UOG receives national STEM recognition


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.

NSF Guam EPSCOR students prep for SACNAS Conference

The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference was held in Puerto Rico in 2022. This year's conference will be held in Portland, Oregon with 13 Guam NSF EPSCoR students attending.

Guam NSF EPSCoR students will be presenting research and representing the University of Guam at the largest diversity in STEM conference in the world later this month. 

The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon during the last week of October.

SACNAS, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, is the largest multicultural STEM diversity program in the United States.  

During the conference, the students will attend workshops, present research presentations, and connect with officials from schools nationwide for research experience opportunities.  

According to Guam NSF EPSCoR Education Workforce and Development Program Associate Emily Wendte, a total of thirteen students will be representing the University of Guam at the conference.  

The group is made up of four students from the graduate research assistantship, five from the summer research experience, and three from the summer math research programs.

Nearly half of the delegation has also been selected to present their research to the over 6000 expected attendees.

The students attending the conference must attend preparation workshops facilitated by the Capacity Building Team from Guam NSF EPSCoR and the NSF INCLUDES SEAS Island Alliance Guam Hub. 

Cheryl Sangueza Ph.D, who oversees the student experience with Guam NSF EPSCoR says that the process starts long before the students step foot on the conference floor and is geared to give all students everything they need to represent well.

“Preparation for SACNAS is rooted in ensuring confidence, competence, and excitement to represent our grants, our labs, our university, and our island,” said Sangueza.  “In our first SACNAS briefing, we did a meet and greet with the then 25 students to start that comradery and UOG Delegation mindset.”

According to Sangueza, an orientation was also held with family, friends and support-systems of the students to insure ample preparation for students on all fronts.

“We held SACNAS Orientation and family members and support systems were invited and the turnout was great!  This was designed to continue generating the excitement, and to share this great experience with families.  We showed what SACNAS has to offer, we introduced the delegation and announced who are presenting, and we spoke more about travel expectations,” continued Sangueza.

Along with the student presenters, the University of Guam SACNAS Chapter will also be celebrated at the conference.

“Another cool thing is that the UOG SACNAS Chapter is getting an esteemed SACNAS Chapter of the Year Award,” added Sangueza. “Dr. Austin Shelton and I are co-advisors for the student organization and our EPSCoR and INCLUDES students are both members and a few have served as officers.”

Students are traveling to 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.

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 


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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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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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. 

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