Collaborative conference shares latest conservation efforts with community
A full house of students, senators, and general members of the community were able to engage with scientists and researchers working on conservation issues at the second annual Marianas Terrestrial Conservation Conference and Workshop held Nov. 13–15 at Guam Community College.
The workshop was a collaboration of volunteers from the University of Guam, Guam Community College, Iowa State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Corps Activity Guam, the Department of Defense, Cornell College, the Guam Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, and the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife.
“We were very happy with a full house on both conference days and a well-attended networking and poster evening at the Guam Museum,” said Haldre Rogers, a professor at Iowa State University and principal investigator of the Ecology of Bird Loss project.
Researchers, graduate students, and agency officials presented on their Micronesia-based research, on progress with current conservation practices, and on projected outcomes for the future. Topics included the brown tree snake, forest restoration, and species and bird conservation, while field trips took participants to see ongoing and planned forest restoration projects on Andersen Air Force Base, green roofs at UOG’s Center for Island Sustainability, a forest restoration and community development project at Sagan Tinanom, and a watershed restoration project at GovGuam’s Cotal Conservation Area.
A link to videos of conference presentations can be found at https://marianasterrestrialconservation.weebly.com/.
“Any opportunity to get updates about the environment of our islands is important for me,” said UOG graduate student Moñeka De Oro. “Learning what is being done to combat fires, prevent the spread of invasive species, and protect native endangered species is critical information for us all.”
The event was purposely kept free of charge in order to be as inclusive as possible.
“The conference provided easy opportunities for students and the public to engage with scientists and conservationists during lunches, panel discussions, and a job fair, which featured representatives from consulting firms, GovGuam, and federal agencies,” said Jonita Kerr, a professor at GCC.
The conference ignited a spark of hope that with a lot of hard work and community support, it is feasible to eradicate the brown tree snake from large areas on Guam and reintroduce native bird species that the snakes have decimated.
“It was fascinating to hear all the different research projects going on across the Marianas. But perhaps most surprising was the researchers' hopeful tone,” said Alexandra Ossolo, a science writer based in Brooklyn who attended the conference. “Perhaps, if their work continues the way many of them hope, Guam's skies will be filled with birds again someday.”
On behalf of MTCC 2018, doctoral candidate Ann Marie Gawel presented the Lifetime Environmental Advocate award to Dr. Margie Falanruw. Her son, Lubuw Falanruw, said she was making direct impacts to the environment long before sustainability, alternative energies, global warming, and other concerns were even topics of debate.
“As she would often say, ‘Island nations and their fragile ecosystems are the canaries of the planet’s health,’” he said. “This is yet another award to my humble mom.”
The conference received funding and in-kind support from the Western Pacific Tropical Research Center, the Research Corporation of the University of Guam, GCC’s Environmental Technician Certification Program, HDR Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Defense, and Iowa State University.
Planning is underway for next year’s conference, which will be held in Saipan.