The University of Guam Marine Lab hosted two Northern Marianas College students the week of Aug. 15 for an internship related to ongoing research on corals from their home island chain of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Marine Lab graduate research assistant Mikay Reuter guided Richelle Ramon, a junior liberal arts major, and Subin Cho, a sophomore natural resource management major, in conducting a heat-stress experiment on different types of corals. The experiment was a replication of one that Marine Lab Associate Professor David Combosch and his research team are conducting on coral samples from the northernmost Mariana Islands of Sarigan, Pagan, and Maug to predict how they might respond to warming ocean temperatures.
UOG spoke with the NMC students to get their takeaways and perspectives after having worked hands-on with corals and with researchers who share their passion for the ocean.
What was particularly memorable from your internship experience?
Richelle: Meeting new people was definitely a great part of this internship. We met great people from other countries who are intelligent and inspiring. Interacting with these guys helped me think a lot more about what I want to continue doing for myself school-wise and to prepare myself for the […] goals that I’d want to accomplish. I aspire to gain their enthusiasm, dedication, and determination when it comes to education.
Subin: Something that I learned that was memorable during my internship was the relationship that corals share with other organisms in the ocean. It was an eye-opener to see how different species and organisms create relationships with each other in order to thrive and survive.
I [also] learned that pursuing a career in the environment requires time and hard work, which was meaningful and inspirational to me. It was a great experience and opportunity to meet different people from all around the world who shared the same purpose, which is to save our ocean!
Did your internship change your perspective in any way on coral reefs in the Marianas?
Richelle: I’ve always heard that there are more corals in the Mariana Islands than there are on Guam due to many reasons, whether it be local stressors, overfishing, etc. There are a lot of coastal developments in Guam. […] Even on Saipan, we go through similar occurrences when it comes down to local stressors, coral bleaching, overfishing, etc. […] I believe that it honestly all comes down to the help of the community in sustainable practices and such to protect our natural resources.
Subin: I would definitely say that this internship did change my perspective about the coral reefs in the Marianas. Growing up on an island that is surrounded by water, we tend to take it for granted. We pollute, neglect, and overlook our coral reefs and believe that many years after, it will still be there. However, after this internship, I learned that these things we are so used to will soon disappear if changes are not made.
Do you hope to have an eventual career involving coral reefs or the marine environment?
Richelle: I sure hope so! I always get asked what I want to pursue or study. My answer has always been marine biology. I feel that this Guam trip helped me a little more to decide what I really want to pursue. […] I’m definitely working toward pursuing something that is based on the marine environment.
Subin: Yes! I can confidently say that I plan to pursue a marine-related field in the future. After graduating and getting work experience in Saipan, I plan to attend the University of Guam for my undergraduate degree in integrative biology and continue my education from there. I love learning about corals, fish, and everything about the ocean. Being an intern and spending time with the students and staff gave me a whole different outlook on marine-related sciences and also was such an inspiration to see how dedicated and passionate everyone was.