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Scientists in Parks: Coral Restoration & Monitoring Internship (1 YEAR)

Position Description

Coral reefs are in decline worldwide due to climate change. More than half of War in the Pacific (WAPA) NHP’s lands are underwater, and much of this submerged and is home to coral reef communities. Over 400 coral species, including four threatened or endangered species, are found within Guam’s waters, and WAPA’s marine diversity is far higher than any other US national park. Guam’s reefs have been severely impacted by warming ocean waters, ENSO-related low tides, acidification, pollution, and overfishing. Since 2013, prolonged periods of elevated sea surface temperatures have resulted in significant coral bleaching and mortality on a near annual basis.

As a result, Guam’s shallow reefs have suffered 37% reductions in live coral cover, including major losses in WAPA’s waters. To combat coral loss, WAPA staff and partners are engaged in active reef restoration efforts. In May 2019, over 400 nursery-grown staghorn coral fragments were outplanted into the shallow waters of the park’s Asan Beach unit. In 2022, WAPA staff will begin a new large-scale coral reef restoration project in the park’s Agat unit.

The first phase of this reef restoration project involves building a coral nursery and stocking it with roughly 5000 coral fragments representing a minimum of 5 species. Multiple types of nursery structures will be used to accommodate species with various growth forms. Once the nursery is stocked, corals must be monitored regularly for bleaching, disease, predation, and other health issues. Regular maintenance of nursery structures, primarily removing algae and replacing unhealthy corals, will also be necessary. After a growth period, nursery corals must be pruned or re-fragmented to provide outplanting material for nearby denuded reefs.

In addition to the reef restoration project, the park also conducts long-term coral reef health monitoring. Since 2015, WAPA staff and volunteers have used the community science methods of CoralWatch to monitor coral bleaching within the park’s waters. Since 2017, the park has deployed underwater data loggers to collect water qualify information within the park. In 2020, WAPA began a reef monitoring project using CoralNet, an online tool for benthic image analysis that uses deep neural networks to semi-automate image annotation. Taken together, these methods provide a comprehensive view of the health of WAPA’s corals reefs.

WAPA seeks an SIP intern to assist with reef restoration, reef health monitoring, and other natural resources activities. This intern will:
(1) Assist with the construction and installation of coral nursery structures
(2) Collect coral fragments from around the island of Guam and transport them to the nursery
(3) Perform maintenance (such as algae removal) on nursery structures
(4) Conduct regular health checks on nursery corals and outplants
(5) Assist with outplanting activities
(6) Take photos and measurements of nursery corals
(7) Perform data entry and validation
(8) Analyze data and write reports on findings
(9) Monitor outplanted corals for health and survival
(10) Conduct monthly CoralWatch bleaching surveys
(11) Manage the deployment, collection, and data offload of underwater data loggers
(12) Annotate benthic photos of coral reefs using CoralNet
(13) Assist with other marine management efforts as needed (e.g., coral recruitment surveys, debris cleanups, etc.)
(14) Participate in interpretive and education programs related to natural resources (e.g., Reef Ranger summer
(15) Assist with terrestrial WAPA natural resources work as needed (e.g., annual stream surveys, vegetation surveys, etc.)


Work Products

The SIP intern will produce quarterly reports on nursery conditions for internal distribution to park
management. These reports will be focused on the growth and health of coral nursery corals, water conditions (using underwater logger data and remote sensing data), and summarizing the work completed in that quarter.

The SIP intern will also conduct monthly (as weather allows) CoralWatch bleaching surveys and upload these data to the online, publicly accessible CoralWatch website (www.coralwatch.org). Logger data will be uploaded to the WAPA logger database. Benthic photos annotated on CoralNet will be analyzed and available for public use. camp, tide pool experiences, etc.)


Work Environment

War in the Pacific National Historical Park is located in Guam. The park encompasses both natural and cultural resources, with a focus on WWII history. Park headquarters are located in downtown Hagatna (the capital of Guam), conveniently near restaurants, banks, grocery stores, and shopping malls. Guam has modern amenities and the park is fairly urban. Guam has a tropical climate. Daytime temperatures generally range from 80-88°F, with high humidity and a wet season from July to November.

The intern will be based in the park headquarters with other natural resources staff. Snorkel-based fieldwork will be conducted on shallow reef flats between 25-150 ft from shore in water up to 15 ft deep. SCUBA-based fieldwork will be conducted in water up to 60 ft deep. Most in-water fieldwork is conducted by snorkel, and water temperatures are generally warm, around 82-84°F. Strong swimming skills are required as currents can sometimes be strong; however, park staff do not enter the water in foul weather (e.g., lightning storms) or during marine weather warnings (e.g., high surf advisories). Rip currents have been known to form in the waters around Guam. Venomous animals, including cone snails, stonefish, and jellyfish, are occasionally encountered but pose little threat unless bothered or handled. Sun exposure can result in serious sunburn so protective clothing (including gloves and UV-protective long-sleeve shirts) will be provided, as well as reef-safe zinc sunblock. The intern can also assist with terrestrial fieldwork, including hikes and monitoring plants in the jungle.


Qualifications

Candidates must have completed at least two years in a course of study at an accredited college or university leading to a bachelor’s degree in biological science, natural resource management, or a related discipline. Basic knowledge of coral reef biology is preferred. Applicants do NOT need to be current students.

Experience with Microsoft Excel is strongly preferred. Applicants are encouraged to include their experience in video editing, graphic design, GIS applications, Microsoft Access, R, Python, SQL, or other fields in their resume.

Minority applicants, especially Pacific Islanders, are encouraged to apply. Local applicants are preferred.

Candidates who are not local must be willing to relocate to Guam; there is no remote option for this position.

Strong swimming skills are required, and snorkeling experience is highly desired. Interns must pass a swim test before they will be allowed to participate in snorkel-based fieldwork.

SCUBA diving certification is required prior to starting this position, but candidates who are not yet certified SCUBA divers will be considered. Interns must pass a basic SCUBA skills test before they will be allowed to participate in SCUBA-based fieldwork; a diving certification alone does not guarantee participation. Certified SCUBA divers with an Advanced Open Water certification (or equivalent) or higher and 25+ logged dives are preferred.

Please include in your resume:
(1) diving certification(s) and agency (e.g., PADI, NAUI, SDI, SSI, etc.)
(2) number of lifetime dives logged
(3) number of dives logged in the last year
(4) any experiences with coral survey techniques on SCUBA or snorkel (e.g., point-intercept transects, Reef Check, CoralWatch, REEF Roving Diver Technique, CoralNet photo annotation, etc.)
(5) experience with MS Excel, MS Access, R, Python, SQL, GIS applications, graphic design, video editing, or other skills

The applicant must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent legal resident (“green-card-holder”). Prior to starting this position, a government security background clearance will be required.