Western Pacific Tropical Research Center
The Western Pacific Tropical Research Center is the research arm of the College of Natural & Applied Sciences (CNAS). WPTRC scientists explore topics that are germane to the wellbeing of the environment and people throughout the region. This includes research encompassing tropical agriculture, aquaculture, invasive species, plant pathology, protecting native plants, soil health and more.
Major funding for WPTRC research is provided through the Hatch, multistate Hatch, and McIntire Stennis programs administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the government of Guam. Additional funding comes from the National Science Foundation, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA Forest Service, The US Department of Defense, and the private sector.
The Western Pacific Tropical Research Center concentrates on applied research that directly impacts agriculture in Guam, as well as in other tropical areas. Current areas of specialization are soils, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, turf grass, human nutrition, aquaculture and forestry.
Research laboratories are located at the University main campus and in Yigo with three field research facilities located in areas representing the different soil types of Guam: Yigo, Inarajan, and Ija. WPTRC has collaborative research programs with several land-grant universities in the western United States, the College of Micronesia, the College of the Northern Marianas, the American Samoa Community College, and several international research centers. Most of the research projects are designed to have direct application to Guam, Micronesia, and other areas of the Western Pacific region, and the tropics in general.
In addition to concentrating on research, the Western Pacific Tropical Research Center faculty teach undergraduate courses in Agriculture and Life Sciences, graduate courses in Sustainable Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Natural Resources, and Environmental Science. Through their classes, WPTRC scientists provide innovative research experiences to graduate students.
August 15, 2019
Three University of Guam (UOG) graduate students are benefitting from the pay-it-forward philosophy of local entrepreneur Bob Salas. Actively involved with the Guam Chamber of Commerce and managing his landscaping company, LMS, Salas knows talent when he sees it.
Graduate students Mario Martinez, Gregorio “Goro” Borja III, and Jonathan “Kawika” Davis were also working full-time with the UOG Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program (GPEPP). It was through GPEPP’s connection with LMS to transplant thousands of federally listed threatened orchids, that Bob Salas met the students. He was very impressed with the tenacity and hard work of the GPEPP team and decided to offer financial assistance to help with their studies. “Mario, Goro, and Kawika accepted my offer. I understand Mario recently had a very successful thesis defense on the essential stages of orchids’ growth and their conservation, which was heavily influenced by the projects we’ve been working on,” mentioned Salas, “I am so pleased to hear that.”
This coming fall semester will mark five semesters of aid to both Borja and Davis. Martinez received four semesters of Salas’ generosity and graduated last May. He was the first to graduate from the Sustainable Agriculture Food and Natural Resources (SAFNR) graduate program.
GPEPP trained LMS personnel on identifying federally listed threatened species that are endemic to Guam. Together, GPEPP and LMS carefully salvaged and translocated over 5,000 Tuberolabium guamense, Bulbophyllum guamense, and Dendrobium guamense. In addition to providing maintenance and monitoring, their team had successfully created an adaptive methodology that helped these orchids become established in their relocation area where they can continue to not only survive but also thrive.
Bob Salas’s vision for Guam is large and all encompassing. LMS has a native plant nursery, a composting facility, and a machine that separates rebar from concrete to better repurpose concrete debris. He would like to see a greater collaboration between UOG and local businesses. Salas expressed his desire to continue working on projects with UOG; “With the expertise UOG faculty and staff provide, it makes good environmental and business sense for us to work more closely together.”
His son, Robert “Rob” Salas II, has started his own company, Pacific Federal Management, to better situate themselves for federal projects involving native plants. Bob Salas believes local companies should be contenders for the big contracts that are put out for bid by the federal government. “It is through receiving federal contacts that I am able to fund scholarships for local students so that when faculty retire from UOG there is someone qualified to replace them.” He is looking at funding off-island studies if any of the three master’s candidates wish to pursue a PhD.
A good-hearted man with a vision and a mission to help others can make an immense difference in peoples’ lives and keeps communities thriving.
August 1, 2019
While observing the macrocosm; climate change, life-threatening heat waves, sea level rise, species extinctions, Dr. Sean Gleason is focusing on the microcosm, the function of water transport in plants, to solve the issues of feeding an increasing global population in times when temperatures are the highest ever recorded on the planet.
As a plant physiologist with the Agriculture Research Service within USDA, Gleason believes it is important to investigate the characteristics of xylem, the tissue responsible for transporting water throughout plants. In a recent seminar, “Plant Water Transfer Traits” at the College of Natural & Applied Sciences, University of Guam, Gleason presented to a room full of CNAS researchers and graduate students. “With the increases in temperature and population, precipitation gets harder to predict. As arid places get drier, plants find it more difficult to thrive. If we can discover a way to help plants transport and utilize water more efficiently, people can remain in these affected areas with agriculture to support them,” said Gleason.
Gleason believes there are many unanswered questions as to what factors influence the efficiency of water transport. With a dearth of research in the scientific literature on this topic, Gleason is working to close this gap and welcomes other scientists to help unlock the pieces of this puzzle. To what degree will doubling xylem efficiency increase photosynthesis rates and therefore biomass production? Why does high xylem efficiency exist in wet environments but not in dry conditions? Are current plant hydraulic ideas being effectively transferred to other disciplines? These are a few questions Gleason posed to attendees of his seminar.
The CNAS Western Pacific Tropical Research Center (WPTRC) Associate Director, Adrian Ares, invited Dr. Gleason to Guam. During his visit, Gleason instructed CNAS graduate student, Pution Mendiola, on the procedure for measuring plant root pressure, a highly specialized, little known process. He also met with scientists from WPTRC. “Having lived in Hawaii and Kosrae, it was a real pleasure to be back in the islands. I greatly enjoyed meeting WPTRC researchers and seeing them so enthusiastic about the projects they are working on,” said Gleason.
When speaking with Gleason it is easy to see that researching plant water transport traits is not just a job, it is a passion.
The Children's Healthy Living Program, a project to build a healthy food and physical environment to prevent obesity among youth in the Pacific region, has earned a special honor from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture.
Chieriel Desamito, a graduate student in the Sustainable Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources program, took an important step in his future career by presenting his research, networking with others in the field, and learning about current trends and issues at the Soil Science Society of America conference held Jan. 6–9 in San Diego.
The CHamoru District Boy Scouts of America used the revised edition of "Trees and Shrubs of the Mariana Islands" to identify native and toxic plants during a scavenger hunt in December.
The Guam Orchids and Exotic Plants Club was delighted to spend several hours on a Saturday at the Guam Department of Agriculture Tissue Culture Lab with Alicja Wiecko. They were amazed and full of questions about all aspects of cultivating orchids from tissue culture.