Herman Phaff began surveying Hawaiian yeasts in collaboration with William B. Heed (Speith 1981). Heed had worked on the ecological associations of Hawaiian Drosophilidae, focusing mainly on rearing flies from various host plants (Heed 1968; 1971). He was interested in delving into more detail on this system as part of his sabbatical at UC Davis. During this time he also worked with Phaff on the cactophilic Drosophila in the southwesten United States. The Phaff Collection at Davis still consists of many of the yeasts discovered as part of this research.
Lachance, Starmer and their colleagues (Lachance et al. 1990; 2001; 2003; 2005) picked up where Phaff and Heed left off, describing many yeast species present in Hawaii, as well as their specific interactions with plants and insects. They studied the relatively simple flower-yeast-insect systems using culture dependent approaches. Recently, several studies (Ort, et al. 2012; Zimmerman and Vitousek 2012) have expanded our knowledge of Hawaiian fungal and yeast systems, using culture-independent, DNA sequence-based approaches to examine communities in several native plant genera (e.g., Metrosideros, Clermontia, Pisonia, Acacia, Cheirodendron).
Research on Hawaiian fungi are still in the descriptive stage but once these systems are better understood, a wealth hypotheses addressing biogeography, coevolution and adaptive radiation, and community assembly can be tested.