G3 Conservation Corps assists in campus post-typhoon clean-up

connar cutting
connar cutting

A day after typhoon Mawar left a trail of destruction all over the island, the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps (G3CC) got down to work by helping out with on-campus cleanup at the University of Guam.  

 All 12 members of the current G3CC cohort collected felled branches, organic matter, and debris that littered the campus grounds. They also cleared portions of the road where cars and pedestrians pass through, opening access to areas within the university.  

G3 Conservation Corps member Ciara “CiCi” Taijeron said, “Today, it is sad to see so many trees without leaves on them and all the organic matter is everywhere…I am very relieved that my team and I are safe and everybody on Guam is trying to recover from this unfortunate natural disaster.” 

Every Friday, G3 Conservation Corps members usually assist in village beautification activities. With post-typhoon recovery in full swing all over the island, the team recognized the need to refocus their energy and contribute to these ongoing efforts.  

UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant Sustainability Coordinator Phil Cruz said, “The G3 Conservation Corps is our workforce development program, where participants are exposed to jobs related to sustainability. We are shifting gears a bit, focusing on beautification of our island in terms of post-typhoon cleanup.” 

 Cruz added, “Because Guam Green Growth is a community-based organization, it is essential to our G3 Conservation Corps to engage with the community in such a time where we need so much assistance as possible.  

According to UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant Director Austin Shelton, PhD, the G3 Conservation Corps will also contribute to other aspects of the recovery efforts.  

 “Right now, we are clearing roads in the Mangilao area and the University of Guam campus. We will get moving around the island and help with some of our response activities,” he said. 

Shelton also encouraged the community to reach out to the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. 

 “If there is any way that you think we can assist, please feel free to reach out to us. We are looking forward to getting through this together and helping out as much as we can,” he added.  

Guam NSF EPSCoR is the catalyst for Guam Green Growth.

For more information about the G3 Conservation Corps’ post-typhoon recovery activities, follow us on social media @guamgreengrowth  

What is G3 and the G3 Conservation Corps?  

The UOG Center for Island Sustainability facilitates Guam Green Growth, or G3, in cooperation with the Office of the Governor of Guam and the G3 Working Group, whose members represent all sectors of society. With the SDGs and G3 Action Framework as a guide, G3 develops tangible solutions to sustainability challenges and contributes to a green economy for the island region.  

The G3 Conservation Corps program prepares the community for the emerging green economy. For the duration of the program, the 12 conservation corps members participate in workforce development training covering various sustainability topics, such as agriculture and aquaculture, island beautification, invasive species removal, reforestation, circular economy, recycling, to renewable energy. 

Guam NSF EPSCoR welcomes new associate curator of GECCO Biorepository

Diego Vaz Profile

Guam NSF EPSCoR welcomes Diego Vaz, Ph.D., as an associate curator of the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository. The GECCO Biorepository is both a physical and cyber warehouse of records operated by Guam NSF EPSCoR.

Vaz was born and raised in Brazil, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master’s in zoology from the University of São Paulo. In 2015, he moved to the United States where he received a doctorate in marine sciences from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. Before his current position with Guam NSF EPSCoR, Vaz was a biodiversity postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

“Taxonomy and the evolutionary part of science is the backbone of any field,” said Vaz. “You have to know the organism you have or you cannot move forward. You cannot do any experiments with them and you cannot protect them if you don’t know what you are dealing with.”

As an associate curator of the GECCO Biorepository, Vaz will research the morphology of coral reef fishes – particularly cryptobenthic fishes. Morphology is a branch of biology that deals with the study of the form and structure of living organisms. Cryptobenthic fishes are small fish that live near or within the seabed named for their elusive nature. They contribute significantly to the food web of coral reefs.

“Cryptobenthic fishes are crucial in the production of organic matter in the reef – not because they produce energy like algae, but because their high density and high mortality feed higher trophic levels, allowing the reef to be so diverse,” said Vaz.

Studying cryptobenthic fishes involves a variety of methods. As much as possible, the GECCO Biorepository takes photographs of its specimens as they exist in nature. To examine the organs of a specimen, manual dissections are performed.

When it comes to examining a specimen’s skeleton, Vaz uses a technique called clearing and staining. In this process, specimens are bathed in a digestive enzyme to slowly break down their flesh and muscles, rendering them transparent. After, they are treated with a series of dyes that stain the cartilage and bones differently.

Recently, the UOG Marine Laboratory acquired a Computed Tomography (CT) scanner. A CT scanner allows for the examination of skeletons without modifying a specimen.

“This is particularly important when you want to study rare organisms,” said Vaz. “When it comes to specimens that you can just collect in the field, it’s easier to do an invasive procedure. When it comes to a rare specimen in a collection, no one will allow you to do a procedure because they want to keep them as whole as possible.”

Regarding his experience working on the Guam NSF EPSCoR project, Vaz said that it’s been interesting to see multiple collaborations working together towards similar goals.

“Collaborations can be very challenging,” said Vaz. “Everyone works differently. This project is the first time I’ve seen such a large group of people collaborating effectively. It’s been a very interesting and cool experience to see that.”

UOG researcher delivers keynote address at marine sciences conference  

AMSA 2022 Photo 2

As part of his keynote address for the “The Biology, Ecology, and Management of Marine Nuisance Species” symposium at the 58th Annual Conference of the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA), UOG Senior Research Associate Ciemon Caballes talked about key knowledge gaps in crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) research as well as recent advances the field of study has achieved.  

The event was held from August 7 to August 11, 2022, in Cairns, Australia, and was the biggest AMSA conference in history. It was also the first face-to-face AMSA meeting since 2019.  

Caballes is an executive committee member of the North Queensland Branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association and was also part of the organizing committee for this conference. As part of his work funded by the University of Guam’s National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant, his research focuses on ecophysiology as well as echinoderm and coral ecology.  

Crown-of-thorns starfish are marine invertebrates that feed on coral and occur naturally on reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. These starfish are one of the largest and most efficient coral predators, and when conditions are right and if left unchecked, outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish can devastate hard coral communities.  

Caballes’ presentation was based on a study in which 38 expert participants proposed research questions regarding areas such as the feeding ecology of COTS, predation, settlement, and environmental change. According to Caballes, this research is based in the Great Barrier Reef, but is applicable to everywhere there is COTS.  

“It is basically a roadmap for future research and what the recent advances are regarding crown-of-thorns-starfish,” said Caballes.  

Advances in crown-of-thorn starfish research include new survey methods which can cover large areas of reef and allow divers to find hidden starfish that would not have been found before using conventional survey methods.  

Another novel survey method involves taking water samples to detect DNA shed by COTS and larval traps to determine where and when these starfish are settling onto the reef after their planktonic larval stage.  

“It’s very important to study crown-of-thorns starfish especially here in Guam because we’ve been getting COTS outbreaks ever since they were first observed in the late ‘60s,” said Caballes. During this time, massive outbreaks of COTS on Guam killed over 90 percent of the corals from Tumon to Double Reef.”  

Recent surveys have also identified hotspots of high COTS densities with associated coral mortality around Guam. 

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