Laurie Raymundo signs on as director of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory  

DSC03835
DSC03835

History has been made with the creation of a permanent director’s position at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. During its 52 years of existence, the facility has followed the tradition of having a three-year rotating directorship that the faculty took turns occupying. 

On August 2, 2022, UOG Professor of Marine Biology Laurie Raymundo signed her contract to fill the marine laboratory’s first permanent directorship position.  

“This is a huge change for the better. As we have grown, it has gotten harder and harder for everyone to deal with a position of leadership that is only for three years,” said Raymundo. “The continuity that the permanent position provides will enable long-term planning and implementation.” 

Raymundo’s qualifications for the job are stellar. As a coral scientist, she, her students, and colleagues have been in the forefront of coral restoration in Guam and the region. She has also held the director’s position from 2010 to 2013 and again in 2019 through August 2, 2022. 

She is happy to be able to continue her research and work with students on the university’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant as well as other grants she has for the next few years. Mentoring students is something she relishes, so she is not ready to relinquish that responsibility. 

When asked about her vision going forward, she gave a soft chuckle at the novelty of the question. In the past, the directorship involved putting out fires. With the new sense of stability of a permanent directorship, she wants to continue the partnerships that have been formed and wants to get faculty input as to needs going forward. Organizing a yearly faculty retreat to discuss what has been accomplished and how to propel future endeavors is on her list of priorities. 

“We work in 50-year-old buildings that have some issues, so I will be writing some grants to shore up infrastructure to meet the needs of all the new faculty we now have. There is a lot of talk about a Ph.D. program, and we have the talent, but that will need the support of the University.” 

Director Raymundo will bring some new and exciting changes to the middle-aged UOG Marine Laboratory while continuing its reputation for excellent scientific exploration and innovation. 

UOG Marine Lab conducts first coral genetics research on the Mariana Islands of Maug, Pagan, and Sarigan 

2022 may uog marine lab sarah lemer diving

A first-time study on the genetics of corals from the Northern Mariana Islands of Sarigan, Pagan, and Maug is underway at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory with funding from the UOG Sea Grant program and support from the National Science Foundation-funded Guam ESPCoR grant. 

A four-person research team spent 10 days on these islands in May collecting eight different coral species known for their reef-building ability and ecological importance to other species. The team is now sequencing and analyzing the DNA of the corals to identify if and how coral populations throughout the Marianas archipelago are connected and, therefore, how resilient they may be to warming waters.  

“We are looking to understand the roles of these northernmost Mariana islands and their coral reefs. Can they act as reserves for the declining reefs around the southern Marianas, or do they, in contrast, depend on our reefs?” said David Combosch, associate professor of population genomics at UOG. “We will be spending months analyzing the data to understand the patterns of genetic diversity, connectivity, and adaptations across the islands.” 

Combosch is spearheading the study as lead researcher of the Island Evolution Lab at the UOG Marine Lab. Working with him are UOG alumnus James Fifer and his doctoral program adviser from Boston University, Assistant Professor Sarah W. Davies, as well as Assistant Professor Sarah Lemer, postdoctoral researcher Héctor Torrado, and graduate biology student Joe Proietti, all with the UOG Marine Lab. 

What we don’t know 

By analyzing the DNA sequences of these corals, the team can not only document the genetic diversity of corals on these islands for the first time, but can learn about gene flow — or the transfer of genetic material from one population or island to another. 

“What we don’t really know is how much and in what direction corals across islands are connected via larvae exchange and interbreeding — or if each island has their own, distinct coral stock,” Combosch said.  

If coral populations share DNA across the Marianas, there is greater likelihood that reefs will get what they need to adapt to future ocean conditions.  

“Since Guam corals live in generally warmer water than corals on the northernmost Mariana Islands, they might be better adapted to deal with the warmer waters expected as a consequence of global climate change,” Combosch said. “But it may well be the other way around. Occasional pockets of hot water in the northern CNMI could have pre-conditioned those corals for hotter days. This is one of the things we’re looking into.” 

Additionally, the northern corals may be better equipped for more acidic waters, Combosch said, since they have lived for centuries near a volcanic vent inside the Maug caldera, which releases carbon dioxide and has created a more acidic environment. 

The team is also conducting heat-stress experiments on two types of corals from Maug, Sarigan, and Pagan — Acropora surculose and Pocillopora meandrina — to see how the same corals from different islands respond.  

Getting local students involved 

During an internship last week at the UOG Island Evolution Lab, Northern Marianas College students Subin Cho and Richelle Ramon worked with UOG graduate student Mikay Reuter to reproduce the heat-stress experiments for this study and witness the effect of warming waters on Marianas corals.  

They also learned about the relationships that corals have with other species in the ecosystem and the other stressors corals face, including pollution and overfishing, that can limit their ability to recover from bleaching events and adapt. 

“It was an eye-opener to see how different species and organisms create relationships with each other in order to thrive and survive,” said Cho, a sophomore working toward an associate degree in natural resource management. “We pollute, neglect, and overlook our coral reefs and believe that many years after, it will still be there. However, after this internship, I learned that these things we are so used to will soon disappear if changes are not made.”  

New G3 Conservation Corps members in motion 

DSC03265

A second cycle of sustainability leaders kicked off their first week under one of the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative’s most highly mobilized programs on March 14 at the University of Guam.  

Out of over 100 applicants, 12 members were selected to participate in the G3 Conservation Corps, entering a five-month workforce development program preparing our community for the emerging green economy. This week started with an orientation offering key program guidelines, remarks from G3 leadership, team building exercises, tips from a panel of inaugural cohort members, and the recitation of the new Conservation Corps pledge.  

The G3 Conservation Corps completed their first island beautification project – gardening at UOG’s colorful cliffside planter boxes highlighting the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The following new members will partake in various conservation activities to support the resilience of our island community and natural resources: Jenelle Aguilar, Rejean Benavente, Johnny Borja, Jacob Concepcion, Remilou Hannigan, Dulce Imbo, Wade Kitalong, Andrea Murer, Ryan Perez, Christopher Quichocho, Hila’an San Nicolas, and Tre Starr.  

“The Corps will bring together hundreds of different members from our community… to do amazing things to move our island forward toward a sustainable future,” Austin Shelton, UOG Center for Island Sustainability (CIS) director and G3 Steering Committee co-chairperson, said to the members. “At the same time, the Corps will receive valuable workforce training to join the green workforce when they complete the program.”  

“Growing up on this island, we really get a lot of love for our culture and our environment. Seeing some of it deteriorate in our young lives, I feel like it’s really good to be able to set the foundation for the future, to teach better ways, so our island stays beautiful, and we can share it with everyone,” Borja said.  

Imbo, who is also a UOG graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, plans to incorporate the knowledge she’ll gain from the program into her guidance for future clients.  

“We see that the SDGs are intersectional, I want to be there to pay it forward in terms of mental health and how that relates to our environment, as well as how that relates to our sustainable development and our sustainable community here in Guam,” she said.  

“One of the things the lieutenant governor and I always talked about is how we can sustain our island, how we can provide the resources for our island, so that there’s food sustainability, so that our environment is protected, so that our culture is protected, so that our practices continue. I want you to learn as much as you can and send that knowledge out and apply that knowledge out to the community. This pandemic has shown us how necessary it is for us to sustain ourselves within our resources, and we have a lot of resources. Our island is very fragile. I love our island. I’m sure you all do. We live here. No one else is going to do it, but ourselves, and I really appreciate your commitment and your efforts,” Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero, G3 Steering Committee chairperson, said. 

“Thank you for choosing to be change agents. The whole spirit of Guam Green Growth, especially the Conservation Corps, is to try and enable people to do what they can individually, collectively as a cohort, then collaboratively with the CIS, with the government of Guam, and with the people of Guam,” Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, G3 Steering Committee co-chairperson, said. “When I was going to college, people would tell us we don’t have any resources, that we can’t survive on our own, and the governor was always one of those that (said) ‘No, that’s not true.’ We have been here for thousands of years. We just have to calibrate what’s out here and make sure we share the knowledge.” 

In their first few weeks, the members are scheduled to assist with the expansion of the community garden in Hagåtña, familiarize with Guam’s waste management and zero waste operations, and partake in regular village revitalization projects. 

Guam NSF EPSCoR is the catalyst for Guam Green Growth and the Conservation Corps.

About G3 
Aligned with the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Guam Green Growth Initiative, or G3, cultivates an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Guam. The University of Guam facilitates the island-wide initiative in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the 100 members of the G3 Working Groups, representing all sectors of society. 

Near Peer mentorship guides student researchers’ self-actualization, contributions to STEM growth 

DSC00841

The latest cohort of student researchers expanding the University of Guam’s STEM footprint convened for their first Near Peer mentorship seminar, Feb. 18, at the UOG School of Education.   

Near Peer is a program tailored to champion the research efforts of students under the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists (SEAS) Island Alliance Guam Hub and Guam Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants.   

From data collection and personal development to preparing for the annual Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science National Diversity in STEM Conference, students can consult a diverse team of fellow researchers and college students for guidance in different aspects of their research through knowledge exchange and shared experiences. 

A primary focus of the seminars is to cultivate an awareness of how the students’ research experiences impact the evolution of their self-identity, as well as the shaping of their education and career path in STEM, according to Cheryl Sangueza, NSF INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance co-principal investigator and steering committee member, who also serves as the student experience and Near Peer seminar lead.  

“This unique depth of reflection brings a keen sense of self. This sense of self helps learners illuminate the impacts of their experience beyond ‘science research’. Another way our Near Peer seminars benefit is that they model a culturally relevant way of mentoring. Asking students about their evolution, grounded in their experiences, lets them know their story is important!” Sangueza stated. 

Program participants can look forward to discussing the diversity of career paths within their individual interests, including drone use and science communications, in upcoming seminars. As the conference season approaches, they will learn to shift from delivering traditional science fair presentations to credible storytelling in the science arena while leading with the value of science in Guam and its cultural significance. 

Sangueza hopes the students will gain the understanding that the island and region have immense value and global contributions in science and culture through their voices; develop a love of learning about self; have a stronger connection to Guam’s environment; and strengthen their passion, resilience, humble confidence, and the desire to join the cadre of local experts in STEM. 

“It was nice seeing how everyone has their different projects and focus they’re working on. It gives us an opportunity to reach out to other people, and, maybe, inspire other people or future cohorts to see what we’re doing and pursue these research programs,” said Raianne Quichocho, NSF INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance Guam Hub undergraduate fellow. 

 “Overall, this is going to help me as a student and, also, pursue a career in marine science. I’m really excited for that,” Quichocho concluded. 

UOG has received NSF funding to broaden the participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields through the INCLUDES and EPSCoR programs.  

Near Peer seminars will be held on a monthly basis. 

Challenges, way forward for STEM research-industry development discussed  

2019 uog biorepository kelokelo web
Science Tech Comm 2

Members of the Guam Science and Technology Steering Committee continue to conceptualize a plan to augment the island’s STEM capacity and sustain various industries enabled by research.  

During a meeting on Jan. 20, the members reaffirmed their objectives to serve as a center for collaborative regional and international research, increase STEM capabilities through education and workforce development, expand STEM infrastructure to support higher-level research and economic growth, utilize dynamic communication strategies to relay STEM knowledge, and cultivate a diversified economy.  

The committee also recognized the following challenge areas across each of the objectives: biomedical professions and healthcare policy; information technology and cybersecurity; sustainability and quality of life issues relative to waste management, energy, agriculture, and protection of natural resources; biosciences and technology transfer; and opportunities with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).   

Beyond research ‘for its own sake’  

The committee oversees Guam’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO), as well as the Guam NASA EPSCoR program. 

“The responsibility of this committee is to try to understand what EPSCoR is about and help highlight how it could potentially affect the economy. At the same time, it feeds back to the scientist and gets them to look at the world a little bit differently other than research for its own sake. How do we identify industries and how do we identify talent? What are some real-life opportunities?” said Dr. Robert Underwood, committee vice chairperson and President Emeritus of the University of Guam (UOG).  

“Moving their activities to some of the concerns we have here, that’s the point at which we meet,” he added.   

Diversifying Guam’s economy through jobs 

Committee co-chairperson and Guam Economic Development Authority chief executive officer, Melanie Mendiola, presented models to help accomplish a diversified economy with jobs through small and large businesses in multiple industries based on researchers’ findings. 

The models established processes stemming from industry selection to government policy development and incentives, access to capital, and establishing jobs through business development, to include a process for stakeholder assemblies to identify current issues, UOG receiving funding to research those issues, and scientists then presenting the research and developing proofs of concept alongside entrepreneurs to market products, build businesses, increasing job availability.  

Mendiola and Dr. Austin Shelton, UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant director, discussed recent products created using the invasive chain of love vine (Antigonon leptopus), such as bath bombs, fabric dye, and foods.  

“We need to find entrepreneurs willing to take the leap, have access to capital, and turn the chain of love into the next thing,” said Mendiola.  

“We want industries that have higher paying jobs, something that jives with Guam’s comparative advantage, something sustainable, environmentally, and something that’s culturally sensitive. Where can we assign processes to these, who can contribute, and how do these processes overlap with existing initiatives?” she continued.  

Sustainability in interested, committed population 

Underwood and Roderick Boss, committee co-chairperson and Docomo Pacific president, emphasized the need to plan with sustainability in mind. They explained the idea of forming interest, quality researchers, and capacity through the educational enterprise, beginning at the elementary level and being refined during years beyond. 

“The base of the pyramid has to be wider than what we think of it right now,” said Underwood. “None of this will actually amount to a whole lot because that sustainability is not the economic activity in and of itself. I think the sustainability is in who’s working at it and who is committed to it. Where do they come from, and how rooted are they in the community?”  

“The University of Guam is certainly available for helping to do this,” said Dr. Thomas Krise, UOG president. The idea of a workable example is very important just to help inspire people’s imaginations.” 

Guam EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation. 

Search for Guam’s next conservation force underway 

DSC04913 2
DSC04913 2
Guam Green Growth (G3) Conservation Corps members examine honeybee hives at a ranch on Aug. 10, 2021 in Malesso’, Guam. Christopher Rosario, a local apiarist and president of the Guam Beekeepers Association, shared his knowledge of bees and their role in island sustainability during the five-month period of the G3 Conservation Corps program.

Guam NSF EPSCoR is a catalyst for Guam Green Growth (G3). 

The call has sounded for a second crew of conservation stewards eager to further Guam’s progress in island sustainability and the emerging green economy. 

The recruitment period for the second cohort of the Guam Green Growth (G3) Conservation Corps officially began on Jan. 10, 2022. 

The G3 Conservation Corps is a five-month workforce development program that aims to advance and apply 12 corps members’ skills in the focus areas of agriculture and aquaculture, circular economy and zero waste, ocean conservation, invasive species management, reforestation and watershed restoration, energy conservation and renewable energy, and island beautification from March to August this year.  

Corps members will have the opportunity to collaborate and learn alongside teams from partnering government agencies and private organizations in support of various conservation initiatives throughout the island, while equipping themselves for a brighter future.  

“The green economy is growing on Guam, and we want to help our community prepare for the emerging workforce through this program,” said Phillip Cruz, G3 Conservation Corps coordinator. 

The first G3 Conservation Corps cohort made significant strides toward our sustainable future. They recycled over 70,000 aluminum cans, planted 2,000 food crops, collected hundreds of bags of illegally dumped waste from streets and jungles, planted 2,890 trees, installed 640 solar rooftop panels, and more. 

“The inaugural G3 Conservation Corps cohort made incredible contributions to our island’s sustainability in 2021,” said Austin Shelton, director of the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. “We are proud of what they contributed during the program and the sustainable actions they continue to make as trained citizens. This year, we look forward to a new group of conservationists who will serve our island and inspire our community.”  

“We’re looking for individuals who are respectful, reliable, and aren’t afraid of hard work. If you would benefit from this workforce development program, please apply today. Share widely with your friends and family, who may also benefit from this program,” added Cruz. 

How to Apply 
Those interested in applying can submit their application through the G3 website at guamgreengrowth.org by Feb. 6, 2022.   

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have reliable transportation, and be U.S. citizens, nationals, or legal residents. 

Selected applicants will be required to submit police and court clearances, purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test results, proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, submit to a drug test, and undergo a physical examination.  

G3 Conservation Corps members will receive a biweekly stipend of $1,300. Members will earn up to 80 continuing education units from the university upon successful completion of the program.  

The G3 Conservation Corps program is made possible through FY22 Guam Green Growth appropriation to the University of Guam. 

About G3 
Aligned with the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Guam Green Growth Initiative, or G3, cultivates an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Guam. The University of Guam facilitates the island-wide initiative in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and over 100 members of the G3 Working Group, representing all sectors of society.  Guam Green Growth in funded in part by NSF Guam EPSCoR.

Come spark new industries in new Guam Green Growth Makerspace

DSC03506

Entrepreneurs and creators throughout the island can put their innovative abilities to work and transform waste into marketable products at one convenient location in the coming weeks.  

The Guam Green Growth (G3) Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub will celebrate its grand opening to the public at 3:30 p.m. January 13, 2022, out of three houses at the CHamoru Village in Hagåtña.  

The spaces will provide creators resources to upcycle items and materials in contribution to Guam’s emerging green economy. Moreover, the effort will help address the overreliance on imported products and increased amount of waste generated locally.  

Alongside a green store and innovation hub offering local merchandise for the environmentally conscious and guidance for those seeking business advisement, the maker space house features an abundance of tools capable of processing wood, metal, various other materials, and plastic in a third house devoted to world-renowned Precious Plastic machines. 

For a fee, creators can access a laser cutter, computer numerical control router, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and apparatuses to shred, extrude, inject, press, and melt plastic, among other convenient equipment. Patrons can avail of the services for $50 per month or $500 per year with a 20% discount applicable to yearly memberships.  

The G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub also supports G3’s mission toward establishing sustainable and profitable cottage industries, improving the performance of enterprise facilitation and development programs, and supporting regional economic development.  

The center’s managing and support staff are seasoned in business and product development and are willing to share their skills and knowledge with those utilizing the spaces. Those eager to learn can attend creative workshops and hear from members of the University of Guam (UOG) School of Business and Public Administration, Guam Unique Merchandise and Arts, the Small Business Development Center, and the Guam Economic Development Authority. Additionally, products created can be sold in the green store on consignment.  

Myracle Mugol, G3 circular economy coordinator, sees the operation as a place to grow with like-minded people and convenient resources, what she says can be missing factors for ideas to come to fruition.  

 “When people ask me about the space and all the things that come with it, I tell them it’s my three Cs of G3: curation of equipment, tools, and workshops to make our ideas happen; collaboration with development and resource partners, who assist with the innovation and expansion into business and cooperatives; and community – the people surrounding these spaces, who allow for ideas to grow, develop, and move,” said Mugol. 

“The community is the support and backbone for sustainability; the very change-makers who push the culture needed for the initiatives to move forward,” she continued.  

“Our team looks forward to the opening of the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub and all the creative products that will be developed by our talented community,” stated Dr. Austin Shelton, director of the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. “The hub will reduce our island’s waste and diversify our economy through the stimulation of new green industries.”  

The G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans, better known as EPSCoR GECCO, GEDA, and the Office of the Governor.  

Ahead of the January 13 grand opening, the Guam Green Growth Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub is currently open for small tours which can be arranged via email to mugolm@triton.uog.edu. 

About G3 
Aligned with the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Guam Green Growth Initiative, or G3, cultivates an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Guam. The University of Guam facilitates the island-wide initiative in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the 99 members of the G3 Working Groups, representing all sectors of society.   

Committee begins development on STEM capacity plan

Science and Technology Meeting 1
Science and Technology Meeting 1

Members of the Guam Science and Technology Steering Committee met on June 29 to discuss ways to bolster the island’s STEM capacity and improve connectivity throughout the Micronesia and the region. 

Comprised of 17 members from government, business, and academic communities, the committee oversees the Guam EPSCoR program’s Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO). The committee also oversees the Guam NASA EPSCoR program.   

Over the next three to six months, the committee will develop a five-year plan that will focus on achieving five objectives:  

  • Serve as a state-of-the-art regional research hub for Guam and the region  
  • Build STEM capacity through education and workforce development  
  • Support STEM infrastructure and identify opportunities in the public sector for potential economic activity  
  • Promote increased communication about STEM throughout Micronesia and the region for informed decision making, knowledge sharing, and continuing education  
  • Create a diversified economy  

“The plan is in development, but its purpose is to blend research knowledge and private sector, economic development, and government investment and effort into something that benefits our society,” said Dr. Robert Underwood, President Emeritus of the University of Guam, who serves as the committee’s vice chair. “First, we’re going to have to have some consultation from economic players – people who would inform us about what plans and activities they have in mind so that we’re informed as a committee.”  

Melanie Mendiola, the chief executive officer of the Guam Economic Development Authority, and Docomo Pacific President Roderick Boss were elected to serve as the committee’s co-chairs.  

Gary Hiles, the chief economist of the Guam Department of Labor, presented information gathered from census data about the categories of STEM employment possibilities and jobs available on Guam. During his presentation, Hiles noted that registered nurses, civil engineers, and computer specialists are the most common STEM occupations on the island.  

“Next time, we may hear from someone about the work they’re doing economically or for the military buildup,” said Underwood. “We may want the governor to talk about her vision, or the speaker to get the legislature’s opinion, or someone from the chamber of commerce. In my own mind, I’m trying to figure out how to best secure that input and see how we can benefit from that.” 

After Hiles’ presentation, the committee members discussed potential areas of economic and research activities to prioritize such as solid waste issues, application of marine science research, creating a teaching hospital for medical professionals, and cybersecurity development.  

At the end of the meeting, the committee members were tasked to indicate which two out of the five objectives they would like to work on. Teams will be organized around the objectives and additional members may be drawn from external sources in the private sector, government, and educational institutions.  

The board will meet on a bimonthly basis. The next anticipated meeting will be in August. Guam EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

###