UOG students taking ownership of Guam's reef
If you see students roaming the beaches and talking to tourists about the importance of Guam's reef, know that it's part of a seven-month University of Guam research program. Phillip Cruz told KUAM News, "The TASI Beach Guides program is an outreach program funded by NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, through an MOU between the Bureau of Statistics and Plans and the UOG Center for Island Sustainability, and with this outreach project it's me along with our student interns who actually go out to the beaches and conduct outreach to visitors as well as tourists regarding the coral reef."
Cruz is an extension associate at the UOG who has been heading the Tasi Beach Guide Program since early February. The goal is to educate the community on the importance of Guam's coral reef. "The coral reef is really important, as an island community, specifically for Guam, because one it acts as a buffer for waves, that's why we don't get tsunamis the way other places do, so it protects our island. Two, it acts as a home for the fish, so as an island community we fish for sustenance, we fish for our families, so it's part of our culture, and the third thing about our coral reef is that it's beautiful, so every year over a million tourists come to Guam to see our coral reef," he said.
The program also explains some ways the reefs are being stressed by human activity. "Some of the stresses on the coral reef, the natural stresses are coral bleaching, so that occurs in the ocean if the temperature changes, or if there's a change in acidity. It causes coral bleaching which damages and kills the coral - the other thing is recreational impacts, many people who snorkel or go diving, they touch the coral, they step on it, they break it, not knowing that they're living creatures," Cruz added.
In fact, when a coral reef is damaged or killed, it can potentially take decades for the reef to rehabilitate itself. The interns then give out surveys to collect data on the impact this has on beachgoers, and to assess further programs that may be needed in the future.
If you're ever at the beaches and you see me or some of the students out there you know going out to people, asking them to take a few minutes out of their time to talk about the coral reef, that's what we're doing.
The program will continue until September 30.