The NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 project, the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO), will implement a systematic research agenda incorporating new knowledge of biodiversity, population genetics, genomics, phylogenetics, ecology, microbiology, oceanography, and mathematical modeling to document and predict the taxonomic and functional diversity of reef-builders and associated taxa in a changing environment.
The University of Guam was awarded $20 million to expand its research capabilities on coral reef survival in rapidly changing environmental conditions. The five-year grant is from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, more commonly referred to as EPSCoR, and will considerably expand upon work undertaken during the previous five-year, $6 million Guam EPSCoR grant project, the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium.
GECCO will enhance UOG cyberinfrastructure as a nexus for high-speed networks in the Pacific Rim and build high throughput computing capabilities for processing the big data sets generated by genomic and oceanographic components of this project.
GECCO will also develop programs that promote STEM education and training, sustainability, and collaborative science.
GECCO’s mission is to employ modern, cutting-edge methods to determine solutions that address the challenges imposed by climate change on coral reefs and associated ecosystems.
The vision of the GECCO project is to promote our understanding of the Micronesian region’s biodiversity and identify solutions that promote the sustainability of coral reefs in rapidly changing environments across the tropical Pacific.
GECCO Goals & Objectives
GECCO’s research agenda is carried out by two teams with complementary expertise and goals to examine the drivers of reef resilience in a changing climate.
- The Reef Genomes research team will investigate the environmental drivers of genetic connectivity and diversity of reef taxa.
- The Reef Phenomes research team will use common-garden experiments to determine phenotypic responses of corals to environmental change, with the goal of developing a compartmental model of coral population dynamics to predict coral reef resilience and change.
GECCO will facilitate the consolidation and expansion of Guam’s natural history collections and provide state-of-the art digitization, imaging, and mapping of local and regional taxa. The Biorepository encompasses existing UOG online databases for a variety of marine, aquatic and terrestrial taxa with data that includes both existing and new collections on Guam. The project will improve curatorial infrastructure and research capabilities and provide broad-based documentation and understanding of biodiversity on Guam and throughout the Pacific.
The Biorepository will provide specimens, curatorial services, specimen storage, bar code analyses, biodiversity analyses, and global access to its databases. GECCO will be able to expand the Biorepository’s ability to examine patterns of biodiversity within the region with the addition of two research faculty positions in vertebrate morphology (ichthyology) and crustacean biology.
To increase data analysis capacity in the jurisdiction, high throughput computing (HTC) resources will be implemented locally in Guam and partnerships established to broaden access to off-campus HTC resources. Local and remote data storage arrays will improve data access, security, and long-term archival.
A dedicated research computing facilitator will provide assistance and training to users of these resources to maximize the impact of infrastructure developments.
GECCO Education and Workforce Development (EWD) will advance the jurisdiction’s STEM capacity needs and contribute to improved island sustainability through expanded place-based and culturally relevant activities. GECCO contributes to the local workforce, stimulating Guam's competitive research capabilities and encouraging a green economy. GECCO will meet four NICE (Natural Resources, Information Technology, Circular Economy, Engagement) objectives.
- Natural Resources (N): GECCO will expand training and education in natural resources-related research. Student research experiences, professional development trainings, connections to national opportunities, and natural resources curricula will be expanded, impacting 20-36 students and 19-25 faculty/7 researchers/postdocs each year.
- Information Technology (I): GECCO will build IT capacity for the jurisdiction while supporting research activities. GECCO will support professional development, coursework, and certifications for UOG Office of Information Technology (OIT) team members, coding camps for students and community members, and coordination for gatherings of Silicon Village.
- Circular Economy (C): GECCO will catalyze the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative to spark a new green economy in the jurisdiction and improve island sustainability through the cultivation of a circular economy. GECCO will support a business incubator and makerspace and redesign a business capstone course to accelerate a circular economy in Guam.
- Engagement (E): The communities of Guam and Micronesia are underrepresented and underserved in STEM on the national landscape. GECCO will add considerably to the work accomplished under Guam’s previous NSF-EPSCoR award, the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium (GEC). GECCO will greatly increase STEM awareness and engagement through a variety of educational outreach activities through special courses, conferences, science fairs, and the coordination of environmentally sustainable campus operations.
The Collaboratorium has three principal activities that will contribute to the success of the GECCO project:
- Partnerships and Collaborations: The Collaboratorium will establish partnerships with various entities to promote sustainable economic growth in island communities. This will promote institutional and individual research collaborations for GECCO and support two visiting faculty members annually to conduct research and teach specialized courses or workshops.
- Seed-funding Grants: The Collaboratorium will provide grants in support of risky but innovative research and instruction relevant to the project’s goals and objectives. This will allow GECCO to support high-risk, high-reward research that supports the GECCO vision
- Mentoring of Junior Faculty and Post-doctoral Fellows: The Collaboratorium will support mentoring of junior faculty members and post-doctoral fellows hired to the project are described. This will allow GECCO to develop competitive faculty researchers and enhance skillsets of post-doctoral fellows towards advancing their careers.