Five students gain valuable experience through summer research program  

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Over the course of eight weeks, five undergraduate students gained valuable scientific experience, discovered more about themselves, and explored different research areas through the NSF INCLUDES: SEAS Bridge to Ph.D. Program held at Pennsylvania State University.  

These student researchers include Louise Pascua, Gabriella Prelosky, Anela Duenas, Anna Aguirre, and Merry Remetira.  

For these student researchers, it was their first time participating in an off-island research program. The program was held from June to August 2022.  

“My experience during the summer was so much fun! I was able to do research on something I had zero experience in which was terrifying but also very enjoyable,” said Louise Pascua, a biology major and a 2022 Guam NSF EPSCoR student researcher. “It’s a little cliche to say, however I do believe that my love for science has been re-ignited. I made many life-long friends and built many professional relationships, while also finding myself.”  

During the program, Pascua was placed under the mentorship of Jason Rasgon, an entomology professor at PSU. For her independent research project, she focused on genetically modifying eye color in Culex tarsalis mosquitoes using ReMOT Control. ReMOT Control is similar to CRISPR technology however ReMOT Control injects the adults to send the gene cutting complex to the embryos rather than injecting the embryos directly, according to Pascua.  

Anela Duenas, a biology major and 2021 NSF SEAS research fellow, experienced some culture shock when it came to conducting research in a new environment.  

“This program made me realize that I am more interested in the ecological aspects of research after working with more hands-on activities in the greenhouse for my project,” said Duenas. “I also experienced a culture shock when first arriving to the United States as it was my first time. A culture shock not only because of a new location but also in science. It was incredible to witness the laboratories and equipment available to students at Pennsylvania State University. Overall, it was very eye opening and made me excited to be in this field.”  
 
Under the mentorship of Francesco Di Gioia, an assistant professor at PSU, Duenas studied alternative growing media for the production of microgreens.  

Over the course of the program, the student researchers faced challenges and research areas they were not familiar with all while gaining the skills and knowledge to become confident in their ability to adapt and persevere.  

“There was definitely a learning curve with certain aspects of my research just because there were procedures or techniques that I haven’t done beforehand,” said Anna Aguirre, a biology student and a 2021 NSF SEAS research fellow. “However, I did my part with taking notes and trying to be as proactive in learning as I can be and suddenly the learning curve was not so intimidating.”  

Aguirre studied plant pathology and environmental microbiology under Sharifa Crandall, an assistant professor at PSU. For her project, she looked at how soil steaming and later final beneficial and pathogenic amendments might affect plant growth.  

For one student, this experience helped them learn how to speak up when they need help. 

“My main challenge is that I have insecurities when it comes to what I know and what I can offer,” said Merry Remetira, a civil engineering student and a 2021 NSF SEAS research fellow. “This in turn can make me fear reaching out to a mentor and explaining what I really feel. I tend to just accept what is instructed of me and try not to question anything. I was also advised to stop apologizing so much, that to only apologize when responsibility is due. That was a truly enlightening experience and I will work on that challenge.”   

Remetira was mentored by Margaret Byron, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at PSU. For her project, she studied how oil-particle aggregates formed using a roller tank to simulate how particles would interact in the environment.  

For Gabriella Prelosky, a biology student and a 2021 NSF SEAS research fellow, being in the program helped renew her excitement for science and her future. 
  
Prelosky studied under Natalie Boyle, an assistant research professor at PSU. Her research project involved calculating the lethal dose curve of 50% of alfalfa leaf cutting bees using an insecticide compound known as acetamiprid in varying doses.  

“This experience most definitely has affected my goals. Before participating in the bridge program, I was almost certain I did not want to pursue a master’s degree after graduating next spring due to extreme burnout, but this program showed me both the highs and lows in a positive light. I now know that after a break, I am definitely going for a master’s,” said Prelosky. “My advice for this program, but also others, be confident in yourself. Things may not go how you want it the first time, but the more you fall, the more you learn!” 
 

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.   

 

Musicians connect with community at G3 Makerspace  

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Two Guam-grown musicians talked story about their roots and culture as part of the second installment of the Guam Green Growth Makerspace’s “Seed Talk Sessions,” a series of developmental opportunities offered by the facility in which industry professionals engage island community members to stimulate creativity and encourage local entrepreneurship. The event took place at the facility’s innovation hub in the CHamoru Village on July 1, 2022.  

Born and raised in Guam, Peter “Håle’” Cruz grew up listening to classic rock and eventually transitioned into creating reggae music. For five years, he played with local island band Table for Five. Upon moving stateside, Cruz joined Tribal Theory, a reggae group, and toured the United States, Guam, and Hawai’i. After departing Tribal Theory in 2019, he formed Håle, which focuses on Marianas reggae music and draws inspiration from the CHamoru culture and Guam.  

Shiabe “Bok” Pangelinan grew up in Yigo in a musically talented family. The son of the late Frank “Bokonggo” Pangelinan, a traditional CHamoru musician, Pangelinan played the local music scene with D.U.B. and Soul Vibes. Much of his music is inspired by his CHamoru heritage and culture.  

During their presentation at the G3 innovation hub, Cruz and Pangelinan shared guidance on how to be a successful musician on Guam. They discussed earning royalties, distribution, and general tips about the music industry.  

“I wanted to talk about the life and the struggle of being someone who left Guam and trying to make it happen for themselves,” said Cruz. “I think that’s really important. If it wasn’t for that part of my life and being with the CHamoru community here, I don’t think I would be here.”  

When asked about what advice they would give to aspiring musicians, Cruz and Pangelinan said to be driven and take risks when you can.  

“Whenever you play, keep in mind that you don’t know who’s going to be in that crowd,” said Pangelinan. “It can be the worst gig, but you shouldn’t dismiss them. I’d play in random bars and people would ask me for my number and I’d have a better gig set up. A lot of the times people are scared, but when you push yourself to a point where you know what’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. You can’t second guess yourself.”  

Math students present research on coral reef dynamics

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Six students presented their research about the effects of coral bleaching, coral diseases, rising temperatures, and controlling crown-of-thorns (COTS) starfish populations using mathematical modeling this summer as part of the 2022 Summer Joint Math Research Program showcase held on July 15. The students – five undergraduate students and one high school student – were part of the 2022 Summer Math Research Experience held from May 23 to July 16 at the University of Guam.  

The program was part of the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals & Oceans (GECCO) project, funded by the university’s Guam NSF EPSCoR grant. 

“You’ve inspired research by what I have seen from the titles of your projects,” said Austin Shelton, the director of the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant, during the showcase’s opening remarks. “These are the kinds of things the community needs to understand our coastal and terrestrial resources.”  

The Summer Math Research Experience was held in conjunction with two other research programs: the Young Research Experience in Mathematics and the National Research Experience for Undergraduates Program.  

Using data collected from researchers at the UOG Marine Laboratory, the models were developed to use as a tool to forecast changes in the island’s coral reefs.  

“Creating these mathematical models is important so that we can see and predict the changes from these environmental situations,” said UOG Assistant Professor Mathematics Jaeyong Choi, one of the program’s mentors. ”Using the mathematical models, we can use them to simulate situations based on the data collected from the researchers at the marine laboratory.”  

During the program, the students were split into two teams to focus on two projects.  

The first group looked at whether rising sea surface temperatures were a bigger threat to Acropora pulchra and Porites populations than crown-of-thorns starfish, which prey on stony coral. Outbreaks of these starfish can cause severe damage to coral reefs over just a few weeks.  

 “Applying math to science feels like you’re exploring,” said Siwen “Lulu” Shao, a high school student at St. John’s Catholic School. “You never encounter the same problem. When we built this complex mathematical model, all you have to do is change numbers and parameters and this model would be able to apply to any COTS and any coral relationship in the world.” 

The second group focused on how two different coral species – Acropora pulchra and Porites massive – react in situations of bleaching and disease along with how the presence of seaweed inhibits their ability to recover. 

“Being in this program has been pretty amazing and eye-opening,” said Ernie Samelo, an undergraduate mathematics major at the University of Guam. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff about math and applying it in real life and coral. Corals are something I never thought would have so many layers to it. I’ve loved every moment of this program.” 

G3CC conducts underwater cleanup in Hagatña

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Members of the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps (G3CC) got an up close and personal look at the ongoing problem of marine debris and trash during a week-long module with Master Navigator Larry Raigetal in Hagatna.  

The group assisted in repairing the thatch roofing at the boat house in Paseo, learned about traditional navigation and then proceeded to conduct an underwater cleanup alongside volunteers.  

Conservation Corps member Jacob Concepcion believed that the cleanup and beautification of our island and ocean are not only a matter of keeping things looking good, but also a cultural responsibility.  

“This is our way of giving back. In our culture, we have beliefs about everything,” said Concepcion. “I guess just paying respect to our water and the surroundings, and our culture, it really pays tribute to that.” 

The group worked together to tackle the underwater litter, hoisting bulky items such as tires and furniture from the ocean floor where it can harm the coastal ecosystem. 

According to the group, the goal is to remove the litter, donating what they can for local school programs, and to explore options to incorporate some into the circular economy.  

In total, the group removed over fourteen discarded tires, several trash bags full of garbage and dozens of aluminum cans, diverting them from the landfill.  

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

G3 Makerspace workshops inspire community to live sustainably

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From making pouches out of repurposed plastic to bamboo bracelets and earrings, the Guam Green Growth Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub has been encouraging the island’s community to live a more sustainable lifestyle by taking advantage of the resources around them. 

The G3 Makerspace and Innovation Hub started holding workshops at their location in Hagåtña’s CHamoru Village in March and has offered courses that involve fusing plastic bags together to make pouches, dyeing fabric with natural pigments found on the island, and processing locally harvested bamboo into vases, bangles, and earrings. 

The workshops engage the community in the circular economy, which eliminates waste by promoting the continual use of products. In addition, the workshops also encourage its participants to think of ways to address invasive species such as bamboo and turn them into resources they can use.  

Bamboo is an invasive species on Guam because it clogs riverways and causes erosion when bunches of it are ripped from the ground during a storm.  

“Right now, we’ve been teaching them how to make jewelry pieces, but we want to expand and teach our community how to utilize bamboo as a source of lumber,” said Joey Certeza, the G3 Circular Economy Makerspace Assistant. “We want to learn how to work with our land and how to utilize the resources it offers us.”  

In May, the makerspace will offer workshops that will use malt bags donated from local breweries to make bucket hats and tote bags.  

Additional upcoming workshops include printmaking courses in which participants can use marine debris to print on a fabric that can be made into pouches and leather workshops.  

“The reception from our participants has been really good,” said Abby Crain, the Guam Green Growth Education Coordinator. “We’ve had couples who do it for a date night, families that come and bring their teenagers with them, and there is this one lady who has done almost every workshop and she’s been a repeat client.”  

Certeza says that he enjoys facilitating the workshops because it gives him an opportunity to make connections within the community.  

“The kind of experience I’ve been striving to provide while working with Guam Green growth is for the community to realize that engaging in a sustainable lifestyle is easier than you think,” said Certeza. “I want our community to realize the capacity of what they can do with their hands and their minds with the resources the island provides for us.”  

Workshops at the G3 Circular Economy and Innovation Hub are $20 and above and are held on Thursdays and Saturdays.  

For more information about upcoming workshops, please visit the facility’s events page. 

The Guam Green Growth Circular Economy Makerspace and Innovation Hub is funded in part by Guam NSF EPSCoR. 

Mónica Feliú-Mójer speaks with Guam Science and Technology Steering Committee  

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During a meeting on April 4th, 2022, members of the Guam Science and Technology Steering Committee met with Mónica Feliú-Mójer. Feliú-Mójer is the director of communication for Ciencia Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization that advocates for science in Puerto Rico and supports Puerto Rican researchers to empower communities to improve their lives and society. 

Feliú-Mójer also works with Science Communication Lab, a nonprofit that uses multimedia storytelling to communicate science to the public, as its director of diversity and communication training.  

“I like to push back on this idea that our communities are not scientifically literate. They know science. There’s a lot of community and ancestral scientific knowledge,” said Feliú-Mójer. “I think it is important that we have a conversation about scientific literacy and how people can use it to benefit their life.”  

The steering committee consulted with Feliú-Mójer learn about how to put science in service of communities.  

As part of her work with Ciencia Puerto Rico, Feliú-Mójer facilitates Aquí Nos Cuidamos (“Here We Take Care of Each Other”), a community-centered multimedia toolkit that provides culturally relevant resources to marginalized communities in Puerto Rico on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has produced resources such as guidelines, checklists, and infographics; audio broadcasts to remote areas; and videos with sign language.  

“I think one of the things that’s really important to me when it comes to engaging different communities with science is that fundamentally, science is about solving problems,” said Feliú-Mójer. “Everybody has problems. Science equips us with tools to solve problems regarding such determining whether something is true on social media or making a decision about our finances or healthcare.”  

Feliú-Mójer said that communicating science in a culturally relevant way makes science more accessible for audiences.  

“Culturally relevant science allows people to see themselves in science. It makes science more welcoming. A lot of people see science as a subject they need to take in school and not much more and part of what I want to do is change that. I want people to see science as a tool that can serve them no matter who they are,” said Feliú-Mójer. 

Alum participates in artist residency program  

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Using an eye for detail, Constance Sartor, a University of Guam Master of Science in Biology and a research assistant with the university’s Guam NSF EPSCoR program, is encouraging others to appreciate the world around them through art inspired by the environment.  

 

 

In November 2021, Sartor participated in one of the U.S. National Parks System’s Artist-in-Residence programs.  

 

The National Park System holds more than 50 residency programs across the nation and encourages visual, musical, and literary artists to create pieces in varied natural and cultural settings.  
 
Sartor participated in a similar program in June 2021 onboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel as part of the organization’s Artist-at-Sea program. 
 
During the artist-in-residence program, Sartor spent a month in a cabin acquainting herself with the mountains and forests of the Great Smoky National Park in Tennessee. There, she saw the turkeys, black bears, and salamanders that called the park their home. Using an assortment of magazines, she created upcycled collages of animals and important sites found at the park. 

 

“I made four different collages – one was a rare morph of a wild turkey that I saw in the park. Another was an elk, which they had re-introduced into the park as a part of a rehabilitation project,” Sartor said. “I also did a historic cabin and also a waterfall that was really important to the park.”  

 

During her time in the program, she also held workshops at the park’s visitor’s center and taught visitors how to make different collages of the animals they saw.  

 

Sartor said that creating art encourages her to feel more connected to the organisms she encounters.  

 

“I definitely do feel more of a connection to my subjects when I make a piece because I have to think about the organism a little more than I would,” Sartor said. “I see little details in the animals or plants I wouldn’t have noticed. I also try to learn more about them and how they play a role in the environment and everything, so it’s a good way to research different aspects of the environment.”  

 

She said she enjoyed her time at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and found it interesting to work with the park’s staff to learn more about its environment.  “I really enjoyed the experience because I’m kind of torn between art and science and figuring out a way to blend the two,” Sartor said. “I feel like I’m learning that art is a really good way to communicate science and to get people really interested in science. That’s definitely something I learned through this and something I will continue to pursue in the future.”  

 
Sartor has been accepted to another National Parks System Artist-in-Residence program and will attend it this summer.  

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