Two graduate research assistants defend theses

Two Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research assistants closed out their time with the program by defending their master’s theses.  

MacKenzie Heagy, a graduate in the University of Guam’s master of science in biology program, defended her master’s thesis on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at the UOG Marine Laboratory.  

Her thesis was titled, “Diversity and biogeography of the Mastophoraceae in the Mariana Islands.”  

Mastophoraceae is a family of crustose calcifying red algae. Representatives of this family are widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific and are particularly abundant on tropical reefs. 

As part of her study, Heagy collected samples off the coast of Guam, Saipan, and Rota from various habitats such as surf benches, algal bridges, and reef flats. Over the course of her project, around 300 presumed mastophoroid specimens were collected – including seven new species.  

Her advisor was Tom Schils, Ph.D., a UOG professor of marine biology. Heagy’s committee consisted of Bastian Bentlage, Ph.D., the co-principal of Guam NSF EPSCoR and Gavin Maneveldt, Ph.D, a professor of marine biology and biodiversity studies from the University of the Western Cape.  

In addition, Grace McDermott, a graduate biology student at UOG, virtually defended her master’s thesis entitled, “Intraspecific color variation in Porites cylindrica: the role of color variation in coral resilience,” on Monday, December 1, 2023.  

McDermott collected samples of Porites cylindrica, a species of stony coral, from Luminao, Piti East, and Tumon to compare how their brown and yellow color morphs responded to disease and bleaching conditions.  

Her advisor was UOG Marine Laboratory Director Laurie Raymundo, Ph.D.  McDermott’s committee consisted of Raymundo, Bentlage, and Héloïse Louise Rouzé, Ph.D., a senior research associate from UOG.  

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