FOR Guam Summer Interns Update

Blog by Brittany Tominez, 2018 FOR Guam summer intern

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since our last update. So let’s catch up: In early July, we met to go over all the data we have collected this far. We analyzed and graphed our data, which included benthic cover, macroinvertebrates, and algae removal.  This gave us a “big picture” view of all the data we collected. Val showed and explained to us  averages of our data adds to accuracy of analysis and results. 

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Conducting benthic cover survey

Preliminary analysis of our survey data helped us formulate different perspectives to determine which direction we wanted to continue with for the rest of our research project. From that point, we brainstormed possible hypotheses and research questions. We  split the background research into three sections: the effect algae has on coral, the relationship between algal removal and fish, and the relationship between algal removal and macroinvertebrates in the area. The literature review will helped us learn more about the ecological relationships for our three topics. We gained more background on the ecological dynamic between algae and corals, the role of fish on coral ecosystems, and the effect of restoration techniques through algal removal. After our meeting, we also decided to add fish surveys to the project. Next, we have to do our follow up monitoring surveys to see any changes over time from algal removal.

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Meet our 2018 FOR Guam Summer Interns

Blog written by: Marilyn Connell, 2018 FOR Guam summer intern

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Meet our 2018 Summer Interns! (left to right) Marilyn Connell, Brittany Tominez, and Alysha Meno.

Friends of Reefs (FOR) Guam’s summer internship has just begun and we’ve learned so much already! Our intern project entails piloting algal removal and monitoring potential sites for community coral gardening on Guam.

Our pre-internship training included an extensive CPR and first aid course, such as learning how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator). Our first in-water training session for coral reef monitoring was very overwhelming with snorkeling, surveying, and recalling information from training as well as dealing with water conditions (we experienced some current). Luckily, the first official day of the internship was a pool session that helped us enhance our surveying skills in the water and troubleshoot other issues before field work began. We worked on submerging and clearing our snorkels and using the surveying equipment in the water without the added worry of dealing with a current.

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Interns got to focus on snorkeling skills and working with monitoring equipment in the water.

Week one was all about baseline surveys for our Merizo sites. Our work included using the GPS unit to find our sites, laying transects, and then conducting benthic and macroinvertebrate surveys at our control and experiment sites. You can read up on survey methods here. The most common things we found on benthic surveys were sand, Porites genus corals, and turf algae. Many types of sea cucumbers, sea stars and even sea urchins were found in our macroinvertebrate surveys.

We ended the week with algal removal on/around coral colonies. Hopefully, this will help corals grow as more space is cleared from fast-growing algae. This was a trial-and-error process since removing brown and red algae took much more time than anticipated. We all thought it would take about 15 minutes and in reality, it took about 45 minutes to clear 25×2 meters. Our catch bags used collect removed algae stirred up sediment, adding time to the algal removal process. Our solution was to use floating buckets instead of dragging our catch bags to make algal removal easier. Stay tuned to see if it worked!

Save our Seagrass: Reflections from Jesi Bautista

**This blog was written by Jesi Bautista, one of our 2015 summer interns, based on her mini-case study with Jocelyn Emia


This summer I was very fortunate to return home to Guam and intern with the Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Program. I was able to learn about Guam’s marine life, while working closely Jocelyn Emia guided by Marybelle Quinata, program coordinator, and Val Brown, science coordinator. We decided to complete a mini­case study on seagrass habitat, which are found threatened all over the island due to exposure during extreme low tides. Our goal was to create a baseline that could lead to continued seagrass monitoring and study the various impacts threatening the health of seagrass.

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So why should we save our seagrass? Seagrass play several fundamental roles in the marine ecosystem. They provide a place for habitat, nursery, feeding, and refuge from predators for juvenile fish. They also have long rhizomes and root systems that reduce erosion and stabilize sediments during rough conditions. Seagrass is a primary producer that converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen, which increases dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water. Many marine organisms, such as fish, crab, and oysters, need sufficient levels of DO to survive. Seagrass also improves water clarity by trapping fine sediment and particles, causing less movement of sediment on the bottom which often cause the water to look cloudy (Tsuda, R. 2009)


My favorite part of the internship was becoming more aware about what was taking place in the marine ecosystem. I realized that most of the threats to the health of marine life is due to human impacts. Guam is the most populated island in Micronesia (around 170,000) with an increasing and booming tourism industry. The increase in coastal development from tourism and infrastructure to support a growing population leads to nutrient pollution, fertilizer runoff, and sewage waste.  Snorkeling, fishing, diving, jet­skiing, and off­-roading also have an impact on the reefs and seagrass communities.
As Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, and author stated, “Our past, our present, and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do now.” Jocelyn and I hope that our mini­case study on seagrass can be a baseline for future projects. We also hope that we brought some awareness to the community and that the data we have collected will encourage others to find a potential solution to save our seagrass.  See our mini-case study presentation here.

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                     Presentation of our mini-case study to local partners

References:  Tsuda, R. 2009. Seagrasses Overview. Guampedia.com.