At the Center of Research
in the Western Pacific

Summer Research Experience 2017

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 15:15

Summer Research Experience 

Guam EPSCOR is a 5-year, $6 million grant at the University of Guam that aims to develop a Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium in order to ensure the sustainability of coral reef ecosystems in the face of environmental change. In addition to its research goals, Guam EPSCoR seeks to increase the number and diversity of students who choose Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers by engaging students in its Summer Research Experience Program.

The program enhances undergraduate curriculums with invaluable research experience and insight into career paths leading to masters and doctoral degrees. EPSCoR students in the Summer Research Experience (SRE) Program may participate in field and lab studies that document coral reef ecosystems—with emphasis in EPSCoR’s two major research areas: coral genetics and oceanography.
Coral Genetics

Growth of reef-building corals can be strongly shaped by the environment. For example, corals growing in high wave energy zones may grow more compact than those in low wave energy zones, leading to high variability in gross morphology. In addition, many coral species are known to hybridize. This means that evolutionary relationships and species diversity of corals is often concealed by their highly variable appearance. Guam is no exception to this, hosting a diversity of corals, some of which have been hypothesized to be hybrids based on morphology alone. We aim to untangle the species boundaries of Guam’s species of Acropora, a genus of prolific reef-builders. Understanding the diversity of Guam's Acropora corals is of particular conservation interest since they were severely affected by coral bleaching events in recent years leading to declines in their abundance.

We will use genetic sequence data to infer evolutionary lineages of Acropora species and test whether or not some of these lineages are the result of hybridization. In addition to using molecular genetic tools, we will collect morphological data to investigate whether or not lineages of Acropora may be distinguished by morphology alone. Research experience that will include field work to collect corals. Work in the molecular lab will include DNA extraction, PCR, and DNA sequencing. Furthermore, morphological characters will be recorded from coral skeletons for further morphological analysis. The ideal candidate(s) will be self-motivated, well organized, and have training/experience in basic molecular lab procedures (pipetting, PCR, gel-electrophoresis) and microscopy.

Understanding the marine environment is essential to study coral reef ecology. We are investigating physical and chemical characteristics of Guam’s coastal ocean. Oceanographic instruments will be deployed on the reef flat, reef crest, and fore reef. Colle
cted data will include water current, conductivity, temperature, depth, fluorescence, turbidity, nitrate, pH, dissolved oxygen, and irradiance. There will be an opportunity to help deployment and retrieval of the instruments in the field, then readout and analyze data to characterize the environment. Existing data will also be available. There may be a possibility to work on computational models (water current, larval transport, or both) using the data.
Program Eligibility Requirements:

The University of Guam and Research Corporation of the University of Guam are Equal Opportunity Employers that have received funding from the National Science Foundation to broaden the participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields. As such, the Summer Research Experience Program remains open to all qualified students, but women, minorities, and students with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply. Selected students must be available 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday for the duration of the summer program. 

•             Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of Guam and at least 18 years old (Applicants under 18 require parent/guardian signature)
•             Must be enrolled as an undergraduate in good academic standing

For more information contact Dr. Austin Shelton III at