UOG Sea Grant’s mission is to integrate and apply research, extension, and education activities to sustain and develop island environments while integrating knowledge and cultural perspectives of the island’s people.
Within the Mariana Islands Archipelago, coastal environments are dynamic ecosystems with fluctuating water levels, many species of fish, birds, plants and other wildlife, and diverse habitat types.
Recreational and commercial use of coastal resources–our watersheds, beaches, reefs, and open ocean–all present challenges to maintaining our ecosystem’s health. UOG Sea Grant addresses issues that can pose ecosystem challenges through research, education, and outreach. Our strategic plan provides an overview of the types of issues we are looking at.
Research, education, and outreach means:
In 2013, the Department of the Navy's Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas signed a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) agreement with the University of Guam to conduct beach monitoring and protect sea turtle nesting activities, to develop an educational outreach program.
UOG Sea Grant obtained this project in 2018 and works collaboratively with sea turtle expert Jessy Hapdei, of Jessy's Tag Services, to conduct the nest monitoring surveys on Andersen Air Force Base. Our sea turtle biologists currently monitor activity of the endangered green sea turtle (haggan betde) and the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle (haggan karai).
By learning about sea turtle behavior and habitat usage, we are able to promote a healthier endangered species population that will hopefully one day sustain itself. In this way, UOG Sea Grant is promoting healthy coastal ecosystems around the island of Guam. Further, the information gained from nesting surveys and satellite tagging is dispersed to the community via outreach (e.g. classroom presentations, tabling at community events, and beach cleanups) that fosters environmental literacy for island residents.
When southern Guam residents look out into their watershed, they see a recurring issue: eroding soil bleeding into the sea. Poor land use is a common environmental concern among Pacific islands that leads to consequences such as accelerated land erosion and subsequent sedimentation on downstream coral reefs. Sedimentation smothers and kills coral reefs and harms nearshore fisheries.
To enhance local stakeholders' understanding of environmental stressors, the UOG Sea Grant Program conducts outreach and research through the GROW Initiative. The project began after villagers in Umatac experienced a decline in the size and quality of their fish catch and discovered that poor land-use practices were to blame. Hundreds of community members were reached through the education outreach activities, including Watershed Adventures and guest lectures.
Our Program has since partnered with the Guam Department of Agriculture Forestry Division to establish a plant nursery that will house saplings that will later be transplanted. The Forestry Division is sharing some of its plant nursery space with our Program to help continue our efforts.
Reckless off-roading is a major environmental stressor that accelerates land erosion. In early 2018, UOG Sea Grant facilitated a roundtable discussion with off-road enthusiasts, environmental groups, natural resource managers, and community stakeholders concerning the environmental impacts of the sport.
Following the roundtable discussion, UOG Sea Grant initiated a community pledge for responsible off-roading and outdoor practices.
Our team conducted outreach on responsible off-roading during the 2018 Smokin' Wheels event. More than 70 individuals signed the Tread Lightly 2018 pledge — a community-wide commitment to responsible off-roading and safe practices while engaging in outdoor activities.
The pledge asked participants to respect the rights of others, remain educated on protected sights and avoid sensitive areas such as wetlands, streams, and falls.
Using the stars, wind, and waves as guides, students from the University of Guam spent six weeks under the tutelage of Master Navigator Larry Raigetal, one of the few remaining masters of traditional navigation, to learn the basic principles of indigenous seafaring. The 2018 Fañomnåkan course, aptly entitled, "Traditional Navigation & Climate Change Adaptation," also offered students a rare glimpse into the world of the "sakman" or canoe building community — a privilege typically reserved for those embarking on a monthslong journey by sea. Although students did not have to partake in an actual trip across the Pacific, they were treated to the rich knowledge of celestial navigation, Micronesian enthnomathematics, hydrophysics, and more.
On the final week of the course, the 15 students prepared for the final lesson climate change adaptation. Anchored in environmental lessons on climate change in both scientific and humanistic contexts, the course sought to address issues like rising sea levels, global warming, and the Micronesian responses to adapt to environmental threats.
In an interview with the University of Guam Sea Grant for an upcoming documentary, Raigetal shared the connection between climate change adaptation and traditional knowledge. "I think that there is a lot that we can learn from indigenous knowledge that is all too relevant and applicable to the impact of climate change," shared Raigetal. He continued, "Our mission should always be to make sure that those coming after us are better off. It's not all about us — it's not all about me. It's not about what I can grab from the resources now. It's all about making sure the future generations are also sharing that same [message] and passing it on."