UOG receives national STEM recognition

SACNAS

The UOG SACNAS Student Chapter received the award at this year’s SACNAS National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Conference. The event, a cornerstone in fostering diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), took place in Portland, Oregon. 

A total of 48 attendees from UOG participated in NDiSTEM, which stands as the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the United States.  

UOG President Anita Borja-Enriquez, DBA, a member of the conference delegation, said, “UOG takes immense pride in our presence at the SACNAS NDiSTEM Conference. This gathering not only strengthens our commitment to fostering inclusivity but also emphasizes the vital role of diverse perspectives in shaping the future of science and innovation.” 

Throughout the conference, participants actively attended workshops, showcased their research, and established connections with officials from academia and industry nationwide, creating valuable research and career opportunities. 

Another significant achievement was the significant number of student presenters from the UOG delegation. Eighteen student attendees from Guam, representing nearly half of the total UOG delegation, delivered presentations at the conference. 

18 students from Guam presented their research and took home these awards:  

Co-principle investigator for Education and Workforce Development for Guam NSF EPSCoR, Austin Shelton, PhD, also participated in the conference. He is currently an elected member of the SACNAS National Board of Directors and serves as the faculty co-advisor, along with UOG Associate Professor Cheryl Sangueza, for the UOG SACNAS Student Chapter. 

“As we immerse ourselves in the vibrant atmosphere of learning and collaboration at the SACNAS NDiSTEM conference, we are not just attendees; we are catalysts for a more inclusive and equitable future in science. Our presence echoes our university’s dedication to shaping a world where opportunities in STEM are accessible to everyone,” Shelton said. 

Britney Sison, president of the UOG SACNAS Student Chapter, said, “I am extremely proud and humbled that SACNAS UOG has received the award. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our current as well as previous leaders, members, and advisors who laid a strong foundation for our organization.”  

Sison added, “This award means a lot to us, and I hope it inspires future students to continue the mission of SACNAS – to support underrepresented groups in their pursuit of degrees and careers in STEM and to encourage others to bring their culture and whole selves into the process.” 

Meanwhile, Sabrina Zhi, vice president of the UOG SACNAS Student Chapter, said the award demonstrates collective support from many past and present UOG students to highlight their resilient attitude towards the advancement of representation for the Pacific Island community. “I hope through this award, SACNAS UOG can continue to inspire and support future generations of Guamanian STEM-ists, as it has done for me,” Zhi said. 

Celebrating its 50th year, SACNAS fosters the success of underrepresented Americans – from college students to professionals – in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and leadership positions in STEM. It is the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary STEM diversity organization in the United States, serving more than 20,000 students and professionals.  

The attendees participated in the conference through support provided by the Guam NSF EPSCoR and NSF INCLUDES SEAS grants and travel scholarships from SACNAS, Chapter Officer Leadership October Retreat (COLOR), and the Research Corporation of the University of Guam.

Galarion is EPSCoR’s new research computing facilitator 

Hark Galarion Photo
Hark Galarion Photo
Hark Galarion, who has a background in computer science from various institutions including the University of Guam, joins EPSCoR ((Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) as a research computing facilitator.

Within the ever-evolving landscape of research computing, Hark Galarion has found his niche as a part of Guam EPSCoR ‘s (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) cyberinfrastructure team since May 2023.  

Galarion has a background in computer science from various institutions including Eastern Oregon University and Guam Community College. He is currently working towards earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Guam.  

As Guam EPSCoR’s new research computing facilitator, he personally applies a more wholistic learning approach to computational science by combining classroom and on-the-job, real-world experience.  

Within Guam EPSCoR, Galarion collaborates closely with Bastian Bentlage, PhD. his supervisor at the facility. Bentlage, an Associate Professor of Bioinformatics and EPSCoR Science Co-Lead for Genomes Research Objectives and Cyberinfrastructure, guides Galarion in his work. 

“My responsibilities (as a research computing facilitator) involve maintaining servers located at OIT (UOG Office of Information Technology) and assisting researchers in their work,” shared Galarion.  

Galarion’s day-to-day tasks go beyond the ordinary. Operating from the UOG Office of Information Technology (OIT), he ensures tasks are streamlined and efficiently distributed across various computing sites. A meticulous approach is crucial, according to Galarion, given the significance of having sufficient computing power to support numerous research projects undertaken by Guam EPSCoR. 

Galarion simplifies his work, comparing it to breaking down intricate tasks into manageable pieces, akin to solving a puzzle.  

He says, “Basically, it (research computing process) splits the load of the job instead of relying on the OIT side, the data center here, to do one big job, it could basically send out smaller jobs to be worked on (by other centers) faster and then come back.” 

Several years ago, UOG OIT initiated its high-speed 100Gb Guam Open Research & Education eXchange (GOREX). The GOREX network connects Guam to Hawaii and California via the SEA-US fiber-optic submarine cable.  

This network, capable of facilitating high-speed exchanges of extensive scientific datasets between Guam and other research institutions, improved research initiatives at the university, including EPSCoR. 

Galarion’s journey into computer science originated from his passion for gaming. Although the COVID-19 pandemic altered his initial dream of becoming a game developer, his gaming background equipped him with invaluable problem-solving skills essential for his current role. 

“In computer science, a lot of problems may occur. There is no straightforward answer, there are roadblocks sometimes, especially when I am doing programming. A lot of things may affect programming itself,” he said. 

Beyond his professional commitments, Galarion takes a break by playing soccer or spearfishing and hiking. Having played for the Northern Mariana Islands National Soccer Team, he now participates in the UOG Men’s Soccer Team. 

Looking ahead, Galarion envisions implementing similar research computing initiatives at Northern Marianas College in the CNMI. His ambition is to pave the way for the next generation of computational scientists from his hometown. 

G3 Makerspace workshop: Crafting new things from discarded plastic 

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With the goal of discovering innovative ways to repurpose waste, the Guam Green Growth (G3) Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub organized a plastic fusion workshop this month at CHamoru Village. 

During the workshop, Abby Crain, the coordinator of G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub, demonstrated techniques to transform discarded plastic bags into wallets, purses, and pouches. 

She explained plastic fusion as a process in which plastic sheets are melded together into a pattern using heat. Crain used specific types of plastic bags (#2, #4, or #5) for each project, along with patterns, parchment paper, and a flat iron as a heat source. 

Proper heat application is crucial in plastic fusion, so participants were instructed to follow safety precautions, according to Crain. 

At the beginning of the workshop, Phil Cruz, the sustainability coordinator at UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant, helped participants understand the necessity of finding alternative uses for plastic waste. 

Cruz emphasized that plastic waste not only mars the island’s landscape but also contaminates the oceans. Safeguarding the environment is paramount for an island community like Guam, as ocean-bound waste can infiltrate the food chain. 

Plastics degrade into microplastics, which are ingested by fish. When these contaminated fish are consumed by other marine animals and humans, microplastics travel up the food chain, posing a threat to ecosystems and human health alike. 

Moreover, culturally significant and endangered marine animals like the green and hawksbill sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for food since they resemble jellyfish. 

“Not only is it (plastic waste) an eyesore but it also goes into our ocean. As an island community, we must do our utmost to protect our environment,” Cruz said. 

While plastic pollution is a common concern in the community, Guam also faces challenges in proper waste management and recycling due to the global collapse of the plastic recycling industry in 2020. Consequently, shipping plastics off the island is no longer viable, according to Cruz. 

 “Therefore, the island community must find creative solutions,” he added. 

The concept of Zero Waste becomes crucial in this context, involving the reduction of landfill waste by being mindful of consumption and waste generation, according to Cruz. 

  

With this in mind, workshops are held at the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub to repurpose discarded plastics, shaping them into new and useful items.  

 Additionally, the hub utilizes precious plastic machines to break down specific plastics and mold them into innovative products. 

These initiatives reflect Guam’s commitment to addressing its plastic problem while actively involving the community in sustainable practices. 

UOG celebrates third G3 Conservation Corps graduation 

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The Guam Green Growth (G3) initiative at the University of Guam celebrated the graduation of its third conservation corps cohort on Friday, August 11, at the Sinajana Community Arts Hall.  

The innovative workforce development program is designed to prepare the island for the emerging green economy. Launched in collaboration with the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and UOG Global Learning and Engagement in 2021, the G3 Conservation Corps program is a full-time training experience spanning five months each year.   

Participants received instruction on a wide range of sustainability topics, covering areas such as agriculture, aquaculture, island beautification, invasive species removal, reforestation, circular economy, ocean conservation, and renewable energy.  

The latest batch of G3 Conservation Corps members who successfully completed the comprehensive program include Maria Balbin, Jace Blas, Zeriah Blas, Cassie Bordallo, Michael Herbert, Michael Jude Hernandez, Connor Law, Laura Layan, Javier Mercado, Ciara Taijeron, Michael Torres, and Elisa Rose Padilla.  

“We’ve learned a lot here and from all of our partners,” said Balbin, who served as corps crew supervisor. 

Also at the graduation, UOG President Anita Borja Enriquez hailed the graduates as conservation corps warriors. “You are a special group of conservation leaders. You represent us as ambassadors to our youth and to members of our community through your experiences…Congratulations! We look forward to seeing you do amazing things.” 

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero also commended the graduates. “The 12 of you are very significant to the conservation of our island. You have gone through an experience that we will probably never go through,” she said.  

Meanwhile, Austin Shelton, UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant director, highlighted the unique experience of the third batch of conservation corps. He said the process prepared the corps for the environmental challenges that are occurring in the region and the rest of the world. 

“This season was a little bit different. We had an unexpected typhoon, and we had to do things differently. You got on-the-job training for what is becoming the new reality. Climate change is here, and we are seeing an increasing frequency of storms and rising sea levels,” he said. 

Shelton also mentioned the impactful multiplier effect generated by the G3 Conservation Corps program, especially in partnership development. For example, he said the program facilitated the establishment of the G3 Art Corps and the newly formed G3 Kupu Corps collaboration with Kupu, a Hawai’i’-based youth leadership development program, now providing eight additional year-long corps positions in Guam and CNMI.   

He also underscored G3’s ongoing commitment to expand the movement. He said current efforts of the program attracted new federal funding, enabling the future development of G3 partnerships across Micronesia and the Pacific. 

G3 partner GUMA holds graduation ceremony 

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Guam Unique Merchandise & Art (GUMA) held a graduation ceremony for its current batch of entrepreneurs on Saturday, July 29, at the Planet Hollywood at DFS by T Galleria.  

The event was a celebration of the successful completion of a 16-week training and mentoring program for approximately 72 graduates from more than 50 local companies. The graduates represent various sectors, from food, retail to agriculture. 

GUMA and the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub are partners in promoting the growth of local businesses in an emerging green economy. By providing essential resources and support, the partnership aims to empower Guam’s talented artists, cultural producers, and entrepreneurs to turn their creative concepts into sustainable businesses. 

With support from Guam NSF-EPSCoR, the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub plays a vital role in nurturing the growth of new businesses in an emerging green economy. The makerspace provides a creative space for entrepreneurs to upcycle discarded materials and transform them into marketable products. With advanced tools such as 3D printers, a laser cutter, computer numerical control router, vinyl cutter, and power tools, the makerspace can process various materials, including wood, metal, and plastic.  

Beyond its local impact, the collaboration between GUMA and G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub also contributes to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to promote Decent Work and Economic Growth.  

By fostering an environment conducive to innovative cottage industries, the partnership seeks to reduce Guam’s dependence on imports and decrease waste generation, paving the way for a more sustainable, green economy. 

Moreover, these efforts align with G3’s goals of reducing reliance on imported goods and minimizing waste generation.  

The graduation ceremony concluded with a sense of hope and promise for the future of Guam’s entrepreneurial landscape. Equipped with the support of GUMA and the innovative resources provided by the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub, these graduates are now ready to conquer the challenges of the local market and build businesses that not only contribute to the local economy but also promote environmental responsibility. 

G3 Conservation Corps assists in campus post-typhoon clean-up

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connar cutting

A day after typhoon Mawar left a trail of destruction all over the island, the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps (G3CC) got down to work by helping out with on-campus cleanup at the University of Guam.  

 All 12 members of the current G3CC cohort collected felled branches, organic matter, and debris that littered the campus grounds. They also cleared portions of the road where cars and pedestrians pass through, opening access to areas within the university.  

G3 Conservation Corps member Ciara “CiCi” Taijeron said, “Today, it is sad to see so many trees without leaves on them and all the organic matter is everywhere…I am very relieved that my team and I are safe and everybody on Guam is trying to recover from this unfortunate natural disaster.” 

Every Friday, G3 Conservation Corps members usually assist in village beautification activities. With post-typhoon recovery in full swing all over the island, the team recognized the need to refocus their energy and contribute to these ongoing efforts.  

UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant Sustainability Coordinator Phil Cruz said, “The G3 Conservation Corps is our workforce development program, where participants are exposed to jobs related to sustainability. We are shifting gears a bit, focusing on beautification of our island in terms of post-typhoon cleanup.” 

 Cruz added, “Because Guam Green Growth is a community-based organization, it is essential to our G3 Conservation Corps to engage with the community in such a time where we need so much assistance as possible.  

According to UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant Director Austin Shelton, PhD, the G3 Conservation Corps will also contribute to other aspects of the recovery efforts.  

 “Right now, we are clearing roads in the Mangilao area and the University of Guam campus. We will get moving around the island and help with some of our response activities,” he said. 

Shelton also encouraged the community to reach out to the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. 

 “If there is any way that you think we can assist, please feel free to reach out to us. We are looking forward to getting through this together and helping out as much as we can,” he added.  

Guam NSF EPSCoR is the catalyst for Guam Green Growth.

For more information about the G3 Conservation Corps’ post-typhoon recovery activities, follow us on social media @guamgreengrowth  

What is G3 and the G3 Conservation Corps?  

The UOG Center for Island Sustainability facilitates Guam Green Growth, or G3, in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the G3 Working Group, whose members represent all sectors of society. With the SDGs and G3 Action Framework as a guide, G3 develops tangible solutions to sustainability challenges and contributes to a green economy for the island region.  

The G3 Conservation Corps program prepares the community for the emerging green economy. For the duration of the program, the 12 conservation corps members participate in workforce development training covering various sustainability topics, such as agriculture and aquaculture, island beautification, invasive species removal, reforestation, circular economy, recycling, to renewable energy. 

Science and Technology committee reports progress in developing plan for Guam 

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RU Headshot e1633485376813

At the first University of Guam- Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Science and Technology (S/T) committee meeting of 2023, members discussed ways to enhance the island wide S/T plan by examining existing state blueprints as a model/guide.  

The S/T committee has been tasked with developing the island’s Science and Technology plan within the next few months. The committee’s primary focus areas are carbon offset, aquaculture, renewable energy, health care, among others. 

UOG President emeritus and committee vice-chair Robert Underwood presided over the meeting. He cited several interesting elements from other state plans, specifically, how components are aligned with the established economic activity as well as the higher education research agenda in the area.  

In the case of Maine, for example, he said the local lobster industry saw an economic boost through the collaboration of private sector/business support and research activities. 

While the state plans provide a helpful reference, Underwood stressed the importance of developing a set of Guam-specific indices for evaluating the island’s knowledge economy as the committee creates its own plan.  

“As we write our Science and Technology plan, we want to put in some benchmark upon which we can evaluate the island and ourselves on whether we are truly moving toward a knowledge economy,” Underwood said at the meeting.  

Underwood recommended using the Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index (STSI) as a reference.  The institute developed the STSI to provide a comprehensive review and ranking of the knowledge economies of all 50 US states. The territories are not included in the report.  

According to Underwood, some states use the report as a basis for triangulating progress and even for supporting entrepreneurial startups. The report measures state progress using the following subindexes: research and development inputs, risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure, human capital investment, technology and science workforce, and technology concentration and dynamism. 

Additionally, the meeting highlighted several accomplishments made by committee members to address the priority challenge areas.  

Melanie Mendiola, GEDA administrator, and committee co-chairperson, provided an update on the Guam Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for 2020-2025 (Guam CEDS), adopted by the Office of the Governor.  

The Guam CEDS includes a range of community and research-based initiatives, including circular economy and STEM-related projects, and other technology projects.  

In previous meetings, the S/T committee explored methods for addressing its priority challenge areas by accessing recently opened resources to support community recovery during the pandemic. 

Meet Robert Lasley: Crustacean biologist and new biorepository associate curator

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RobLasley1 crop

The Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository, a new marine biodiversity collection operated by Guam NSF EPSCoR (National Science Foundation – Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), recently hired crustacean biologist Robert Lasley, Ph.D. as an associate curator. His responsibilities include building a marine invertebrate collection and documenting the crustaceans in Guam and the region.

Lasley’s first studied photojournalism in college. However, he soon found himself drawn to the study of biodiversity and switched his major.

After completing his undergraduate studies in Zoology at the University of Florida, he earned his Ph.D. from the National University of Singapore before becoming a curator at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in Florida.

At some point, Lasley said he took a break from academia and found work as a deckhand on an expedition yacht for a year and a half. While on break, he also travelled to remote locations and worked as a Zodiac driver.

According to Lasley, his experience operating boats and living at sea proved valuable to his work as a crustacean biologist.

“It has been important just to understand the ocean and also (to understand) practical things like how to operate a boat and how to live at sea,” he said.

Lasley ultimately returned to the field of science and worked as a researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History. A few months ago, he began his current position as associate curator at the GECCO biorepository.

“The element that unites my background is a love for diversity. So, obviously, marine biodiversity. But also a diversity of habitats as I travel… diverse cultures and so on. The other element is a love for the ocean,” he said.

As a crustacean biologist, Lasley is interested in crab systematics and taxonomy, including describing new species and understanding how they are related. He is also studying biogeography, speciation, natural and sexual selection, and the impact of ecosystems on the evolution and diversification of land crabs.

Lasley said his work at the GECCO biorepository is strategic because Guam is close to the Coral Triangle, the most diverse marine region in the world.

UOG students make waves, broaden connections at SACNAS  

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More than the experience of attending a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) event off-island, the University of Guam delegation, which included Guam NSF EPSCoR student researchers, also earned accolades, learned more about diversity and expanded their network at the National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) conference in Puerto Rico. 

The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) organized the event from October 27 through October 29. The conference drew thousands of college-levels through professional attendees from historically excluded communities throughout the states and territories.  

The conference seeks to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM.   

Austin Shelton, Ph.D. UOG Sea Grant and Center for Island Sustainability director, Education Workforce and Development coordinator for Guam NSF EPSCoR and SACNAS board member said the conference is the perfect place to expose students to opportunities in STEM. “This is really an important event for our students at the University of Guam. It is the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary STEM diversity conference in the nation. This year, it is the biggest that the conference has ever been. Over half of that are students and over half of them are professionals, and as important, exhibitors who are bringing in opportunities to students in the areas of graduate school or employment in agencies, in nonprofits, in nongovernmental organizations.” 

According to Shelton, 51 students and faculty from UOG took advantage of these tremendous opportunities at the conference. Aside from immersing participants in STEM research and professional development sessions, the conference also encouraged engagement in and the sharing of multicultural celebrations and traditions. 

Cheryl R. Sangueza, Ph.D. assistant professor of secondary education said attending the conference was a success not only for academic and research opportunities, but also because the Guam delegation left a positive footprint for the island and the university. She believes that the experience “possibly changed life trajectories for the UOG students. 

 “Our students were engaged in professional networking and found exciting academic and research opportunities, they met new friends and explored new places and cultures, and they were successfully immersed in a culture of scientific research. “Seeing and feeling like they belong at a STEM conference combined with connecting with graduate school and research opportunities illuminated new options and choices for many,” she said. 

Sangueza is also the co-principal investigator for the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES SEAS Islands Alliance Guam Hub and oversees student experience for NSF Guam EPSCoR.  

More than 10 UOG students took part in the poster presentations at the conference. One of the students, Michael Fernandez, received recognition for his undergraduate poster presentation on “Host Tree and Mycorrhizal Diversity of Epiphytic Orchids Native to Guam.” 

Alyssa Calalo, an NSF INCLUDES student researcher, also presented a poster on “Assessing the Use of Pre-germinated and Soaked Seed of Native Plant Species for Badland Restoration: Lab and Field Trials.” 

The UOGundergraduate in biology described her SACNAS experience as inspirational. “It was eye opening meeting scientists with the same culture and values, and it made me feel seen and motivated to keep going! My presentation revolved all around using native plants important to the CHamoru culture to restore badlands that have been affected by erosion. I conducted my research project at Ugum Watersheds. My presentation was a great experience for me, and I was able to connect with people from different labs and cultures – network and share ideas on how to keep the project going!”    

SACNAS fosters the success of underrepresented Americans – from college students to professionals – in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and leadership positions in science, technology engineering, and mathematics, otherwise known as STEM. It is the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary STEM diversity organization in the United States, serving more than 20,000 students and professionals. 

 

 

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. 

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