Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Island Ecology presentations on YouTube!

We have posted the Island Ecology course presentations on YouTube. These are the result of three intense weeks where students learned about the natural history and ecology of Saipan and Guam, developed hypotheses and methods, collected data, analyzed data (mostly in R!), wrote papers, and created presentations. Check them out!

The effect of bird loss on flower visitation
What limits hermit crab population size? 
Behavior of the Curious Skink (Carlia fusca) in response to local and novel predators
Top-down control of birds on insect abundances
The effects of bird predation on spider web characteristics

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Island Ecology students

This wonderful photo montage of all of the Island Ecology students was made by Jolly Ann Cruz, one of the Northern Mariana College participants. Aren't they a happy, fun bunch? Sadly, the course is over, but I think these friendships will last years to come.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Student post: Jimin Cheon - Tuesday, January 13

Jimin Cheon is a student at Northern Marianas College.

Today was our last day having ecology presentations/lectures and working on the group project. Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for...the presentation day! We will all be showcasing the findings from our research projects to the public. I can't wait to see what everyone has to share! The last three weeks have been a long rollercoaster ride. We all had ups and downs, trials and errors, but that is what made this course fun. As the end of this course is fast approaching, I have been getting some mixed feelings about it. I can't wait for this course to be over, so that I can get some rest from the intensive field work and research. But at same time, I don't want it to be over because I had so much fun, learned a lot of new things, and met many great people. I will miss this course and the people that made it awesome.

We started the morning off with an awesome presentation by Dr. Aubrey Moore from the University of Guam on invasive species in the Marianas and Guam. This was my favorite presentation out of all because I am really interested in the topic of invasive species. I think many people are overlooking the effect it can have on ecosystems, and this issue requires more attention from not only the scientists, but the whole public. Invasive speices, also known as exotic pests, are defined as alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause harm. A species can be moved unintentionally through cars, ships, and airplanes to new locations, where they do not belong. Guam is the perfect place for invasive species to flourish due to its warm climate and has little to no predators to most. It is amazing and concerning how out of the 4000 species that exist on Guam now, 400 of them are invasive. Many native species are now extinct because of the competition created by the invasive species. A big example is the loss of birds. Only 2 out of the 12 bird species on Guam survived, and they are now only seen in extremely localized areas. Another example is the loss of cycad plants; they used to be the most common plant at one point, but about 90% of them are gone now due to mostly the invasive scale insects. Some day, I want to work with invasive species, and do research on how to control them without posing a threat to the ecosystem.

After the invasive species presentation, Dr. Haldre Rogers gave us a presentation on how to give good presentations. I think it was very helpful because I was a bit nervous that I might do poorly on the presentation tomorrow. It provided us with useful tips on what to have or not to have in the presentation, how to interact with the audience, and how to deal with unexpected questions. I feel much more confident about the presentation than I was before. We were given time after the presentation to work on our presentation and grab lunch before the rehearsal. Though our time was limited, it seemed like everyone pulled through! The rehearsal was held at the actual location of the presentation. Though it was only our instructors watching us, I got really nervous. The comments given at the end was really helpful for the preparation of the actual presentation tomorrow. We were told that our presentation had all the essential components of a research presentation, but it needed to be made more generally interesting considering the fact that our audience is not a group of scientists. I am not too worried about it since we still have a day to prepare, and I believe in myself and my group mates. I am very thankful that Carey, Devin, and I work very well together without conflicts. This would have been very hard if we did not have teamwork.

We ended our day with a career panel composed of professionals from various areas of the ecology field. Some were in research, some were in outreach, some were in academia, and some were in conservation and management. It was great having a career panel in Guam as well as Saipan because we were able to interact with professionals from wider range of interests. We were also given a lot of scholarship, internship, and employment opportunities. It was really cool because everyone from this panel seemed to know each other very well, and told interesting life stories. I would like to work in an environment like that. Oh! We also got some cool pamphlets and fake tattoos of fruit bats! Awesome! Today overall was a very productive day. A bit tiring, but it was worth it! 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Student post: Daime Rivera, Monday, January 12

Daime Rivera is a student at Northern Marianas College. 

Today we started off our morning with Dr. Frank Camacho from the University of Guam. We went down south to see the fresh water streams.  Going down the hike was alright, the only part I hated was the sharp grass than made me have cuts on my legs. Once we reached down the hike and I saw the stream i was amazed because it was beautiful to me plus it was my first time to see a fresh water stream. Then we went down to see the other part of the stream, this stream was deep enough to see some fresh water creatures. I was also able to touch the fresh water, it was really cold and felt so good! I definitely loved experience I got with Dr. Frank Camacho.          
Later in the afternoon my group mates Joma and Jaydylee and other groups started to work on our first draft of our paper. My group first started out not knowing what to do, but when we separated the parts of the paper and gave a little sprinkle of teamwork, we were able to finish our project way before the deadline. Oh! Evan was able to help us with R so we could understand our results much better. Go  Evan and team Flower Power! I am so sad that this course will be over in three days.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Student post: Max Garcia, Sunday, January 11

Frincess "Max" Garcia is a student at Northern Marianas College.

It is our last Sunday with the Island Ecology course and like our previous Sunday, the hosting island will prepare a little something for the class. This time it it's Guam's turn. We were given some time to sleep-in in the morning from our field work and data collection. The Guam students secured a private beach in Ipan. The weather was really windy and cloudy upon arrival at noon. Food prepared by the hosts were chicken and pork belly BBQ,  red rice, coleslaw, poke, cookies, and brownies. We played football and also took a dip in the waters despite the choppy waters. The group started going their separate ways around 3pm and we had the rest of the day off. Overall it was a relaxing and fun-filled day and a good breather from what will be several busy days ahead.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Student post: Diona Drake - Friday, January 9

Diona Drake is a graduate student at the University of Guam's Marine Lab.


This morning was an amazing break from doing our experiments/field work. Today we got the chance to go to the GovGuam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources and view their captive bird breeding program of Micronesian Kingfishers and the Guam rail. Both of these bird species were decimated by the brown tree snake and were taken into the captive breeding program in the 1980’s. Suzanne Medina, the biologist that gave us a tour, took out a male koko and let him roam around our group. He was so cute and curious. He loved pecking and trying to mate with people’s sneakers. He also loved being scratched on the neck and pecking people’s fingers Haha. I believe his name was Sable. We got an in depth view of how they breed the birds and their history of releasing the birds into the wild. Currently, there is a population on Rota and on Cocos Island that appear to be surviving on their own. It was such an awesome opportunity to see these birds and I never thought I would get the chance to see them. I think they are looking for interns or volunteers and I am seriously considering seeing whether I can help out. These endangered native species need to be preserved.

The rest of today was spent in the classroom learning about the statistical program R and in our respective groups working on our projects. My group is working on the behavior of lizards to novel and local predators. The predators we are using are a snake (rubber) and a kingfisher. Most of today was spent working on our bird predator. We have been fortunate to have DAWR lend us taxidermied Micronesian kingfishers. I know that these two specimens are one of a kind and very rare. I am excited that tomorrow we will be finishing up our data collection and will be able to focus on making our presentation and writing our paper. It’s time to push through it!

Only one more week! (Time is going by so fast!)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Student post: Jaydylee Martin - Thursday, January 8

Jaydylee Martin is an undergraduate student at the University of Guam

Each group was given the whole day to do some data collection. We all had a slow start, but within an hour or so, everything was up and running. Some groups had work to do in the lab, while others went out to the field. My group was part of the latter. We were on a lookout for 6 flowering plant species: Morinda citrifolia (noni tree), Carica papaya (papaya tree), Coccinia grandis (ivy gourd), Antigonon leptopus (chain of love), Ipomoea indica (blue morning glory), and Asystasia gangelica (Chinese violet). We found majority of our flowers on the roadside of Yona and the path to Marbo Cave. While observing these flowers, I can't help but notice the silence. After spending 9 days in the forests of Saipan, hearing all these different melodies sung by the birds, it feels quite strange to hear nothing but the buzzing of mosquitoes... anyway, we finished half of our data collection in just one day. To us, that is quite the accomplishment!

What I looked forward most for today was the brown tree snake hunting! The brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis, is an invasive species whose population grew immensely over the years in Guam. Efforts have been and are being made to eradicate these snakes, but we still have a long way to go. As we wait for the hunt to start, I saw that some of us were more excited than afraid, while others showed the opposite. Luckily, we had a brown tree snake expert, Bjorn Lardner, to guide us on this excursion around the Marbo Cave area. Lardner is a scientist and part of the USGS Brown Treesnake Laboratory and Rapid Response Team. Through Lardner, we learned about the brown tree snake's habitat, reproductive system, and diet. We also learned how to correctly handle a snake and how to kill them in a few easy steps. In about an hour and a half, we found about 5 brown tree snakes! Judging by the reactions of the class, it's safe to say that we were all very interested in seeing and/or holding a live snake. The excitement grew with each voice that yelled, "I found one!" Overall, this was definitely a worthwhile experience. Perhaps I'll do some of my own snake hunting in my backyard tonight...    

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Student post: Devin Resko- Wednesday, January 7

Devin Resko is a graduate student at the University of Guam Marine Lab.

Today was our first full day on Guam. We began this morning listening to Dr. Thomas Marler regarding his work on cycads throughout the Indo-Pacific. It was an excellent talk, seeing that it stirred my interests (someone who struggled to stay awake during their college Botany courses).

After a bit of paperwork for us UOG students, it was time to hit the field! For my group, studying spider web characteristics between the two islands, this translated into searching for good forest sites. For much of the late morning, we drove throughout the northern part of Guam, determining possible study sites. Towards the end of this, the weather began to change. It drizzled and down poured for the next few hours. This made data collection difficult for some of the groups.

However, the rain did ultimately clear out in the early afternoon. For my group, this meant we were ready to head out and measure some spider webs! The main difference between Saipan and Guam regarding spiders: there are many more adults in Guam’s forests! Since we are looking at juveniles, we disregard the large adults. The three of us still had to dip and duck around the countless webs to get to our sites. Watching out for these large webs were the least of our worries. Mosquitos waged war on our faces and ankles as soon as we stepped out of our truck. Bug spray seemed to have little effect on them. Despite the heat, I feel like we’ll be wearing pants and long sleeves from here on out.  
Tonight did end on a good note, though. Most of the class went out to Chamorro Village. I, however, decided that after a day of spiders and a million mosquito bites, nothing sounded better than the comforts of my apartment. The other spider group-mates did attend the festivities and loved it! Jimin said she chowed on some tasty traditional Chamorro grub while enjoying the live music and dancing (even if it was crowded).

Overall, I’d say studies on Guam are going well and will certainly improve with more bug spray!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Student post: Miso Sablan- Tuesday, January 6th

Miso Sablan is a student at Northern Marianas College. On Tuesday, we flew from Saipan to Guam, and the Saipan students got their first view of Guam's native limestone forests. 

Wow! What a way to start the new year with such an amazing adventure like this. I just want to say that I am honestly humbled by what I get to experience. All the ecology, hikes, and field trips has taught me so much already. I specifically chose this day because I consider this the first time to come and really see Guam and it's environmental structure for myself. (that and I am just easily excited about travelling anywhere. Haha.)

Guam gives me the feeling of home but with a twist. Like limeritas. Haha. (you can totally omit this. Just thought it was a lame joke) obviously the traffic and the sheer amount of people is a huge difference, but the tangan tangan forests and even the shape of houses gives me a Saipan feel. The karst forest is where I find a lot of differences. The first thing the others and I from Saipan noticed were the amount of spider webs right along the road! I then saw a lot of fallen trees, moss and algae covered karst, fungi or mushrooms, and a tree species that primarily dominated the forest. It rhymes with my name, "neiso". Haha. I'll remember that for a long time.

I was extremely interested in going to explore the forest myself and found that I wouldn't be disappointed. Keeping an eye out for huge cane toads, wild pigs/boar running around, flat worms, and butterflies everywhere kept my senses sharp. The gaps in Guam's forest are a lot more common as well, with fewer really old trees. Dr. Miller also spoke about the flat worms, African snails, and butterflies among other arthropods. Haldre spoke and really educated the class about all the native tree species while Evan spoke about the treefall gap research projects.

To end this I just want to say I know for sure without a doubt, that this or something similar is the field I want to go into.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Student post: Marlyn Naputi - Monday, January 5

Marlyn Naputi is an undergraduate student at Northern Marianas College.


Last day of data collection on Saipan! I believe all the groups started the day by collecting all the data they needed from Saipan. We ended the day by attending the awesome career panel that hopefully all of us benefited from and enjoyed!  Our time on this island has come to an end...for now! I hope all the groups got all the data they needed and are packed and ready to go because tomorrow we will be flying to Guam!  

Student post: Hertin Gabiriel - Monday, January 5

Hertin Gabiriel is an undergraduate student at the University of Guam. He is originally from the island of Pohnpei.

Today, we did a lot of field work. We set up our last three transects to measure hermit crab abundance. We had two transect in southern Saipan and another transect up North, near the Laderan Tangke trail. We will check our transects tonight when the hermit crabs are active.

An interesting part of today was the career panel, which brought up a lot of ideas and knowledge of careers from different people who are working in Saipan. Opportunities are out there for us, it is up to you to make your choice for a lifetime. 

Unfortunately, my crew and I are going out to our last field spots for our last round of data collection tonight, and that will be all for Saipan. Next, we'll get to see what's going on with hermit crabs on Guam. 

Adios Saipan, esta agupa, next Summer.

See you soon, Guam. 

Sunday barbecue on Managaha Island

Sunday was a day off for the students. The Saipan students organized a barbecue at Managaha Island (a Marine Preserve only 10 minutes by boat from Saipan) from 10 to 3, and they brought their A-game. The food was outstanding, the snorkeling fast-paced (staying still was not an option) but terrific, and the company unbeatable. After a few high-intensity games of volleyball, some frisbee, and lots of eating, the day was gone before we knew it. The Guam students are going to have a tough time matching this venue when they host the barbecue next Sunday!

Thanks to Hertin Gabiriel for the picture.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Student post: Jeromalyn Santos - Saturday, Jan 3 (Day 6)

Jeromalyn (Joma) is a student at Northern Marianas College. Her research group is comparing pollination on Saipan and Guam. The students spent all day Saturday working on their research projects, and preparing their written methods section for their final paper. Here are some thoughts from Joma about their day: 

Greetings & Hafa Adai!

It is nearly the end of the first week of the Island Ecology course. Time seems to be moving too quickly for me to grasp, but I enjoy every moment of it! The past days have been full of adventure and excitement. Today, my group and I had set out in search of the flowering Carica papaya (papaya) and Morinda citrifolia (noni). These plants were observed to see if any pollinators would visit, and if so, what kind. With this, we hope to see if the presence and absence of birds affects flower visitation rates. Our journey consisted of several stops as we tried to get a good glimpse of these plants. There were moments of excitement whenever we would find an insect roaming around the flower, but also disappointed when we would just watch a bird fly by. I believe we had a great and successful day. Tomorrow we will be enjoying the day over at Saipan’s neighboring island, Managaha, followed by joyful activities.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Student post: Carey Demapan - Tinian - Friday, Jan 2 (Day 5)

Hafa Adai & Tirow! 

Located about just 3 miles southwest  of Saipan, we visited the beautiful island of Tinian! We began our day early, flying under Star Marianas using cessna planes to transport multiple groups of 5 over to the island. We visited approximately 13 sites which are the Radio Communication Building, Japanese Caves Forest, Chiget Forest, Shinto Shrine, Chulu Beach, Runway Able, Blow Hole, North Field, Atomic Bomb Loading Pit, Mount Lasu Shrine,  House of Taga, Limestone Forest Trail, Tinian Dynasty, and ending our day with a refreshing swim at Taga Beach. We did many activities like birding, sight seeing, hiking, and saw first hand many of the traps set up to monitor invasive species like the brown tree snake and the coconut rhino beetle. From their blue waters to breathtaking sights, I think Tinian is a wonderful place to get back in tune with nature. I must say this was an awesome experience to start off the new year! 

Student post: Kalani Reyes - Thursday, January 1 (Day 4)

Kalani Reyes is an undergraduate at the University of Guam. Her post focuses on Thursday, the students' first day of data collection on their own. Visit Kalani's blog to read about her experiences collecting insect samples in the jungles of Saipan!