Rare Plants of American Samoa


The following people are part of the Rare Native Plants of American Samoa Project. We also acknowledment the assistance of Michael Freedman, Project Administrator, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Dry_Torguas, Florida keys
Art Whistler
Michael B. Thomas
Data/Image Management


Art Whistler, PhD
Dr. Art Whistler is a botanist whose field of expertise is the plants of the tropical Pacific islands, including Hawaii, the rest of Polynesia (including Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti), Fiji, and Micronesia. Born and raised in Southern California, where he attended the University of California for his bachelor's degree (Riverside) and master's degree (Santa Barbara), he began his Pacific experience with a three year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps teaching college biology in Western Samoa (1968-70). Following the Peace Corps assignment, he moved to Hawaii where he attended the University of Hawaii and received his Ph.D. in Botany (1979), with his dissertation focusing on the vegetation of Samoa.

He subsequently became a lecturer in botany at the University of Hawaii until he received a post-doctoral appointment at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai. He worked at that garden for nine years as an ethnobotanist (a scientist who studies how people use plants in native cultures), with particular emphasis on herbal medicine in Polynesia. This was followed by his current work with the small consulting company he founded, Isle Botanica, located in Honolulu. As a consultant, he has worked on numerous botanical projects in the Pacific Islands, including Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Yap, Chuuk, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. Dr. Whistler has published numerous scientific articles about plants, as well as ten books, including Tropical Ornamentals: a Guide (2000, published by Timber Press), Plants in Samoan Culture (2001), Polynesian Herbal Medicine (1992), Tongan Herbal Medicine (1992), Samoan Herbal Medicine (1996), Flowers of the Pacific Island Seashore (1992), Rainforest trees of Samoa (2004), The Samoan Rainforest (2002) and Wayside Plants of the Islands (1995).

Dr. Whistler was a visiting Professor of Biology at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji in 2007. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor with the University of Hawai'i Botany Department and with the Lyon Arboretum, and a research affiliate at the Bishop Museum Botany Department in Honolulu. Current projects include work on the flora of Samoa and Tonga and a book (expected 2008) on the ethnobotany plants of Polynesia.

Michael B. Thomas, PhD
Dr. Michael Thomas is a botanist whose specialization is bioinformatics and its application towards the preservation of bio-cultural knowledge. He attended Virginia Tech, and received his bachelor's degree in Forest Resource Management. He intiated his interest in the tropics and the developing world by serving in the Peace Corps teaching tropcial fruit crop/medicinal plant nursery management and plant propagation in the Kingdom of Tonga. Following his Peace Corps experience (1989-93), he attended the University of Florida and received his MS (Tropical Horticulture), and Ph.D. in Botany (2001), with his dissertation focusing on the ethnopharmacoeia of the Pataxo, Bahia, Brazil. Dr. Thomas is a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an affiliate at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

He is currently developing floristic databases and traditional knowledge retrieval systems. His research interests include digital processing of biological informatics, floristics data and database development related to museum/herbaria collection management and Dr. Thomas has published several scientific articles and a book on the Common Medicinal Plants of Portland, Jamaica..

As a International consultant, he has worked on numerous development projects in the Pacific Islands, including Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and in Nepal, Ghana, French Polynesia, Kosovo, and Guatemala. His experience with donor agencies includes USAID, Winrock International, GTZ, FAO, GCIAR, and the United Nations. His consultancies have specialized in improving the capacity of private sector small Agribusiness enterprises to access and supply domestic and foreign markets, increase integration of smallholder agriculture in the supply chain for value-added agro-processing, medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) and valuation/assessment of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), ethnobotanical and forest (Urban) inventories, botanical/biological surveys, biodiversity assessment for potential economic opportunities of forest resources, and forest crops.

Supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
© 2008. CIEER