Monday, December 31, 2012

Adios 2012!

This year has sure flown by! And in that time we’ve been able to get a lot of work done with the monitoring program. Between acquiring all the equipment needed for fieldwork (SCUBA tanks, boat charter, new dive gear, and underwater camera equipment) and the survey training/calibration exercises, it was a couple of months before the fieldwork could start in July.

But once all the office work was done, we were more than ready to get in the water! In addition to setting up a new monitoring site in Piti Bay, we were able to collect a second year of benthic data from all of Tumon’s stations and also from all permanent stations at East Agana Bay. Since we now have two years of data from Tumon and East Agana Bay, we can make comparisons between these years to determine the latest status and trends of the health of these reef areas. And with the addition of data from subsequent years, we will have an even better understanding of the processes acting on and affecting Guam’s reefs.

One process that negatively affects Guam’s reefs is pollution. There was never a clearer picture of this than a recent video posted by the curator of Guam’s UnderWater World, Mike McCue (video can be found here). McCue found an area of reef off shore from the Agat Cemetery riddled with garbage—mostly aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Whether it’s an issue of the garbage being dumped or the currents bringing it to this area, the reality is that this garbage is making its way into the ocean – a place where it should not be. Through this video, McCue raised awareness of the issue and a cleanup was organized in which I was able to participate! Approximately 25 bags of trash and recyclables were pulled off the reef, including a mattress.

Volunteers pitch in!  Photo Dave Burdick
Not only is garbage in the water an eyesore, it is also bad for the environment. When the garbage enters the water it can contaminate the water with any substances that are in it. For example, in a can of bug spray, if that gets into the water the bug poison can leach out into the water, possibly poisoning the animals that live there. Also, when something heavy falls into the water, on its way to the bottom it can fall onto and break corals along the way. This not only damages the corals but can open them up to infection where they break. The garbage also moves around with wave action and currents, which can also break and damage coral. Still, other animals in the ocean may see the garbage and think its food.

Here are a few easy ways you can help keep garbage out of the ocean.

1. Whenever you have a piece of garbage, make sure you put it in a trash can and make sure to cover it so it does not blow out.
2. Don’t leave your garbage at the beach, but take it home to get thrown away.
3. When your garbage is full, take it to the landfill; never leave your garbage along the road or in the forest.
4. If you have aluminum cans or plastic bottles, take them to be recycled instead of throwing
them in the garbage because keeping recyclables out of the landfill can help the landfill last

Next time you have piece of garbage, think about the ocean and what you want it to look like. Help keep garbage out of the ocean and keeps Guam’s ocean healthy!

ted by

Roxanna Miller
10:50 am

Monday, December 31, 2012
Location: Hagatna, Guam

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monitoring, and Weather, and Presentations...OH MY!

Well, seeing as how it has been five months since you’ve heard anything about the monitoring program, I thought it would be a good idea to give you an update.
Piti Monitoring Site
The long-term monitoring began at the end of July this year, and it was an exciting start since it began with the establishment of monitoring stations in Piti Bay, a new monitoring site. The monitoring team surveyed 20 stations, 10 of which were established as permanent monitoring stations and will be surveyed in subsequent years. There were many remarkable critters found in Piti Bay, the most exciting of which was a spotted eagle ray which swam right through one of our monitoring stations while we were surveying! There were also a variety of nudibranchs, more than a couple octopuses, and a few LARGE moray eels which had a knack for being seen only when I would be way too close for comfort! Needless to say, Piti kept the monitoring team busy for the months of July and August.

Do you see the shark?
Once Piti was finished, we moved on to Tumon Bay. In Tumon we started off with a day of exploratory dives on the forereef slope. During the dives we made general observations on the benthic habitat and fish communities and we were able to travel over 2.5km at depths of up to 50 feet to see a good portion of the reef area. These dives helped the monitoring coordinator choose the areas for the next set of random stations in Tumon. During these dives we saw a gray reef shark, a handful of turtles, and heard the dolphins as they were passing by! It was quite a wonderful day with the sun shining and the chance to see much of the sea life that call Tumon Bay home.

Since that day of exploratory dives in Tumon, the monitoring team has only been able to get back to Tumon Bay a handful of times. The weather has been less than favorable for coral reef monitoring with many high surf advisories, small craft advisories, and thunderstorm warnings. The weather kept us out of the water, but that offered us some office time to catch up on other projects.

K-5 Gifted Kids at Finegayan Elementary
With that extra time out of the water, I was able to devote some time to developing and giving presentations. A teacher friend of mine invited me to give a presentation to her gifted and talented students at her elementary school. In October I went up to Finegayan Elementary School and taught her group of K-5 gifted and talented students about corals, what they are, and why they’re important.

I explained how corals are actually animals, not plants or rocks, and how coral colonies are made up of thousands of tiny little individual animals (coral polyps) all growing together. They even learned a new word: zooxanthellae (the name for the algae that live inside coral tissue). I invited Marybelle Quinata, coordinator of the Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Program, to join me and we both were able to talk to the kids about how we do our surveys. We even got them to practice the surveys inside the classroom, helping them collect data along the way. It was an immensely rewarding experience as we got to see the kids learning and having fun at the same time. Thank you to Ms. Lorelei Nelson for
inviting us to her classroom!

Now that the weather has decided to die-down for a bit the monitoring team is getting back out to Tumon and collecting much-needed data. It will be interesting to compare this year’s data with the data collected two years ago. How are the corals and fish doing? Stay tuned to find out!

ted by

Roxanna Miller
11:27 pm

Monday, November 6, 2012
Location: Hagatna, Guam

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pohnpei's MC Communications Team Makes Strides

Pohnpei's MC Team reaches out!
Story by Mary-Linda Salvador, Conservation Society of Pohnpei
from Volume 11 of Official Micronesia Challenge Newsletter

    On September 20, 2012, Kolonia Town celebrated the anniversary of their constitution. The Micronesia Challenge communications team eagarly started the day before with preparations for the Micronesia Challenge information booth, getting posters together and setting up displays on cardboard boxes with printed fact sheets and questionnaires. Early the following morning, we came together at the event to set up the tent and put into place all the posters that were prepared the day before.

   What a day it was! The MC communications team gave away pamphlets, posters and booklets, even free calling cards thanks to our partners from the office of International Office for Migration (IOM). We also gave away free sample plants ready to be planted into the ground. This was possible thanks to our friends from the Division of Forestry, and they brought sakau (kava), lime trees, papaya trees, and even cinnamon trees. People flocked around to pick out which trees they wanted to plant. They enjoyed our posters and pamphlets, as they saw how much information they could learn, and we gave away nearly all of the posters and pamphlets.
    As the day's activitities went on, the team didn’t even notice the time as they were extremely busy with the swarms of children hovering by the tables trying to get their hands on notebooks and pencils which were donated by our partners from the Micronesian Image Institue (MII), the Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

  As the children lined up, the team had prepared some simple pictures of fish and plants and asked the kids to name them and if they did not know the names, the team was more than glad to share the answer followed by a short, fun explanation about the fish or plant. The older kids had to identify environmental issues from pictures prepared by the group. For the adults, the team prepared a small questionnaire for them to answer and then we allowed them to choose from the selection of posters and booklets and pamphlets to take with them. As the day came to an end, the team had realized that they were extremely exhausted and that we hadn’t even had lunch - that is how busy the team was during the celebration of Kolonia’s Constitution day!
     Finally, as the evening came and the team was packing everything up, more kids and adults sopped by to learn about the Micronesia Challenge.  Without a doubt, we were a hit! After that, we happily called it a day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The International Coral Reef Symposium 2012

Hafa adai from down under!

From the land that boasts some of the world’s most unique and dangerous animals also comes the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef! That’s right, I’m talking about Australia! And what better place than Australia to hold a coral reef conference! The International Coral Reef Symposium just finished its 12th conference and I was lucky enough to attend. The conference welcomed over 2,100 scientists from all over the world, including scientists, managers, and conservationists from across Micronesia. During the week, over 1,300 oral presentations were given and 236 posters were presented. Micronesia itself was represented by 16 presenters of both oral and poster presentations, with another 12 supporting delegates.

Dr. Jane Lubechenco, NOAA
Some of the highlights from the week were the plenary speakers. On opening day, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, gave a presentation regarding the transformation of science and research into policy, and also on progress the U.S. has made in managing and conserving its coral reef areas. She also stressed the importance of scientists to become, at the very least, “bilingual” – speaking the language of science and also speaking the language of laypeople. She called for scientists to communicate in ways that are understandable and credible in order to share their findings broadly and to develop useful and usable decision support tools for coral reef conservation. Other speakers who gave plenary presentations which were particularly interesting to me were Dr. Peter Kareiva, Dr. Geoffrey Jones, Dr. Helene Marsh, and Dr. Jeremy Jackson. All the plenary speaker presentations are available for viewing online at the 2012 ICRS website ( and I encourage you to check them out!

One of the many presentations.
There were also a variety of presentations from the delegates, including those from Micronesia. The University of Guam Marine Lab provided a variety of posters and presentations on topics ranging from the role of sewage pollution on the health of Guam corals (Dr. Laurie Raymundo), to the restoration of a watershed through community involvement (Ann Marie Gawel). Some of the other presentations and posters from Micronesia involved assessing the variety of coral reef ecosystems across Micronesia (Dr. Peter Houk), coral bleaching in Palau during the 2010 thermal stress event (Jacques Idechong), and the effectiveness of small MPAs in Palau (Adelle Isechal). You can read the abstracts for all presentations on the website mentioned above, and look out for the proceedings to read the scientific papers!

All in all, it was a pretty spectacular event, with a lot of new ideas and thought-provoking discussions regarding coral reef research. I also got to reconnect with old colleagues and make new connections. I look forward to the next event in 2016 which will be held in Hawaii.

Now that the conference is over, it’s back to monitoring. Look out for photos, stories, and important updates to the monitoring program in the coming months!

ted by

Roxanna Miller
12:17 pm

Monday, August 13, 2012
Location: Hagatna, Guam

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bird Watching in Kosrae

On March, 05, 2012, a team from University of Missouri arrived on Kosrae to survey forests birds and coastal birds as well. Two months earlier the same research was conducted in Pohnpei and Ant Atoll. Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization (KCSO), Terrestrial Program, was assigned to assist and coordinate guides to escort the team to transacts surveyed on the island by US Fish and Wildlife conducted in 1983-84 on Kosrae. Regarding the survey protocol, each site starts at sunrise (6:15) until 11:00 am, which is the best time to watch the birds. It also requires sunny weather or at least light rain in the morning. The actual survey is 8 minutes aural/visual survey, recording species, time, distance, detection type and number of birds. Each transect point-count station are separated by 200 meters. 

The data collected during the survey will be analyzed and used to update the status of birds in Kosrae compared to surveys done in the past and will also be shared among natural resource agencies  for public awareness and most importantly as baseline information to modify resource  management regulations in Kosrae. With a lot of cuts, bruises, rashes, blisters and wet weather, the project finally accomplish its mission with 21 transects and a total of 630 stations. 

On behalf of the team, KCSO is very happy to extend its utmost appreciation to the team and to each and everyone who assisted the implementation of the project. Special acknowledgement to the following trail guides who put a lot of effort to the accomplishment of the project: Salik Wakuk, Larry Alokoa, Stoney Alokoa, Hamilson Phillip, Weston Palik, Kuken Taulung,Kanbu Taulung and YELA organizaiton Mr. William William; Mr.Rickson Jonathan and Robert Tulensru. With all your collaborative efforts the mission is successfully accomplished as planned. Additionally, we believe that throughout the survey, we’ve all learned the importance of the birds and how tragic they can be in the future if we do not comply to the regulations set in place to protect them. 

Posted by
Andy George
8:10 am

Tuesday, May 16, 2011
Location: Kosrae

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Attempt to Establish Upland Protected Area for Kosrae

On December 19, 2011, Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization (KCSO) and  Critical Ecosystem Partnership Funds (CEPF) signed  an agreement to implement a project entitled, “Protecting Kosrae’s Upland Forest”. The project aimed to deliver the following components; conduct a general survey and inventory of plants on Kosrae; raise awareness in schools and the communities on upland forest; promote the Olum watershed area for protection and recognition under the Kosrae State Protected Area Law; and mapping and reporting of  invasive weeds to assist control efforts on the island of Kosrae.
  KCSO staffs met with Malem Municipal Leadership on  “Protecting Kosrae’s Upland Forest” project. 
Left to right (Mayor Klava Klavasru, Terrestrial Program Manager, Jacob-Luke Sanney, 
Marine Program Manager, Marston Luckymis and Executive  Director Andy George)
On January 16, 2012, I, and Program Managers met with the Mayor, municipal leaders, church leaders, community leaders, senior citizens, youth, local farmers and landowners to discuss ongoing efforts to protect Olum Watershed and to initiate discussion on the proposed Pikensukar Marine Protected area.  At the meeting, I introduced and discussed regional and local needs to set up protected areas and to garner community support before project implementation takes place in Malem. The Mayor and members of the community indicated full support of the projects.
Kosrae Elementary School.
Following the 1st meeting, KCSO staffs conducted another visit on the 26th of January, 2012, with more stakeholders participated. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what, how, and why we should seriously consider protecting the natural condition of Upland Forest along with the marine areas of Kosrae. Through collaborative efforts and support among environmental agencies/partners, KCSO project team will be launching a conceptual modeling workshop with the community of Malem in May, 2012. 
From January 25th to February 7th, KCSO Terrestrial and Education Program completed the 1st round of Awareness in Kosrae Elementary School targeting 7th grade students. The team presented a general overview on the significance of Upland Forest and human impacts such as deforestation that contributes to a threaten community. A survey was also handed out during each visit that will be used at the end of the school year to measure changes in awareness level. 
Potential invasive.
For the past three months, KCSO Terrestrial Program conducted a series of  field trips all over the island collecting  new plant species and  mapping invasive weeds in the upland forests. We found a patch of Micania micrantha at 100m altitude in Saolung Tafunsak. This noxious weed can be seen all over the community which is where imports and commercial activities take place. In Utwe, the southernmost village, we sighted two patches of Clerodendrum quadriculare. This shrub is listed on the eradication protocol for KIRMA, which they did a good job taking down over 80%. 

We also found another potential invasive shrub identified as Pseuderanthenum carruthesii var. atropurpureum, on the coastal strands in Walung village. These invasive weeds was suggested by invasive species coordinators at both KIRMA (Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority) and DREA (Department Resource & Economic Affair)  for further observation regarding its invasive status and setting up of means of controlling the outbreak of the species in the future. KCSO will assist its local partners, KIRMA & DREA to identify and map the occurrences of invasive weed species and seek foreign assistance to do a feasible study on these noxious weeds.

Posted by
Andy George, KCSO Executive Director
3:10 pm
Sunday, May 6, 2011
Location: Kosrae


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monitoring Season: REDUX!

Monitored areas
Data logger
“So, what’s been happening with the long-term coral reef monitoring program lately?”

I’m glad you asked! Dave Burdick already gave you the low-down on the monitoring program, so now it’s time to give you a little more specific information on what we’re up to for this year. As the monitoring season quickly approaches, we find ourselves finishing up our analysis of data collected during the 2010 and 2011 monitoring seasons and assessing which types of additional reef health data we may be able to collect this year. As a variety of reef health indicators (mentioned in Dave’s blog post) have already been established within the program, it is time to add-on!

With the procurement of two multi-parameter data loggers, several types of water quality data will be collected starting with this year’s monitoring activities. Turbidity (the cloudiness of a fluid caused by individual particles), dissolved oxygen (the amount of oxygen dissolved in a medium, i.e. seawater), pH (the measure of acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution), conductivity (a way to indirectly measure salinity), and temperature will be collected at multiple locations across all monitoring sites, but with the installation of data loggers at two, possibly three, sites, data will be collected continuously for several months in these areas. The collection of water quality data, along with the continued collection of benthic habitat and fish community data, will allow us to better understand how these environmental
factors affect reef health on Guam.

Another type of data which we plan on collecting starting this year is rugosity. Rugosity is a measurement of the variations in height of a surface and is used to determine benthic complexity in coral reef monitoring. Certain corals are often associated with areas of high rugosity or complexity. These areas with high complexity have also been found to be associated with higher fish abundance and diversity. Once we collect this rugosity data, we can analyze how our reef structure is related to our fish communities and when changes occur in one, how it may affect the other.

In addition to adding on to the types of data we are collecting, we are also adding on to the number of sites surveyed. To date, we have surveyed two reef areas on the western side (Tumon Bay and East Agana) and one in Apra Harbor (Western Shoals). We are planning on adding at least one more site on the western side, Piti Bay, as well as two sites along the southern coast. Tumon and Piti are Marine Protected Areas and monitoring these areas over time should give us a better idea of how they are functioning as MPAs (i.e. increased fish stocks and the return of top predators).

With all the new additions it’s bound to be an exciting monitoring season. Stay tuned to see what we find in the coming months!

Posted by
Roxanna Miller
2:49 pm

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Location: Hagatna, Guam

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Doctor, lawyer……………marine biologist?

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A lot of people will say president, teacher, astronaut, football player, or actor.  Some might even say lawyer or doctor.  But how many say marine biologist?  Well, I’m not sure of the percentage, but I would venture to guess not a whole lot.  And out of those that say marine biologist as a kid, how many actually choose that as a career?  As one of those kids that said marine biologist, and actually chose that as a career, I can’t tell you how excited I was to become a part of the Guam long-term coral reef monitoring program!  

As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I never really understood exactly what a marine biologist did because, well, I didn’t live near an ocean.  When I finally experienced coral reefs up close and personal, I was enamored and my career path was set in stone!  Choosing marine biology as an undergraduate, I was immersed in classes ranging in topic from marine mammals to chemical oceanography.  But when I started learning about coral-algal symbiosis I decided that corals were my bread and butter.  As my senior year was winding down, I decided to participate in an internship at Mote Marine Laboratory.  This took me to Sarasota, FL to study coral disease. Little did I know this would lead me to move across the world to Guam!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GUAM: 'tis the season for monitoring!

It’s that time of the year again!

With the oncoming retreat of the trade winds and the arrival of calmer sea conditions, I am happy to announce that my favorite time of year is upon us….the coral reef monitoring field season! As the coordinator of Guam’s long-term coral reef monitoring program, getting back out into the field is the highlight of my job.

The monitoring field season is the time when the mountains of work required to develop grant proposals, write up progress reports, navigate the tortuous Government of Guam procurement process, address personnel issues, and other, well, not-so-fun responsibilities finally pays off. When water conditions become favorable and our proverbial ducks are lined in a row, a small team of biologists (including myself) grab the equipment that took us months to acquire, don our scuba gear and plunge into the warm waters around Guam. While our outings are certainly enjoyable, there is much work to be done, as we carefully count fish, meticulously measure coral colonies, and conscientiously collect other data that help us track changes in the health of Guam’s coral reefs and to help understand what might be causing these changes. Among many other important purposes, this type of ecological monitoring is critical as a way of measuring Guam’s progress towards its goals under the Micronesia Challenge.

Guam’s monitoring program is only a few years old, and it was only as recent as 2010 that we were able to begin collecting data at a limited number of sites. While we have been fortunate to have a fantastic marine lab operating since 1970, much of the work carried out by the marine lab, government agencies, and contractors has typically involved only individual studies and assessments, with no sites regularly surveyed over a long period of time. To address this major short-coming the Guam Comprehensive Long-term Monitoring Strategy was developed in 2006. As part of this strategy several reef sites around the island would be monitored annually, with data collected for a broad array of reef health indicators, such as benthic cover, coral colony size, coral health, fish diversity and biomass, and the abundance of commercially and ecologically macroinvertebrate (sea cucumbers, crown of thorns sea stars, sea urchins, etc.). Another major component of the program is the collection of water quality data, such as temperature, turbidity, salinity, and other types of water quality data. By collecting all these different types of data we are hoping to move beyond simply detecting whether or not there is a change out on the reef, and make progress towards a better understanding of the processes – whether natural or human-caused – underlying these changes.

In the coming months I will be posting updates on the progress of the monitoring program, interesting critter encounters, and other related observations and thoughts, especially as they pertain to the Micronesia Challenge. Stay tuned!

PHOTOS: Top A graduate student from Guam's Marine Lab carries out a fish survey in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve as part of Guam's long-term reef monitoring program. Center A graduate student from the University of Guam Marine Lab taking photos along a survey transect in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve; these photos will later be analyzed to obtain estimates of the percentage of seafloor occupied by living coral, dead coral, algae, and other benthic features. Bottom A school of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) at a survey site in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve.

ted by

David Burdick
8:32 pm
Monday, March 27, 2011
Location: Hagatna, Guam