Three student researchers from the University of Guam attended the 2023 Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation Conference (CERF), which was held from November 12 – 16, 2023, in Portland, Oregon.
The conference is a biennial international meeting of coastal and estuarine scientists and managers that aims to advance the understanding and stewardship of these ecosystems worldwide.
This year’s conference theme was “Resilience and Recovery,” which was chosen to reflect not only the scientific context of those terms but also the resilience of CERF’s community members through the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the event, students had the opportunity to interact with peers, network with scientists within their fields, and attend workshops and panel discussions.
This year’s delegation included Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistants Anela Duenas and Sarai Vega as well as Lynn Galang, a 2022 undergraduate student researcher.
During the conference, Duenas presented her research poster entitled, “Ecophysiology of reef flat coral species replacement in the Mariana Islands.” Her study focused on analyzing endosymbiont communities within stony corals such as Acropora pulchra and Pavona decussata to gather insight about their role in coral resilience.
“My CERF 2023 experience was amazing! I felt so inspired by all the research and people I met. I especially loved the CERF Conference because it was not too big of a conference where you could feel lost and out of place. Instead, the conference felt warm and welcoming like catching up with old friends,” said Duenas.
Galang’s presentation was titled “Taxonomic and Genetic Diversity of the Corallivorous Snail, Drupella spp., on Guam.” Her study focused on determining what species of coral-eating snails are present on Guam to better inform coral management practices.
For her poster presentation entitled, “A seasonal study of meiofauna distribution in Pago Bay, Guam,” Vega explored the world of meiofauna — invertebrates that live in marine and freshwater environments between sand and mud on the seafloor and riverbeds. Copepods, flatworms, and nematodes fall under meiofauna. Vega’s study focused on how environmental changes affect meiobenthic communities
In a session called “Stories from the Braided River: Nonlinear, Enriching Workforce Pathways and Narratives in Coastal Science and Management,” Vega also delivered a presentation about her journey to graduate school in a session entitled, “How many turns does it take? My path to graduate school and beyond.”
Vega’s oral presentation detailed the challenges and successes she faced navigating higher education as an international student, changing her major and choice of career, as well as working while taking classes.
“I learned that when I have doubts in my abilities by taking a hold in the confidence other people have in me, I am able to make the first step,” said Vega. “It’s not “fake it till you make it” – it’s a lot better than that. It’s knowing that you have the support of your ancestors, generations behind you who have worked hard for us to get to where we are. It’s knowing that no matter what, my value as someone in science goes beyond what I can or cannot do. It’s understanding that in a safe environment, learning is bound to take place. “