Guam hosts its 4th Coral Reef Symposium to share advances in coral reef science and management

By AIC Guest Blogger Whitney Hoot, Coral Reef Resilience Coordinator, Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans

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Dr. Adrian Stier from the University of California, Santa Barbara delivered a keynote talk about the recovery of degraded ecosystems. Credit: Christian Benitez/BSP

On March 27, over 200 coral reef managers, scientists, students, and private citizens gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Tumon Bay, Guam to attend the 4th Guam Coral Reef Symposium. Participants heard from 15 speakers who presented on topics ranging from innovations in coral reef mapping technologies to the evolutionary relationships among corals to the resilience of Guam’s coral reefs to climate change. The keynote speaker, Dr. Adrian Stier from the University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke to the audience about the recovery of disturbed marine ecosystems and the importance of implementing management actions that stimulate recovery. He emphasized the need for stakeholder buy-in and scientific consensus for effective management of coral reef resources.

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Over 200 participants attended the 4th Guam Coral Reef Symposium on March 27. Credit: Mallory Morgan/BSP

During lunch, participants mingled and enjoyed a poster session; several of the poster presenters were students from the University of Guam (UOG). It was a long, busy day, but most seats were still full when the closing remarks ended at 4:00pm – a good sign. During her closing remarks, Valerie Brown of NOAA Fisheries synthesized the knowledge shared over the course of the day and emphasized the need to continue engaging the community to better protect our coral reefs. In 2018, Guam Coral Reef Initiative partners and other stakeholders are celebrating Guam Year of the Reef in honor of International Year of the Reef. This effort involves extensive outreach and education activities; local managers hope to reach community members who aren’t already aware of coral reef issues and encourage them to help protect Guam’s coral reefs.

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After each session, presenters answered questions from the audience. Credit: Mallory Morgan/BSP

The symposium was coordinated by the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans with administrative support from UOG’s Center for Island Sustainability and Professional and International Programs, and made possible with generous funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, UOG Sea Grant and EPSCoR, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, Calvo Enterprises, Coast 360, Tokio Marine Pacific, and Calvo’s Insurance.

Learn more about Guam’s International Year of the Reef  efforts and activities at:  http://www.guamcoralreefs.com/gyor18

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AIC Chair’s Report, February 2018: An update on 6 months of activities, actions and needs

by Kristine Bucchianeri, AIC Executive Director

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USCRTF Co-chairs, Dr. Russell Callender (NOAA) and Marshall Critchfield (DOI), listen to the AIC Chair’s report, presented by AIC Chair Jean-Pierre Oriol (USVI)

The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) just finished up a highly productive week in Washington DC, participating in the 39th US Coral Ref Task Force Meeting and wanted to share with you some highlights of what has been happening since the AIC last met in August 2017.

Four of the AIC Jurisdictions were hit by hurricanes in the past 6 months, and are actively working on recovery efforts.  Florida continues to deal with an unprecedented coral disease outbreak. Despite this, advances were made in watersheds restoration efforts, in building resilience and educating more people about the essential services provided by coral reefs worldwide.

The AIC presented a new initiative last week, that will help ensure coral reefs thrive and continue to survive while facing continual threats from warming oceans, changing acidity, natural disasters and local stressors.  The AIC is moving forward with establishing resilient coral nurseries in each of the jurisdictions to build stronger local breeding stocks of corals, but also to build local capacity in the newest available technologies to help to preserve and protect this important ecosystem. More information on our Plan of Action will be coming soon.

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AIC Members, Advisers and invited guests had an informal dinner during the Task Force meeting.

Additionally strengthening federal-jurisdiction integration and partnerships, the Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program, and the reauthorization of Coral Reef Conservation Act (of 2000) remain top priorities.

Additionally, the AIC participated in some successful meetings on the USCRTF Watershed Partnership Initiative, a lively meeting of the Climate Change Working Group, and meetings with other essential partners to coral reef conservation efforts.

For more information and details, check out the newest AIC Chair’s  Report presented at the 39th USCRTF Meeting in Washington DC.  

Guam Year of the Reef 2018 launches with two events in February

By AIC Guest Blogger: Whitney Hoot,  Coral Reef Resilience Coordinator, Bureau of Statistics and Plans, Government of Guam

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Mr. Carl Dominguez, Director of BSP, Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio, Senator Louise B. Muña, and Guardians of the Reef participants point out just one of the many “Guardians” present at the proclamation signing on February 2nd. Credit: Whitney Hoot, Guam BSP

Guam Year of the Reef 2018 (GYOR) launched on February 2nd with a proclamation signing by Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio and presentation of a legislative resolution by Senator Louise B. Muña. Held outside at the Governor’s Complex in view of the reefs of East Agana Bay, the event was well attended, including over 100 participants from the Guardians of the Reef program, representing four local high schools. The “Guardians” are 11th and 12th grade students trained to teach 3rd graders about coral reef ecosystems. At the event, both students and adults declared their commitment to protecting coral reefs by signing the Reef Pledge.

On February 10th, the Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Program (GCCRMP) held the second Reef Exploration, Experiences, and Fun (REEF) Celebration. Over 1,300 community members have participated in this program by completing training to learn how to collect data and monitor the health of reef flat habitats. This event, which was supported by the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans (BSP) and NOAA, featured GCCRMP’s Adopt-a-Reef groups and showcased the efforts of local organizations such as the University of Guam’s Marine Lab, Micronesian Conservation Coalition, and Humatak Community Foundation.

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Piti Pete, the orange-spine unicornfish (Naso lituratus), made a surprise appearance at the REEF Celebration on February 10th. Credit: Patrick Keeler, Guam BSP

Presentations emphasized that although Guam’s reefs have severely deteriorated, there is an important source of hope among the many dedicated citizens, natural resource managers, and community leaders who care deeply about Guam’s coral reefs. Attendees nodded their heads when viewing slides showing degraded reefs, demonstrating their awareness of the dire situation, but clapped enthusiastically as groups and individuals were recognized for their tireless efforts to conserve coral reefs. Ms. Val Brown, NOAA Fisheries, gave participants another reason to celebrate: GCCRMP is being renamed Friends of Reefs Guam (FOR Guam), as the program will be expanded to include activities outside of monitoring, such as coral reef restoration – another source of hope for Guam’s reefs.

More information on GYOR is available here: http://www.guamcoralreefs.com. Updates will also be posted on the GYOR Facebook page (@GuamYearoftheReef2018) and Twitter account (@GuamYOR2018).GYOR2018 logo for AIC blog

It’s International Year of the Reef!

At the 31st General Meeting (November 2016 in Paris, France), the International Coral Reef Initiative declared 2018 as the third International Year of the Reef.IYOR2018_Blue

What is International Year of the Reef (IYOR)?

IYOR is a global effort to increase awareness and understanding on the values and threats to coral reefs and to support related conservation, research and management efforts.  During the last IYOR in 2008, more than 630 events were organized in over 65 countries and territories around the world!

What is the focus of #IYOR2018?

The ICRI is encouraging all members and partners to:

  • strengthen awareness globally about the value of, and threats to, coral reefs and associated ecosystems;
  • promote partnerships between governments, the private sector, academia and civil society on the management of coral reefs;
  • identify and implement effective management strategies for conservation, increased resiliency and sustainable use of these ecosystems and promoting best practices; and
  • share information on best practices in relation to sustainable coral reef management.

What can I do to support #IYOR2018?

  • Keep an eye on the AIC Facebook page. We’ll be posting events throughout the US and updates on ways to get involved.
  • Follow @IYOR2018 on Facebook or twitter to stay up to date on International Efforts
  • Reach out to your favorite Coral Reef organization and see what they have planned.
  • Or host an event to raise awareness among your friends. Some ideas to get you started:

Apply to be a Coral Fellow!

 Looking for a job that will provide solid hands-on resource management experience? Working towards building your career in natural resource management related to coral reefs in your own community?  Want to be part of the next generation of coral reef conservation leaders? Apply to be a Coral Fellow today!

The Coral Reef Fellowship Program seeks to build the next generation of coral reef conservation leaders and supports two-year positions that strive to address current capacity gaps, as well as build long-term management capacity in the jurisdictions by placing highly qualified individuals whose education and work experience meet each jurisdiction’s specific coral reef management needs.

The National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee and Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.

The seven jurisdictions where fellows will be placed include: the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawai’i, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. The start date for the two-year positions is January 2018.

Each position has its own distinct work plan specific to jurisdiction management needs and provides training and professional development opportunities. Project work will focus on climate change, land-based sources of pollution and fishing impacts to coral reef ecosystems. Fellows may also work to address local needs such as the development of
management plans for marine managed areas, engagement of stakeholders in resource management, and development of climate change adaptation plans.

The deadline for applications is July 11, 2017.

Please visit http://cnso.nova.edu/fellows/apply.html to access application instructions.

Qualified candidates meeting stated educational requirements with relevant work experience are encouraged to apply. SCUBA diving will not be permitted as part of job duties and applicants must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident. Applicants need to have completed posted educational requirements by December 2017 and may apply to multiple jurisdictions.

For additional information or questions, please contact coral.fellowship@noaa.gov.

AIC Chair’s Report, Sept 2016: Priorities, updates, challenges, & accomplishments

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by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) is still in the Marianas (until Saturday) participating in the 36th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) Meeting, but wanted to share with you some of what’s been happening since the AIC last met in February 2016.

In the Marianas, warming waters have already caused coral reef bleaching–for yet another consecutive year. Florida continues to deal with an unprecedented coral disease outbreak. And, in other jurisdictions grounded vessels, invasive species, and land-based pollution impacts, to name a few, continue.

For the AIC, strengthening federal-jurisdiction integration and partnerships, the Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program, and Coral Reef Conservation Act (of 2000) reauthorization remain top priorities.

Now, more than ever, it is critical that we continue to work together to make a positive difference for our coral reefs.

Towards that end, the approval at the 36th USCRTF Meeting of two very important documents (“U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Strategy, FY2016-2021” and “U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Watershed Partnership Initiative Strategy”) is a huge accomplishment and the AIC is proud to have helped build both documents.

For more information and details, check out the newest AIC Chair’s Report presented at the 36th USCRTF Meeting in the Marianas.  

Read through it here or download it here.

Kids in American Samoa: Fighting stormwater runoff, one rain garden at a time!

By guest AIC blogger, Sabrina Woofter, Coral Reef Management Fellow, American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group

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The Le Tausagi summer camp admires their completed rain garden!  Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

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A camper prepares to plant ti. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi, an outreach group comprised of staff from American Samoa environmental and youth agencies, held their annual Enviro Discoveries Summer Camp on July 14th and 15th, 2016. Throughout the 2-day event, about 30 children and 15 staff and volunteers discussed local natural resources and the impacts that humans have on them. As the  Coral Reef Management Fellow, I used a watershed model to explain how we can help protect the coral reef ecosystem by preserving and planting vegetation in our watersheds and reducing land-based sources of pollution.

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Campers and staff are working hard to plant, water, and mulch. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

The camp culminated with an installation of a 600 ft2 rain garden that now captures stormwater runoff from an adjacent basketball court and rooftop. The garden was installed at a public park located in the impaired Nu’uuli Pala Lagoon watershed. Rain gardens like this one are stormwater best management practices (BMPs) that use plants, mulch, and soil in a depression to slow down and clean stormwater runoff, letting it infiltrate the ground. Stormwater contributes to poor surface water quality and often contains pollutants, such as sediment and nutrients, that can damage coral reef ecosystems. Rain gardens are one type of practice that can be used along with others to help improve water quality and the health of coral reefs.