Three University of Guam professors along with the lead of a community conservation group have been awarded research grants to analyze coral reef conditions and marine life on Guam. The awards are part of an annual competitive opportunity for funding held by the UOG Sea Grant program.
Manta ray tracking by satellite
Micronesian Conservation Coalition founding director Julie Ann Hartup was awarded $40,000 to fund the first manta ray satellite tracking project throughout Micronesia. This was the first time a nonprofit organization has received a research funding award from the UOG Sea Grant program.
“We are beyond thrilled to be awarded this funding and work with University of Guam Sea Grant,” Hartup said. “Not only is this study the first of its kind in the region, but it will be fundamental in establishing and laying the groundwork for proper manta ray management and conservation strategies. Understanding manta rays’ movement patterns and diving behavior and depths will open a whole new understanding about manta rays that is essential regionally and further unlocks the mystery behind these majestic animals globally.”
First-time comparison of Guam and NMI corals
David Combosch, an associate professor at the UOG Marine Laboratory, was awarded $39,148 in funding for the first-ever study to compare corals in Guam to those in the Northern Mariana Islands in regard to their genetics and their resilience to elevated sea temperatures.
“This study could help answer questions about how coral populations replenish themselves after a catastrophic incident, such as a mass bleaching event. If one coral population crashes, it may rely on an influx of larvae from surrounding populations to rebuild or sustain itself,” Combosch said. “This is a fantastic chance to do this expedition that I’ve been dreaming about since I came here five years ago. To finally go that far north and cover the entire archipelago is a really unique opportunity, and I am very thankful to UOG Sea Grant.”
In addition, Brett Taylor, a coral reef ecologist and an incoming assistant professor at the UOG Marine Laboratory, was awarded $39,985 in research funding to examine the change in abundance and variety of reef fish on Guam over the span of a decade and its environmental changes.
Sediment impact on coral reefs
Lastly, Myeong-Ho “Chris” Yeo, an assistant professor or surface water hydrology at the Water & Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific (WERI), was awarded $33,917 in research funding to characterize the transport of nitrate and sediments to coral reefs on Guam and the resulting impact.
Annual funding opportunity
The grants are available through the UOG Sea Grant Research Competition, which awards several one-year research project proposals each year with $10,000 to $40,000 in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funds. These projects must focus on healthy coastal ecosystems, environmental literacy, and/or workforce development in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Freely Associated States. All projects went through an extensive external review process.
“We are proud of our UOG Sea Grant team for supporting local research to address pressing coastal issues,” said UOG Senior Vice President and Provost Anita Borja Enriquez. “Congratulations to Dr. Combosch, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Yeo, and Ms. Hartup for submitting excellent research projects to help accomplish resilient coral reefs and marine ecosystems.”
UOG Sea Grant is one of 34 programs within the National Sea Grant College Program—a partnership among universities and NOAA that seeks to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal and marine resources to create a sustainable economy and environment.
For more information on UOG Sea Grant, visit www.uog.edu/seagrant. (PR)