the outdoors and science, eventually obtaining a doctorate in botany from Duke University in 1970 and working in the Everglades and Grand Teton National Parks. After reading a book on Hawaii’s natural history, he moved his family to Maui in 1980, serving as a research biologist for Haleakala National Park, his family said.

During part of his free time, he combined hiking with his children and eradicating invasive species.

“It would take a lot for me to search for invasive species, especially in our free time,” her son Marshall said. “We were pulling the grass out of the fountains.”

Marshall Loope, a plant quarantine inspector at Kahului airport, said he was proud of his father’s efforts to restore the Silver Sword by fencing pigs and goats in Haleakala National Park.

Loope is survived by his wife Keri Duke, daughter Brook Loope and sons Bennett Loope and Marshall. In lieu of flowers, the family asked friends to donate to the Maui Invasive Species Committee, PO Box 983, Makawao, Hi. 96768.

Photo courtesy of the author

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