Multi-agency ocean cleanup removes blue green algae 

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The University of Guam Marine Laboratory led a multi-agency volunteer effort on July 7 to successfully remove blue green algae at the USO Beach in Piti.  

That day, volunteer divers and snorkelers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Services (NPS) joined the team from the Marine Lab in manually removing the algal blooms from the coral colonies in the area. 

Meanwhile, Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps and UOG Sea Grant and Center for Island Sustainability interns provided onshore assistance by sorting and sifting through the material collected from the ocean. 

Laurie Raymundo, director of the UOG Marine Laboratory and biology professor, said environmental conditions encourage the excessive growth of these long, hair-like algal blooms, “We’ve noticed years ago that seasonally, we got these blooms of blue-green algae of the genus Lyngbya and it tends to come into the water as soon as it gets warmer. Most blue green algae respond to high nutrient waters, which is most of Guam.” She added that the algae blooms smother the corals and cause tissue loss. 

The G3 Conservation Corps and CIS/SG interns separated fish and other marine creatures from the piles and squeezed seawater from the algae. The team collected the piles in buckets and then taken back to UOG to be used as plant and tree mulch. In total, the cleanup team collected and processed three 27-gallon buckets of algae. 

While hard at work, G3 Conservation Corps member Dulce Imbo described the task assigned to the onshore volunteers, “We are trying to remove the algae from channel under the water so that we can have the corals breathe a little easier because these algae are the ones that suffocate the corals. For the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps, there’s about nine of us here today, accompanied by our interns in our work.” 

G3, is a public-private partnership created to achieve a sustainable future. Aligned with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, G3’s efforts are designed to cultivate an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future for Guam. 

Bridge to Bachelor’s interns cap summer experience with poster presentation   

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The Micronesia Summer Bridge to Bachelor’s Program culminated its 2022 cycle with a poster presentation by its summer interns in July at the University of Guam Microscopy Teaching & Research Laboratory. The presentations highlighted new species found in the Micronesia region.  

The four students were the first batch of program interns to participate on-campus as the University eases its COVID-19 restrictions. Yuji Chibana and Rhiden Moreno from Palau Community College presented a poster on “Palau Mangrove and Coral Reef Diatoms with Emphasis on Gyrosigma Regional Diversity.” Meanwhile, Jemalynn Iguel and Angel Santos from the Northern Marianas College presented on “Saipan Diatoms with Emphasis on Plagiotropis Regional Diversity.”  

Diatoms are single-celled algae found in oceans, lakes, and rivers. These microorganisms thrive in marine and freshwater habitats and produce 20 percent of the breathable oxygen on earth each year.  

Chibana and Moreno worked on several samples taken from mangrove and coastal areas in Palau and Yap.  Moreno said, “We found three species, two of which are new. This extends Palau’s library of Gyrosigmas from eight to ten.” The two species identified were the Gyrosigma variistriatum v2 and Gyrosigma bowtie. 

Meanwhile, the Saipan team found 12 Plagiotropis species from specimens collected in Saipan and 17 species collected from Palau. According to Iguel, samples extracted from the same site revealed diatom species that share similar characteristics, which supported the theory of regional endemicity.  

The students started their internship in June by gathering diatom and algae samples in several mangrove and coastal sites on Guam. The collected samples contributed to an ongoing diatom research supported by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Professor Emeritus of Biology Dr. Christopher Lobban and his team of EPSCoR and NSF INCLUDES SEAS Islands Alliance supported student researchers/mentors worked closely with the interns in analyzing the samples at the EPSCoR-funded lab. NSF EPSCoR Student Research Experience and NSF INCLUDES: SEAS Islands Alliance undergraduate student researchers Khazmyne Kawamoto and Monita Paul served as student mentors to the Saipan and Palau teams, respectively. 

The overall research project seeks to determine and document the native diatom species in the region, especially on Guam, CNMI, Palau, FSM, and the Marshall Islands. “Basically, what we are trying to look for is to look for a signal for regional endemicity. So, we are looking at species that occur here but not in other places,” Dr. Lobban said in an earlier interview about the overall project. 

The Micronesia Summer Bridge to Bachelor’s program offers opportunities to students from the Micronesian region who are interested in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research. Participants of the program receive a $3,000 stipend; comprehensive research training; faculty and near-peer mentorship; and travel, lodging, and food accommodations for those traveling to Guam.   

The UOG Center for Island Sustainability and UOG Sea Grant in partnership with the UOG School of Education oversees the program. It is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation through UOG’s Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists (SEAS) Islands Alliance Guam Hub.   

 

Student researchers from Palau and CNMI explore mangrove sites

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In June, participants of the Micronesia Summer Bridge to Bachelor’s Program from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau started their internship experience on island by gathering diatom and algae samples in several mangrove and coastal sites on Guam. The program contributes to an ongoing diatom research supported by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). 

 

The Micronesia Summer Bridge to Bachelor’s program offers opportunities to students from the Micronesian region who are interested in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research. Participants are enrolled at the Northern Marianas College, Palau Community College, the College of Micronesia-FSM, or the College of the Marshall Islands.  

 

The students who were selected to participate in the summer program come from diverse academic backgrounds. Prior to their trip to Guam, the student interns collected marine and coastal data in their respective areas.  

 

On Guam, Professor Emeritus of Biology Dr. Christopher Lobban and his team of EPSCoR and NSF INCLUDES SEAS Islands Alliance supported student researchers/mentors are working closely with the students in analyzing the samples at the UOG Microscopy Teaching & Research Laboratory 

 

“The idea of this research experience is to give the students a chance to see what it’s like to do scientific research,” said Dr. Lobban. At the EPSCoR funded lab, the students have access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and other innovative equipment to study detailed images of the samples. 

 

According to Dr. Lobban, the overall research project seeks to determine and document the native diatom species in the region, especially on Guam, CNMI, Palau, FSM, and the Marshall Islands. Diatoms are single-celled algae found in oceans, lakes, and rivers. These microorganisms produce 20 percent of the breathable oxygen on earth each year.  

 

Basically, what we are trying to look for is to look for a signal for regional endemicity. So, we are looking at species that occur here but not in other places,” Dr. Lobban said. Samples collected in the previous year’s program resulted in student researchers discovering and naming several previously undocumented types of algae and diatoms. 

 

Yuji Chibana, one of the student interns from Palau said the program spurred his interest in Scientific research. “I’m a liberal arts major and I am trying to transition more into a Science-based major like Environmental Marine Science.

 

The experience catapulted me into that area of learning. This program is really helping me. I’ve never really been exposed into these kinds of things before. So, it is a good start.  

 

Participants of the program receive a $3,000 stipend; comprehensive research training; faculty and near-peer mentorship; and travel, lodging, and food accommodations for those traveling to Guam. 

NSF Guam EPSCoR taps into the Open Science Grid

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Photo of Jeffrey Centino
Jeffrey Centino, research computing facilitator at EPSCoR -GECCO says the Open Science Grid will improve the program's computational and data analysis capabilities.

As research opportunities continue to expand for the University of Guam EPSCoR- Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) program, so does the need to improve its cyberinfrastructure to keep up with the additional computational and data analysis requirements.  

Part of the UOG EPSCoR-GECCO strategic plan is to implement high throughput computing (HTC) resources in Guam and to establish partnerships that would broaden access to off-campus HTC resources. According to the plan, “leveraging existing partnerships to enable remote access to HTC resources, implementation of local HTC hardware and effective user support will accelerate UOG’s capacity for data-intensive research, moving UOG closer to its goal of becoming a research-intensive university.”  

To beef up research computational capacity, the program is looking at tapping into the Open Science Grid (OSG). According to the strategic plan, the OSG will provide project research access to its distributed computing network to facilitate parallel computing and support GECCO research.  

Jeffrey Centino, research computing facilitator at EPSCoR –GECCO said the OSG 

is a collaboration between institutions, universities, and other research organizations to forward the field of science through high throughput computing.  

“So basically, you have these data centers located around the world and they are connected through high-speed internet, and they function together like a grid. So, say you need to run a job or an analysis, you can recruit these resources from around the world to complete your job in the fraction of the time compared to what is available to you in a single data center or your personal workstation.”   

He said high throughput computing breaks the computational work into smaller tasks, which can run concurrently using these resources. “Right now, we are running an analysis server and it is very under powered so basically researchers are fighting for computational space and once we get those researchers onboarded to the Open Science Grid, they can have their jobs or their analysis run within a fraction of the time,” Centino added.  

Centino said they are also expanding their computer clusters to support grid capacity, but the worldwide chip shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions delayed the process of acquiring the servers. “So, we are looking to launch early next year for the computer cluster, around the first quarter,” he said. 

The OSG has over 100 participants that provide access to large computing resources. The most notable ones include the Large Hadron Collider Beauty Experiment, the Fermi Natural Accelerator Lab (Fermilab), and Dark Energy Survey.

Guam Green Growth recognizes first cohort of Conservation Corps graduates

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An innovative program designed to establish the foundation for workforce development in an emerging green economy achieved a milestone this month by holding its first graduation.  

The University of Guam’s Guam Green Growth Initiative recognized its first batch of conservation corps graduates on Friday, Nov. 19, at the Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex (Adelup) in Hagåtña. 

The following Conservation Corps members graduated from the program: Nikomang Bradley, Joseph Certeza, Alana Chargualaf, Abby Crain, EnyDennis Dali, Claudia Rosalia Guerrero, Jacqueline Jones, Drake Kemp, Lusech Ngirakesau, Daniel Stone, Kaya Taitano, and Kevin Wong.  

G3 launched the conservation corps program in partnership with UOG Center for Island Sustainability, NSF Guam EPSCoR and UOG Global Learning and Engagement in June. For the past five months, the 12 members trained full time on various sustainability topics, such as agriculture and aquaculture, island beautification, invasive species removal, reforestation, circular economy and recycling, to renewable energy. 

“Through the G3 Conservation Corps program, the 12 corps member are now trained in these focus areas, and these can be applied in agencies, organizations, and businesses to help transition our island into a green economy,” UOG President Thomas Krise said on the conservation corps’ contribution to G3’s overarching goal. 

Krise said the members will receive continuing education units for completing the workforce development program. “This is supported by our partnership with the Global Learning Education and the Center for Island Sustainability. This is such a great way to combine education with all your other successes,” Krise said, addressing the members of the conservation corps.  

At the graduation, Austin Shelton, UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant director, highlighted the contributions of the first batch of Conservation Corps members. “When Guam Green Growth started, I shared that sustainability is about human society, the natural environment, and the economy. And you [graduates] have been an important part of getting ready to prepare our community and our workforce for the emerging green economy.”  

From Jun. 23 to Nov. 9, 2021, the conservation corps accomplished the following: 

  • Engaged community participants and leveraged 4,149 volunteer hours  
  • Picked up 578 extra-large bags of trash, removed 211 white goods and bulky waste; 
  • Collected and recycled 70,516 aluminum cans; 
  • Installed 641solar panels and changed 693 fluorescent bulbs to LED; 
  • Prepped 10 acres of land for reforestation projects; 
  • Planted 2,890 trees and 2,024 food crops; 
  • Built 690 ft. of erosion control devices; 
  • Completed 9 painting projects (murals, bus stops, safety barricades, etc.); 
  • Conducted 6 beach and 19 roadside cleanups, and; 
  • Removed 400 feet of chain of love and 212 invasive bamboo stalks. 

At the ceremony, Lt. Governor Joshua Tenorio commended the conservation corps graduates, “I am really happy and grateful for this great partnership with the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and really how all of you are pioneers in this movement to transform the island. In many ways and across many disciplines, the public sector, private sector and civil society.” 

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

WHAT IS G3? 

Guam Green Growth or G3 is the island’s most comprehensive public-private partnership created to achieve a sustainable future. Aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, G3 cultivates an ecosystem for transformative action to achieve our island’s sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future. UOG facilitates the island-wide initiative in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the 99 members of the G3 Working Group representing all sectors of our society.    

EPSCoR researcher participates in a collaborative paper on genetic data recording

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Coral Study Justin 3

A report that brought together researchers all over the United States highlights the need to address gaps in data recording to improve biological diversity monitoring across the globe.  

Justin Berg, a University of Guam EPSCoR graduate research assistant, collaborated with other researchers to produce the paper, “Poor data stewardship will hinder global genetic diversity surveillance.” PNAS published the brief report in July this year. 

For the study, the researchers looked at publicly available data in the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC). The study notes that most scientific journals require authors to archive their genetic data in a permanent database, and the INSDC is the leading repository of raw genomic data. 

With the available data in the INSDC and other open-access repositories, the study notes that researchers can now “genotype thousands of loci or sequence whole genomes from virtually any species.”  

During the research process, Berg said they found gaps or missing metadata in these data sets, or it indicated different geographical locations. According to Berg, as of October 2020, the Sequence Read Archive of INSDC contained 16,700 unique wild and domesticated eukaryotic species and 327,577 individual organisms. He said only 14 percent of the genomic data had spatiotemporal metadata for genetic diversity monitoring. 

Berg said, “That essentially means when people place their genetic sequences in a database, from an international level all the way to the United States NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), they may be missing data sets and missing metadata that are concurrently in past or current studies. Right now, through this project, we show that 86 percent of these projects were missing some form of metadata, including the year that it was collected or the location where it was collected.” 

According to the report, the researchers looked at aquatic and terrestrial domesticated species recorded in the INSDC through the NCBI because biodiversity studies mostly focus on these targets. 

The report notes that, in principle, these data can “provide time-stamped records for genetic diversity monitoring, to support the goals of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).” In addition, the data can be used to shed light on “the evolutionary and ecological processes that shape biodiversity across the globe.” 

As an instrument for sustainable development, the CBD focuses on the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. 

“This study can help with genetic diversity monitoring through the United Nations Convention on Biological biodiversity. It can do this by including increased metadata in the future. So, if someone from another part of the world wants to go in, anyone can access this genetic data,” Berg said.  

Berg and the other researchers said they join others in calling for ambitious goals to safeguard genetic diversity and the knowledge structures that will support this goal. “Common to proposed genetic diversity monitoring agendas is a shared vision whereby agile pipelines would intake raw genomic data and produce outputs that directly inform conservation policies and decisions,” the researchers said. 

The researchers emphasized that without appropriate archival genomic data that include the spatiotemporal metadata, crucial information will be unavailable to such pipelines, and researchers will be unable to monitor genetic biodiversity or reconstruct past baselines. 

Berg said they are planning to release a more comprehensive report on their findings.  

The paper can be accessed through PNASa peer-reviewed scientific journal.  

Conservation Corps explores circular uses for invasive vine

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Mixing it Up: Members of the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps were challenged to come up with circular economy ideas for the harvested vines.
 

With its pink and white blossom, the cadena de amor or “chain of love” has been a ubiquitous part of the island’s landscape, but not in a good way. The invasive vine’s canopy of flowers and tendrils choke native forests, preventing the growth of native understory plant species. 

But the University of Guam G3 Conservation Corps found a way to fight back by repurposing parts of the invasive plant into viable products for the circular economy. As part of their training, the G3 Conservation Corps members cleared portions of Yona land overrun by the invasive vine in September. After that, they turned the harvested plant materials into a variety of products, from edible food items such as pesto, furikake, tea, to nonedible products such as clothing dye and bath bombs.  

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Bath Bombs: The Conservation Corps participated in a workshop to create bath bombs with the harvested Chain of Love vines and flowers.

The corps members presented the products at a circular economy workshop. “The reason we did this workshop was to encourage the members to think of how to prolong the life of resourcesThe discussion that we had was how to get the community to come back to the idea of the circular economy,” G3 circular economy coordinator Myracle Mugol said. 

Guam currently follows a linear economic model where resources are extracted, turned into products, and then disposed of after use. The circular economy, in comparison, closes the loop by prolonging the product life cycle and finding another purpose for waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Doing so keeps materials in use and, in the long run, lessens the burden on natural resources and regenerates natural systems.   

At the workshop in Santa Rita, participants showcased the products made from parts of the plant. 

Amanda Dedicatoria, science communicator for NSF EPSCoR prepared a pesto recipe using the chain of love leaves. “The leaves are a little bitter, so it was a little tough to think of what to make out of it. But pesto came to mind. I thought that the basil and the garlic — which are two very strong flavors used in pesto — would mask the bitterness or even complement it. It took two nights of recipe testing to see if it would work,” Dedicatoria said. 

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Sustainable Snack: Amongst the new ideas to use the vine was Pesto, prepared by G3 team member Amanda Dedicatoria.

Meanwhile, Joseph Certeza, a conservation corps member, prepared a textile dye using plant tubers. “As conservation corps members, we are tasked and challenged by each other as well as the project to create products out of the chain of love. I am a textile designer, someone who likes to use natural dyes,” he said. 

Jasmine Flores-Cantrell of Numa’lo Refillery also lead a workshop that incorporated the leaves and flower of the invasive plant in a bath bomb recipe that aimed to reduce waste in an ecological way. 

“We know that invasive species do harm to native species, and to remove them is one thing, but what do you do with that waste,” said Flores-Cantrell. “To use them and reuse them in a product that is beneficial to the body, is also beneficial to the core.”   

The G3 Conservation Corps program prepares the community for the emerging green economy. The program is aligned with the current island-wide efforts to achieve sustainability and other UN SDGs. 

The implementation of a circular economy on the island contribute to achieving multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 8 (economic growth), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate change), among others. 

S/T committee explores pandemic recovery opportunities to move priorities forward

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At the University of Guam EPSCoR Science and Technology (S/T) Committee meeting earlier this month, members looked at addressing its priority challenge areas by tapping into resources that recently opened to support the recovery of communities during the pandemic. 

The S/T committee’s priority challenge areas include IT and cybersecurity, biosciences and technology transfer, medical and healthcare, and sustainability (food-waste-energy nexus).  

Robert Underwood, committee vice-chair and voting member, said possible funding sources include the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration grants. The EDA grant received around $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act to reinvest in communities across the US. The program can support both the development of pandemic recovery strategies and the implementation of recovery projects.  

The recovery projects under the grant are aligned with the focus of the S/T committee. The list of eligible projects includes construction and development of technology-based facilities, wet labs, science and research parks, workforce training facilities, and telecommunications infrastructure. The EDA grant could potentially generate anywhere between $500 thousand to over $5 million in funding.  

With the committee’s mandate to expand the University’s research capabilities, tapping into statewide planning, research, and network grants supported by EDA was also discussed during the meeting.  

The meeting also highlighted several gains achieved by committee members which address the priority challenge areas. For example, Melanie Mendiola, GEDA administrator and committee voting member, provided updates on the government’s plan to build a medical campus facility, which addresses the medical and healthcare challenge area. According to Mendiola, the first phase of the project includes constructing a Center for Disease Control laboratory on Guam. She said the Office of Island Affairs (OIA) under the CDC has approved around $30 million for the project.  

At the start of the meeting, UOG President Thomas Krise also provided updates on the University’s infrastructure projects such as the School Engineering, the Student Center, and the Guam Cultural Repository building. He anticipates the repository to open by the end of this year. Krise also highlighted the importance of delivering the message that research advances can help the community, and activities relating to science and technology are investments that yield returns. 

For the next few months, the S/T steering committee will be developing a new Guam Science and Technology plan focusing on the following areas: Micronesia/international research collaboratorium; STEM capacity-building; STEM infrastructure; communication, and; diversified economy. 

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