The University of Guam (UOG) in partnership with the University of Iowa and the US Forest Service just gave a huge boost to the conservation of forests in Micronesia. After the completion of a 17-day intensive course, Tropical Forest Ecology, participants were eager to return to their home islands and apply what they had learned.
Ross Miller and Haldre Rogers head the team teaching the course. Miller is an entomologist and research scientist with the Western Pacific Tropical Research Center at UOG. Rogers is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University. The bird-less forests of Guam inspired her research and PhD thesis, to understand the wide-ranging effects of bird loss on the forests where they disappeared. Evan Fricke, a postdoc from Roger’s lab worked with the group on Saipan and Ann Marie Gawel a doctorial candidate in Rogers’ lab at Iowa State assisted on Guam. The intensive course took students on a comparative journey through the forests of Saipan and Guam. Participants worked in groups to develop a hypothesis and then headed into the field to collect data.
Levani Shiro, a student at the Northern Marianas College was grateful for the opportunity to take the course. She was greatly surprised by the enormous impact invasive species have had on the ecosystems of Guam. “It was strange being in the field in Guam and not seeing or hearing any birds. It also seemed like there were many more mosquitoes than in the forests of Saipan,” noted Shiro.
Valentino Orhaitil from the Department of Forestry in Yap participated in the course. “It was very intense. We covered so much material in such a short time, but the instructors were amazing,” said Orhaitil. He felt the class was very important for natural resource managers, and the course increased his knowledge base with relevant information that he plans to apply in the forests of Yap.
“The content was phenomenal. The course was fantastic and the instructors were very resourceful and really knew their stuff,” enthused Wendolin Roseo Marquez, “The down side is the delivery time is so short.” Marquez is from Pohnpei and works as a senior grants officer at the non-governmental organization Micronesian Conservation Trust. He felt the course was very valuable and hopes to bring the course to Pohnpei in the near future to help build the capacity of terrestrial resource leaders and managers. “Marine science gets a lot of attention, but farming and forestry are not as lucrative or considered as cool for some people. To see the fragmentation and loss of forests on Guam is very alarming,” said Marquez.
“What excites me about this course is that it allows students to participate in novel research projects which then generate more questions for future exploration,” stated Rogers.
“This is the third time we’ve taught the course and it was the first time we had people working in forestry from several islands in Micronesia come together for a learning extravaganza. Our hope is that it will inform their conservation work and help protect the terrestrial ecosystems on their home islands,” said Miller.