Whistler Art, world-renowned botanist and university Hawaii in Mānoa, alumni and lecturers died April 3, 2020 after contracting COVID-19 at the age of 75. She was abandoned by a sister on the mainland and adult children, Sean in Seattle, and Kira Matangi in New Zealand.
Whistler specializes in tropical plants Hawaii and Pacific Islands. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in California, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa. He then moved to Hawaii and holds a PhD in botany from UH Mānoa in 1979, with his research focused on Samoan vegetation.
Whistler’s strong professional career stretches Hawaii and the Pacific. In UH, he is a lecturer and additional teaching staff at botany as well as at the Lyon Arboretum. He held a postdoctoral appointment at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauaʻi and was a research affiliation at the Bishop Museum. He spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.
Whistler founded a small consulting company in Honolulu, Isle Botanica. As a consultant, he worked on botanical projects throughout the Pacific Islands including Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Yap, Chuuk, Guam and Northern Marianas. He is a writer of scientific articles and books focusing on plants in the Pacific Islands.
Appreciation from all over the world remembers Whistler not only because of his in-depth knowledge of plants and the rigor of his research, but also because of his love for the people and communities where he worked and made friends.
“Samoa has been enriched, the ‘King of the Forest’ has been laid with his boots, literally and figuratively. We will all hear footsteps in the forest for years to come, “wrote Tupaemanaia Steve Brown, James Atherton, Alice Campbell and her friends.
“Art will be missed,” he wrote UH President David Lassner in the message to UH Teaching staff and Mānoa staff. “He is a scientist, naturalist and educator who touches the lives of students, colleagues and communities throughout the Pacific.”
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