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FOR Guam summer interns ended their internship with a final presentation on August 14, 2018 to local partners that participate in conservation on Guam. Click here to view their presentation.
Last Blog entry by Brittany Tominez from their final week of field work:
We started off this week in the office to go over our project. Marilyn, Alysha, and I had a short meeting with Val to discuss our presentation. In addition, Val helped each one of us with the topic we chose to conduct background research for our literature review.
Two days later, Val, Alysha, and I made our way down to Merizo. It was a nice sunny morning with a slight breeze, but as soon as we climbed down to the shore, we were met by the high tide. Rock surfaces that are normally exposed were totally submerged and the water looked like chocolate milk! We thought we would have to reschedule. Val made her way toward our transect sites and to our surprise the water was clear once we got closer! Alysha and I quickly put on our gear and made our way to Val.
Because it has been a few weeks since our last day out in the field, it took some time for us to lay out all six transects. Some of the zip ties were camouflaged as algae grew on them. On one transect, one zip tie had completely come off! Not only was it a little difficult to find the zip ties, but the current was a little stronger than what Alysha and I were used to. This presented an additional challenge to locate our transects.
Once all six transects were laid out, we started the surveys. Val conducted fish surveys,
while Alysha and I did macroinvertebrate surveys. When surveying the transects, Alysha and I noticed that there was already algal growth on the corals that we had removed algae on top a few weeks ago. The two recent storms that passed over and near us over the past few weeks came to mind for this observation. The excess nutrients in the water could have helped with the algae to regrow in these transects. However, it did look like there were more fish in the area after algal removal. The fairly choppy conditions made the hunt for macroinvertebrates a little difficult, but Alysha and I were glad that the water was crystal clear.
Since this original entry, Guam has experienced three more mass coral bleaching events. In 2015, the Eyes of the Reef Marianas (EOR Marianas) was established as a community-based early warning system to invite all ocean users to report coral bleaching and other reef impacts online. Visit eormarianas.org to learn more or to make a report.
The effects of climate change are a rising concern for Pacific Islanders who find themselves on the front lines. The livelihoods of our brothers and sisters on neighboring islands have been impacted through increased occurrences of droughts and king tides. What about here on Guam? Have we felt the effects of climate change yet?
The answer is YES! Increased and early coral bleaching is only one of the effects brought on by climate change. What is coral bleaching? Coral bleaching occurs when sea water temperatures are too hot or too cold causing corals to stress and expel their zooxanthellae, a special algae that lives in corals, is their main food source, and gives corals their beautiful color. Corals begin to pale and turn stark white when they’re bleached. But there is hope! Corals can survive and recover, but that can take a long time.
Last year, Guam and CNMI had a significant coral bleaching event. Even more alarming is the fact that Guam and CNMI were seeing early reports of coral bleaching. Local marine biologist usually expect to see paling/ bleaching corals around October, but there were reports as early as August in 2013. GCCRMP members attended an information session on coral bleaching and helped document bleaching corals at our regular monitoring site at the Piti Bomb Holes Marine Preserve. Members learned how to identify coral bleaching and they can report sightings of coral bleaching. Additionally, Roxanna Miller kicked off our first Science Sunday program with a public talk on coral bleaching. She shared photos and tips on how to identify bleaching or paling corals.
This summer only added to concerns from marine biologists and new concerns brought up by community members. This year, there were reports of coral bleaching as early as June. If you’ve been snorkeling at Ypao Beach this summer, you probably saw large colonies of staghorn corals that were very white or pale-looking. Other areas where coral bleaching has been sighted around Guam is Tumon, Piti, Umatac, and also in Merizo. Last Saturday, GCCRMP members started conducted monitoring surveys in soft coral habitat to help quantify soft coral bleaching in Piti. In addition, members have participated in another reconnaissance survey to look for diseased/sick echinoderms, such as sea cucumbers and sea stars. We’ll continue to work with GCCRMP members to do surveys that can help quantify coral bleaching and track recovery of bleached corals.
Ultimately, more Guam residents are aware of the effects of coral bleaching to our reefs and understanding its connection to climate change. GCCRMP members have shared stories of relatives or neighbors asking “why are the corals white?,” which has given them an opportunity to share what they know about coral bleaching. Want to become a member and help our team collect data? Email email@example.com or message us on Facebook.
Want to learn more about Guam’s waters? Need Service Learning hours? It’s easy to become a member.
1) Register and attend Coral Reef Monitoring Training. Check our upcoming events and sign up for a training session here.
2) Participate in future Monitoring Events to do coral reef monitoring.
Check out what it’s like to be part of the GCCRMP team at our Photo Gallery.
Learn more about our Coral Reef Monitoring training sessions, the rewards of joining, and why it’s important to monitor coral reefs. Check out the details here: Become a Member