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

2023 uog loreto paulino 1 e1680587492928

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

RobLasley1 crop
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.

Visiting scholar talks nurseryfish, megamouth shark research at UOG Marine Laboratory

Tim M. Berra Photo 2 1
Tim M. Berra Photo 2 1
During his time on Guam, Berra gave three presentations to UOG Marine Laboratory students and faculty regarding his work studying nurseryfish in Australia, the challenges associated with preserving a rare 15-foot megamouth shark, and the descendants of Charles Darwin.

For the month of February, Guam NSF EPSCoR welcomed Tim M. Berra, Ph.D., a professor emeritus and academy professor at the Ohio State University as a visiting NSF EPSCoR scholar. 

Berra is a three-time recipient of Fulbright Fellowships to Australia and has authored over 85 scientific papers and 9 books including Freshwater Fish Distribution and A Natural History of Australia.  

In 2001, Berra began a long-term field project studying the life history of nurseryfish (Kurtus gulliveri).  

Nurseryfish live in the fresh and brackish waters of Papua New Guinea as well as parts of northern Australia. Males of this species carry the egg cluster on a hook that protrudes over their forehead.  

This trip was Berra’s first-time exploring Micronesia and his experiences on Guam will help contribute to a book he is writing about the Pacific.  

“One of my primary interests in being here is that I’m working on a book about the peopling of the Pacific,” said Berra. “I’ve been throughout Polynesia, Melanesia, and now Micronesia. I wanted to find some answers. Where did these people come from? How long ago was it? How did they get here and what did they bring with them?”  

For his research, Berra connected with several local experts such as Michael Carson, Ph.D., a University of Guam Associate Professor of Archaeology.  

During his time on Guam, Berra gave three presentations to UOG Marine Laboratory students and faculty regarding his work studying nurseryfish in Australia, the challenges associated with preserving a rare 15-foot megamouth shark, and the descendants of Charles Darwin.  
Regarding his time spent at the UOG Marine Laboratory, Berra expressed his excitement about the research being conducted at the facility.  

“I’ve met so many people who are dealing with so many important topics like coral bleaching and restoration as well as how climate change affects marine ecosystems,” said Berra. “This is a lively place and students have such a great opportunity when it comes to the Marine Laboratory and EPSCoR to start their careers and make a contribution to science and society.”   

Richard Randall: The life of a naturalist  

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Guam NSF EPSCoR is paying tribute to one of its finest in Professor Emeritus Richard “Dick” Randall, who passed away late last year at the age of 91.  

“He was kind, gentle, generous, astute, knowledgeable, and understanding – all of these amazing qualities that you would really want in not just a scientist or a professor, but a colleague and a friend,” said David Burdick, the collections manager of the Guam NSF EPSCoR GECCO Biorepository 

As a naturalist, Randall was full of curiosity and wonder for the world around him.   

His interest in corals started on a farm in Ohio, where he came across limestone fossils and asked his father what they were. This fascination led him to pursue a degree in biology and become a science teacher at George Washington High School when he and his family came to Guam in 1965.  

His daughter, Lauren Gutierrez, recalled fondly that he would spend almost every day in the ocean after they had arrived to the island.  

“When I was a kid, I used to live with him out in the reef,” said Gutierrez. “He would tie a belt to an inner tube that had a board in it. He would dive down and get the corals and I’d pick them up and put them in the inner tube.” 

Later, Randall received a master’s degree in biology from the University of Guam Marine Laboratory in 1971 – just a year after the facility was established – and went on to teach about corals at the university.  

Randall did not pursue science for fame or renown, but to satisfy his curiosity and share his knowledge with whoever was willing to listen.  

His love for the world around him was relayed through the highly detailed quality of his research, which would include meticulous notes and sketches of the coral species he observed. 

That’s just the kind of guy that he was,” Terry Donaldson, Ph.D., the principal investigator and project director of Guam NSF EPSCoR. “He was a biologist and a geologist, which is not something I always see these days. He always found something interesting to look at and he could tell you about it because he was very knowledgeable.” 

Impact on coral research  

Over the course of his life, Randall worked on 180 scientific publications and accumulated several achievements.   

Randall’s research on the impacts of crown-of-thorns starfish on the island’s reefs in the late ‘60s was foundational when it came to understanding more about how coral communities changed in response to outbreaks of the starfish, which prey upon stony corals.  

In 1983, he wrote the second volume of Guide to the Coastal Resources of Guam, a field guide of the coral species found in Guam waters.   

The UOG Marine Laboratory named a research vessel after him in 2016 for his contributions to the institution’s development.  

As part of a ceremony held in March 2022, Randall was one of six recipients of the 2021 UOG Distinguished Alumni Award – a prestigious designation given to UOG alumni based on professional accomplishments in their field, character and integrity, as well as achievements of local, national, or international significance. 

Randall’s legacy  

Although Randall has passed, his legacy lives on in the people who loved and were inspired by him. 

In June 2021, the Guam NSF EPSCoR GECCO Biorepository was given the honor to house over 30,000 coral specimens he collected – the largest addition to the facility to date.  

The GECCO Biorepository is both a physical and cyber warehouse of records and images of marine organisms found throughout the Pacific and other locales. The collection will serve as a resource for researchers around the world to reference and better understand the diversity of the corals found in the Marianas.  

In addition, Burdick, a longtime friend of Randall, is working on a series of books about coral species found in the Marianas, which will be an expansion of Randall’s coral field guide. The series will contain Randall’s notes about coral species, including new species that have not been described.  

Donaldson said that Guam NSF EPSCoR will be happy to support the completion of the project.   

“He was always amazed by life – every part of it,” said Gutierrez. “Even at 91, he was amazed by it all. He didn’t take it for granted. He had a love for nature and it’s something we’ve always shared. He always instilled in us that you can’t know everything. There’s too much to know and you have to keep your mind open.”    

Graduate student presents at American Society of Naturalists Conference  

Kenzie Pollard Presentation
Kenzie Pollard Presentation
Kenzie Pollard, a University of Guam graduate biology student and Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, presented her research at the 2023 American Society of Naturalists Conference which was held from Jan. 6 – 10, 2023, in Pacific Grove, California. She presented her project, entitled, “Cryptic diversity and population connectivity of the coral guard crab, Trapezia bidentata.” Photo courtesy of Kenzie Pollard

Kenzie Pollard, a University of Guam graduate biology student and Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, presented her research at the 2023 American Society of Naturalists Conference which was held from Jan. 6 – 10, 2023, in Pacific Grove, California.  
The American Society of Naturalists is the oldest scientific society dedicated to the study of ecology, evolution, and behavior. The event was fully in-person and included researchers from physiology, phylogenetics, genetics, and other associated fields.  

This year’s conference focused on what it means to be a naturalist and researcher in the 21st century.  

During the event, Pollard presented her project, entitled, “Cryptic diversity and population connectivity of the coral guard crab, Trapezia bidentata.”   

“It was my first time presenting a talk at an international conference and while I was nervous, it was exciting to share what I had spent the last few years on,” said Pollard. “I even had a professor from the University of Florida reach out to me to discuss my research and our shared interest in pocilloporid corals.”  

According to Pollard, she appreciated being able to attend the talks held at the event.  
“The conference itself was intriguing and packed full of interesting talks,” said Pollard. “The most impactful was the symposium on “Confronting the Legacy of Eugenics in EEB.” A necessary conversation, it raised the voices of underrepresented groups in STEM and focused on the history and impacts of eugenics as well as emphasizing what actions we may take to prevent the perpetuation of these ideologies.”  

During the conference, Pollard was able to make new connections easily.  

“I could meet somebody new at every meal, and coffee breaks between sessions were great opportunities to approach speakers and chat about their research,” said Pollard. “I was fortunate to attend the conference with colleagues from my undergrad and a prospective advisor for my Ph.D. They introduced me to several scientists in their network and it truly helped build my community.” 

UOG graduate student studying Guam’s native freshwater eels

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Karina Mejia, a graduate biology student at the University of Guam within the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, and her research mentor, UOG Associate Professor of Biology Daniel Lindstrom, are looking to answer some unknowns about Guam’s most common river eel — the giant mottled eel, or marbled eel (Anguilla marmorata) — and they will be using some innovative techniques and technologies in the process.

Anguilla eels are found widely through the tropics, and their popularity in Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, and Taiwanese cuisine has contributed to four of its 16 species becoming endangered. While the species in Guam is not endangered, it could be sustainably managed as a food source, but surprisingly little is known about it.

The knowns and unknowns


Giant mottled eel
Guam’s most common river eel — the giant mottled eel, or marbled eel (Anguilla marmorata).
River eels spend some of their lifecycles in both salt and fresh water. In particular, A. marmorata and related species spawn in the ocean, where the eggs and larvae drift until they become small glass eels and enter freshwater rivers.


For the A. marmorata, the spawning grounds are not well-defined, and it’s not clear what time of year they journey upstream — both critical pieces of information in order to sustainably fish them in the wild or to raise them in aquaculture facilities.

A deep dive into DNA

Former UOG graduate student Sean Moran discovered that the marbled eels in Guam’s rivers have significant genetic differences. Mejia’s main focus, she said, is to build upon his findings by showing that there are genetic differences because they’re coming from different spawning grounds.

She will do this by performing a high-resolution DNA analysis using a new PCR-based genetic sequencing technology called MIG-seq developed at Tohoku University in Japan. This will allow her to group Guam’s eels with other genetically documented eels in the Indo-Pacific.

Rings that tell a life story

The second analysis Mejia and Lindstrom are hoping to do is a technique known as otolith microchemistry. It is commonly used on species around the world to trace their migration patterns, but it has not yet been conducted on the A. marmorata species in Guam or elsewhere.

The process assesses chemical concentrations within an ear bone, or otolith, of a fish. Much like a tree, otoliths add rings over time, capturing the chemical elements of their environment. The elements found can be compared to the chemical signature of different parts of the ocean, providing a daily timeline of the fish’s migration.

“So we’ll be able to say, ‘OK, this eel floated around in the ocean this many days,’ and if we’re lucky, we can say, ‘This is where it was on Day 27 — this is really close to where it was spawned,’” Lindstrom said. “We’re hoping it’s possible.”

Information for conservation


Glass eel
A glass eel, or an eel in its juvenile stage. Photo by Canopic, sourced from Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
With research lacking on the tropical Anguilla species, Mejia is hopeful that her work will not only contribute to the regional conservation efforts, but will also inform local conservation decisions so Guam’s population doesn’t become endangered.


“If we’re able to say, ‘You’re only allowed to catch this amount,’ we can keep the population going and keep them from becoming endangered and then extinct,” she said.

Lindstrom said their findings will also be applicable to aquaculture. No one has been able to spawn and rear these or related eels completely in captivity, he said, so eel farms rely on the collection and captive growing of juvenile eels, or glass eels, as they swim into rivers. By knowing the locations and timing of spawning, those places could be better protected, and wild-caught fisheries could be more sustainably managed.

On the lookout for glass eels

Mejia will be looking for glass eels at Guam’s river openings and encourages the public to let her know ( when and where they may have seen them.

She hopes to have enough data by next fall to draw conclusions and complete her thesis paper by Spring 2024.

Laurie Raymundo signs on as director of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory  


History has been made with the creation of a permanent director’s position at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. During its 52 years of existence, the facility has followed the tradition of having a three-year rotating directorship that the faculty took turns occupying. 

On August 2, 2022, UOG Professor of Marine Biology Laurie Raymundo signed her contract to fill the marine laboratory’s first permanent directorship position.  

“This is a huge change for the better. As we have grown, it has gotten harder and harder for everyone to deal with a position of leadership that is only for three years,” said Raymundo. “The continuity that the permanent position provides will enable long-term planning and implementation.” 

Raymundo’s qualifications for the job are stellar. As a coral scientist, she, her students, and colleagues have been in the forefront of coral restoration in Guam and the region. She has also held the director’s position from 2010 to 2013 and again in 2019 through August 2, 2022. 

She is happy to be able to continue her research and work with students on the university’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant as well as other grants she has for the next few years. Mentoring students is something she relishes, so she is not ready to relinquish that responsibility. 

When asked about her vision going forward, she gave a soft chuckle at the novelty of the question. In the past, the directorship involved putting out fires. With the new sense of stability of a permanent directorship, she wants to continue the partnerships that have been formed and wants to get faculty input as to needs going forward. Organizing a yearly faculty retreat to discuss what has been accomplished and how to propel future endeavors is on her list of priorities. 

“We work in 50-year-old buildings that have some issues, so I will be writing some grants to shore up infrastructure to meet the needs of all the new faculty we now have. There is a lot of talk about a Ph.D. program, and we have the talent, but that will need the support of the University.” 

Director Raymundo will bring some new and exciting changes to the middle-aged UOG Marine Laboratory while continuing its reputation for excellent scientific exploration and innovation. 

UOG Marine Lab conducts first coral genetics research on the Mariana Islands of Maug, Pagan, and Sarigan 

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A first-time study on the genetics of corals from the Northern Mariana Islands of Sarigan, Pagan, and Maug is underway at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory with funding from the UOG Sea Grant program and support from the National Science Foundation-funded Guam ESPCoR grant. 

A four-person research team spent 10 days on these islands in May collecting eight different coral species known for their reef-building ability and ecological importance to other species. The team is now sequencing and analyzing the DNA of the corals to identify if and how coral populations throughout the Marianas archipelago are connected and, therefore, how resilient they may be to warming waters.  

“We are looking to understand the roles of these northernmost Mariana islands and their coral reefs. Can they act as reserves for the declining reefs around the southern Marianas, or do they, in contrast, depend on our reefs?” said David Combosch, associate professor of population genomics at UOG. “We will be spending months analyzing the data to understand the patterns of genetic diversity, connectivity, and adaptations across the islands.” 

Combosch is spearheading the study as lead researcher of the Island Evolution Lab at the UOG Marine Lab. Working with him are UOG alumnus James Fifer and his doctoral program adviser from Boston University, Assistant Professor Sarah W. Davies, as well as Assistant Professor Sarah Lemer, postdoctoral researcher Héctor Torrado, and graduate biology student Joe Proietti, all with the UOG Marine Lab. 

What we don’t know 

By analyzing the DNA sequences of these corals, the team can not only document the genetic diversity of corals on these islands for the first time, but can learn about gene flow — or the transfer of genetic material from one population or island to another. 

“What we don’t really know is how much and in what direction corals across islands are connected via larvae exchange and interbreeding — or if each island has their own, distinct coral stock,” Combosch said.  

If coral populations share DNA across the Marianas, there is greater likelihood that reefs will get what they need to adapt to future ocean conditions.  

“Since Guam corals live in generally warmer water than corals on the northernmost Mariana Islands, they might be better adapted to deal with the warmer waters expected as a consequence of global climate change,” Combosch said. “But it may well be the other way around. Occasional pockets of hot water in the northern CNMI could have pre-conditioned those corals for hotter days. This is one of the things we’re looking into.” 

Additionally, the northern corals may be better equipped for more acidic waters, Combosch said, since they have lived for centuries near a volcanic vent inside the Maug caldera, which releases carbon dioxide and has created a more acidic environment. 

The team is also conducting heat-stress experiments on two types of corals from Maug, Sarigan, and Pagan — Acropora surculose and Pocillopora meandrina — to see how the same corals from different islands respond.  

Getting local students involved 

During an internship last week at the UOG Island Evolution Lab, Northern Marianas College students Subin Cho and Richelle Ramon worked with UOG graduate student Mikay Reuter to reproduce the heat-stress experiments for this study and witness the effect of warming waters on Marianas corals.  

They also learned about the relationships that corals have with other species in the ecosystem and the other stressors corals face, including pollution and overfishing, that can limit their ability to recover from bleaching events and adapt. 

“It was an eye-opener to see how different species and organisms create relationships with each other in order to thrive and survive,” said Cho, a sophomore working toward an associate degree in natural resource management. “We pollute, neglect, and overlook our coral reefs and believe that many years after, it will still be there. However, after this internship, I learned that these things we are so used to will soon disappear if changes are not made.”  

Graduate students publish paper on upside-down jellyfish

Jellyfish Photo 2

A new study by University of Guam researchers has found that differences in upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea ornata) populations found in Guam waters may be environmentally driven. 

The study, which was funded by the university’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant, was published in May in Zoomorphology, a peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the form and structure of invertebrates and vertebrates.   

Upside-down jellyfish spend most of their time with their bells resting on the seafloor of shallow, coastal waters. By lying upside-down, the jellyfish expose the photosymbiotic algae living inside their arms toward the sun. Photosymbiosis is a type of symbiotic relationship between two organisms in which one organism is capable of photosynthesis.   

Upside-down jellyfish can sustain themselves off the byproducts of the algae and can capture zooplankton for additional energy to grow.   

The study involved examining two upside-down jellyfish populations from Cocos Lagoon and Piti Channel. Because both populations were different in size, color, and shape, the researchers initially thought they were two different species.   

“Upon doing a little genetic work, we determined that they were the same species. So instead of it being species-level morphology differences, we determined that it was environment-level morphology differences,” said lead author Colin Anthony, a UOG graduate student studying biology. “The environments we pulled them from are very different. Cocos Lagoon had turbid, sediment-laden water and the water in Piti Channel was very clear.”   

According to the study, it may be possible that these different environments affect the way these jellyfish acquire sustenance.  

“If they’re in a little more turbid or muddy water, they may rely more on their hunting skills and releasing their stinging structures and using heterotrophy to feed versus if they’re in clearer water, they would use more photosynthetic capabilities,” said co-author MacKenzie Heagy, a UOG graduate student studying biology.   

Studying upside jellyfish is important for several reasons: some species are considered invasive, with the potential to impact the use of waterways when congregating in large numbers. Upside-down jellyfish can also serve as environmental indicators for nutrient pollution and microplastics.   

Because they are close relatives of corals, which also share the same bond with photosymbiotic algae, upside-down jellyfish are being used as a model to study coral without having to harm coral populations.   

A community effort   

This project would not have been possible without the community at the UOG Marine Laboratory and was a collaborative effort of two researchers in different disciplines. Under the mentorship of UOG Associate Professor Bastian Bentlage, Anthony studies cnidarians such as jellyfish, coral, and hydroids while Heagy studies algae, which are photosynthetic organisms, under UOG Professor Tom Schils.   

Locating the Cocos Lagoon population was achieved by UOG Marine Technician II Johnathan A. Perez, who grew up seeing them at his aunt’s house in Malesso.   

“The only way we found the populations is through people who have lived here their whole lives,” said Anthony. “They knew they were here, but they hadn’t been scientifically documented. We owe finding these populations to our friends who helped us and grew up here.”  

Heagy said that she is grateful for being able to study in an environment that has been encouraging when it comes to conducting research.  

“This is the perfect place to do this work,” said Heagy. “There are so many resources and we’re so lucky to be here. Guam gives you so many resources and so many questions to ask and so many things to think about. The marine laboratory and EPSCoR have given us so many opportunities to ask questions.” 

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