UOG celebrates third G3 Conservation Corps graduation 


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. 

Two UOG students explore turning seawater into clean energy 

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Anna Mallari and Merry Remetira, two undergraduate civil engineering students from the University of Guam, are researching how to convert seawater into renewable energy as part of a collaboration between UOG and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to establish a diverse and equitable recruitment and retention program to build UOG and Guam’s future energy workforce.  
The program they are a part of is called BES-RENEW, or Basic Energy Sciences –  
Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce, which works to increase participation of underrepresented groups in clean energy research.  
As part of the program, Mallari and Remetira will receive training along with UOG Assistant Professor of Chemistry John Limtiaco at the PNNL campus in Richland, Washington from June 2nd to August 11th, 2023. The laboratory is a leading center of technological innovation in sustainable energy.  

“I’m excited because we will be learning new science that will be beneficial to the island once we come back. I hope that me and Anna will get the necessary tools that we can get there and apply it here when we want to further our careers,” said Remetira.  

Mallari is a 2023 Guam NSF EPSCoR undergraduate student researcher while Remetira is from the 2021 cohort.  

For those looking into applying for opportunities like BES-RENEW, Mallari said it’s important for students to try new experiences.  

“It’s good to diversify your background and be a well-rounded engineer,” said Mallari. “EPSCoR has taught me that since we are in college, we’re not supposed to know everything. We’re supposed to learn. I think that’s a very good lesson to take with me for the rest of my life.”  

UOG grad student teaches marine ecology course in Yap

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Headshot Pablo scaled
Pablo De la Vega, a graduate biology student from the University of Guam and Guam NSF EPSCoR graduate research assistant, was one of the instructors for an educational program called Marine Island Ecology at the Yap Catholic High School from June 14 to July 7, 2023.

Pablo De la Vega, a graduate biology student from the University of Guam and Guam NSF EPSCoR graduate research assistant, was one of the instructors for an educational program called Marine Island Ecology at the Yap Catholic High School from June 14 to July 7, 2023.  

Organized by the Micronesian Conservation Coalition (MCC), the summer program allows participating high school seniors to gain fieldwork experience and learn about the marine life in Yap. MCC is a nonprofit organization that aims to conserve island habitats and species throughout Micronesia.  

The program was split into different segments that focused on several areas of Yap’s island ecology. Students would discuss theory and lab protocols and then spend the next day in the field putting what they learned in the classroom to practice.  

During his time in the program, De la Vega covered classes related to microbiology.  

“They were all familiar with fermentation and familiar with different kinds of bacteria. In their culture, they consume tuba, which is made through fermentation and different kinds of yeasts and bacteria interacting with each other,” said De la Vega. 

De la Vega said that the experience has deepened his appreciation for the environmental knowledge of indigenous cultures.  

“Learning from everyone who participated in the course made me realize that the only way to promote change and protection of the environment is by learning from the cultures that have preserved it for millennia and empowering the next generation to lead the changes we need from a global perspective if we want to continue having an inhabitable planet,” said De la Vega. 

De la Vega said that he is grateful to MCC for giving him an opportunity to explore Yap and connect with its people.  

“I really want to thank Ms. Julie Hartup from MCC,” said De la Vega. “The programs that MCC have put together are a good example on how you can combine science with social impact.”  

UOG researcher explores the biodiversity of crabs in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf  

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UOG Curator of Crustacea Robert Lasley went on two research expeditions to conduct biodiversity surveys within the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.  

With support from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Lasley joined a team of biologists and spent two weeks at sea collecting specimens such as crabs, mollusks, and worms from May 3 to May 27, 2023.  
During this expedition, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) were deployed. ARMS are stacks of plates that mimic the sea floor. They are used to recruit local species over a set period of time to gauge and compare marine biodiversity among habitats, islands, and even ocean basins. Lasley and his colleagues will eventually deploy ARMS in Guam. 

During his time in Abu Dhabi from June 16 to June 29, Lasley explored the Persian Gulf with a team of scientists as part of a trip sponsored by Archireef, a Hong Kong-based company that builds 3D-printed reef structures to restore degraded coral reefs.  

The specimens gathered from these expeditions will be placed in the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository, a physical and cyber warehouse of records and images operated by the Guam NSF EPSCoR program. 

“I’m really interested in crab biodiversity and biogeography in general,” said Lasley. “The Indo-West Pacific – which includes Guam, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf – is this massive biogeographic region and some species are connected throughout it. Any specimens I collect anywhere are good to bring to our collection for comparative material because as we do research, we need to compare specimens from Guam but also specimens from elsewhere.”  

Between the two trips, Lasley collected more than 500 specimens, which include around 100 to 200 species of crabs.  

“We have already found a new record and, possibly, a new species from the Red Sea,” Lasley said. “We are bound to find more as I examine the specimens more thoroughly.”  

UOG grad student explores the small world of meiofauna

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Sarai Vega, a biology graduate student from the University of Guam was one of 13 participants selected worldwide to attend the 2023 Dauphin Island Sea Lab Meiofauna Diversity and Taxonomy Workshop in Alabama from May 10 to May 19, 2023.  

Meiofauna are invertebrates that live in both marine and freshwater environments that are small enough to pass through a 0.45 micrometer mesh. They live in between the grains of sand and mud on the seafloor and riverbeds. Copepods, flatworms, and nematodes fall under meiofauna.  

Because the meiofauna group is broad, the field remains understudied despite its ecological importance.  
“Meiofauna have a high turnover, so they reproduce very fast and they don’t live very long,” said Vega. “Because of this, they are a food source to bigger animals like crabs and sea cucumbers. In turn, those bigger animals are food for other animals. If this group didn’t exist, it would affect that chain.”  

Over the course of the workshop, Vega was able to connect with meiofauna experts from around the world as well as learn different collection and sampling techniques for DNA metabarcoding of meiofauna communities around Dauphin Island.  

As a Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, Vega became interested in researching meiofauna to incorporate it into her thesis project, which focuses on studying the formation of sediment plumes in the Pago Watershed in central Guam and how they affect the island’s environment.  

Sediment from soil erosion due to fires and invasive species such as wild pigs and deer can wash into rivers, streams, and bays during rainfall. Once in the water, these plumes of sediment can pollute bodies of water and smother coral reef systems.   

“These sediment plumes consist of very fine sediment,” said Vega. “I want to understand what’s happening and how they affect meiofauna.”  

Vega said that her experience attending the workshop has benefited her development as a scientist.  

“Being in the workshop was very hard in the beginning, but I got to learn a lot by asking other people how they’d process their samples so by the end of the workshop, I was faster,” said Vega. “As a scientist, I feel like if there’s any new skill I would like to have, I’ll just have to practice and I’ll get better. Learning is infinite and it’s exciting to know that.”  

UOG student sets sail on deep-sea research voyage  

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University of Guam undergraduate communication major Gabriella Piper was part of the first cohort of students and educators from the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) program aboard the Exploration Vessel (EV) Nautilus, which set sail for Sidney, British Colombia from Honolulu, Hawa’i on June 15, 2023. 

STEMSEAS is a National Science Foundation-supported program that provides ship-based exploratory experiences for undergraduates from diverse backgrounds aboard research vessels to engage in geoscience and oceanography activities.  

The EV Nautilus is owned by Ocean Exploration Trust, which is under the direction of Robbert Ballard, the researcher known for finding the wreck of the Titanic.   

The 10-day seafloor mapping expedition was sponsored by Ocean Networks Canada.  

Piper joined a cohort of 12 students and instructors and expressed her excitement about this opportunity to learn more about science communication.  

“I still cannot believe it,” said Piper. “It is a little surreal to be honest. When I first applied, I did not expect to get in because of how many people apply to this program every year, so getting the letter of acceptance felt like such a huge accomplishment.”  

Piper found out about the STEMSEAS program during her time as a 2022 Guam NSF EPSCoR undergraduate student researcher when she attended the 2022 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Conference in Puerto Rico last October. On the way to the event, she was able to connect with a STEMSEAS alum and then later discussed the program with outreach representatives at the conference.  

“My experience with the Student Research Experience Program was incredible and during it I got to network with so many wonderful and unique individuals who helped me discover my passion for science communication,” said Piper. “It is because of the program and the individuals within it that I was able to find this opportunity and learn about the different ways in which I can make a meaningful contribution to the STEM community.”  

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. 

Guam NSF EPSCoR showcases research at sustainability conference  


Graduate students, postdocs, as well as other researchers were able to speak about their work to attendees of the University of Guam Conference on Island Sustainability Conference on April 14, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Guam.  

The presentations were a part of the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans, a breakout session presented by Guam NSF EPSCoR. The event was moderated by Sarah Lemer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marine invertebrate genomics at the University of Guam.  

Presenters included Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistants Colin Anthony, Therese Miller, Renee Crisostomo, and Joseph Proietti. They covered a range of topics such as using publicly available data to study global jellyfish distribution as well as evolutionary trends, the microbiome of the staghorn coral Acropora pulchra from West Hagåtña Bay, Phenotypic plasticity in Acropora aspera and its implications for coral restoration, and quantifying genotypic diversity in the coral Porites rus.  

Marilyn Brandt, Ph.D., a research associate from the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies at the University of the Virgin Islands talked about Rescue to Reef, a program that links science-based coral restoration to privately-owned resorts within the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Other presenters at the breakout session included postdocs Hector Torrado and Gaurav Shimpi, who discussed their research regarding the relatedness and clonality of Acropora corals on Guam as well as mitochondria and soft corals. 

Lastly, David Burdick, who manages Guam’s long-term reef monitoring program, talked about how the island’s coral reefs have changed over the last decade and how different parts of the reefs respond differently to stressors.  

UOG student headed to the Arctic for climate change research

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From the University of Guam

This summer will be colder than usual for University of Guam student Loreto Paulino Jr., but it will also be unforgettable. The UOG chemistry major will be looking for information on climate change while camping in an Arctic region of Alaska with no phone, no internet, and access only by small plane.

Paulino is one of 11 students selected nationwide — and the first from UOG — to be on this year’s Polaris Project research team under the Woodwell Climate Research Center. The project describes its work, funded by the National Science Foundation since 2008, as investigating the fate of the vast quantities of ancient carbon locked in Arctic permafrost as it melts. It seeks to inform decision-makers and the public about climate change and to train future Arctic researchers.

Paulino found out about the Polaris Project at the 2022 SACNAS Diversity in STEM Conference in Puerto Rico. He visited the booth for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution — one of his top picks for grad school — and met Dr. Nigel Golden, a post-doctoral researcher studying the response of Arctic species to climate change, who encouraged Paulino to apply for the Polaris Project.

A program focused on diversity

Paulino said he was drawn to the opportunity because of the project’s focus on addressing climate change and its focus on building diversity in STEM and among future leaders in Arctic research. When reviewing the application, Paulino said one question stood out to him: How do justice, equity, and inclusion relate to addressing climate change?

“I immediately thought of Guam and how unfair it is that the people living in this region, who will be hit the hardest by the effects of climate change, are not included in climate votes in the United States,” he said. “This exclusion highlights the urgent need to empower and include the most vulnerable communities in our efforts to tackle climate change.”

‘Being part of a bigger picture’

Paulino will head to Massachusetts in April for field safety training. He will then spend two weeks in July with the Polaris Project faculty and research staff doing intensive fieldwork in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska. Each of the students will conduct their own research project there and then spend another two weeks back at Woodwell Climate Research Center analyzing their data.

“Alaska is a place I never imagined I would go, but I am excited to explore its beautiful wildlife and scenery,” he said.

Paulino is pursuing a degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics with the ultimate goal of obtaining a doctorate in chemical oceanography, a field that studies the composition of seawater and how it interacts chemically with the atmosphere and marine organisms. It’s a field he hopes more students from Guam will get into as well.

Prepping for a Ph.D.

Set to graduate this May, Paulino has made a point to build a diverse portfolio of research experience as an undergraduate in preparation for post-baccalaureate opportunities and eventually a Ph.D. program.

Paulino said his participation with the Guam EPSCOR Student Research Experience at UOG, in particular, helped advance his skills in advanced mathematical skills and coding and also built his confidence.

“This was one of my favorite experiences as it helped me realize that I have what it takes to succeed in the challenging field of research,” Paulino said.

He also participated in an undergraduate research experience at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, where he investigated the presence of fluorinated contaminants in the air using different sampling tools.

“This was by all standards a very challenging project, but Loreto did very well in mastering the tasks […],” said University of Rhode Island Professor of Oceanography Rainer Lohnmann, Paulino’s mentor during the REU. “Loreto is a very smart student. […] I was impressed by his determination.”

Though the STEM fields can be challenging, Paulino said he hopes his achievements will encourage other students from Guam that they have what it takes to be in STEM.

“I want them to be inspired by the work I do, by just knowing someone is taking part in projects like the Polaris Project — someone that was in their shoes and that came from public high school,” he said. “[…] It’s about how badly you want it.”

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.

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