At the Center of Research
in the Western Pacific

Student Research Experience for Undergraduates

Student Research Experience (SRE) Program

Guam EPSCOR is a 5-year, $6 million grant at the University of Guam that aims to develop a Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium in order to ensure the sustainability of coral reef ecosystems in the face of environmental change. In addition to its research goals, Guam EPSCoR seeks to increase the number and diversity of students who choose Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers by engaging students in its Student Research Experience (SRE) Program.

The program enhances undergraduate curriculums with invaluable research experience and insight into career paths leading to masters and doctoral degrees. EPSCoR students in the SRE Program may participate in field and lab studies that document coral reef ecosystems—with emphasis in EPSCoR’s two major research areas: coral genetics and oceanography. For more information, contact Dr. Austin Shelton at

Program Eligibility Requirements:

The University of Guam and Research Corporation of the University of Guam are Equal Opportunity Employers that have received funding from the National Science Foundation to broaden the participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields. As such, the Student Research Experience Program remains open to all qualified students, but women, minorities, and students with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply. 
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of Guam and at least 18 years old (Applicants under 18 require parent/guardian signature)
  • ​Must be enrolled as an undergraduate in good academic standing


About the Research:

Understanding the marine environment is essential to study coral reef ecology. As part of EPSCoR project, we describe physical and chemical characteristics of Guam’s coastal ocean by using oceanographic instruments on coral reefs. Collected data (e.g., water current, temperature, irradiance, dissolved oxygen) will be used to examine if any environmental parameters affect coral reef organisms and ecosystems. There will be an opportunity to deploy and retrieve the instruments in the field, then readout and analyze data to characterize the environment. Existing data will also be available. Assigned tasks will largely depend on the student’s interest. Other opportunities include tank experiment and field observations of coral bleaching/health, computational models (water current, larval transport, or both), and benthic habitat mapping.
Coral Adaptation
Tropical coral reefs are under many threats due to a rapidly changing climate and the accumulation of local stressors. Increasing observations suggest that genetic variation associated with thermal and light tolerance could provide the raw material necessary for adaptation to climate change in various coral species. This research project will aim at exploring and identifying patterns responsible for temperature and light adaptation in corals by conducting in situ experimental approaches. There will be opportunities to be introduced to genetic methods as well, depending on the candidate's interests and abilities. The ideal candidate(s) will be self motivated, well organized, and feel comfortable snorkeling.
Coral Barcoding
Corals are difficult to identify using morphology alone. Genetic barcoding can provide a means for comparing corals collected in Guam to corals from other places throughout the Pacific region. It is expected that some of Guam’s coral species diversity will be distinct from its conspecifics throughout the Pacific. The intern will become part of a team that will work in the molecular lab to extract DNA, PCR amplify molecular markers of interest and sequence these markers. Phylogenetic analyses will be used to elucidate the relationship of Guam’s corals to corals for which genetic data exists outside of Guam.
Taxonomy & Genetic Barcoding
Selected students will be trained in general molecular laboratory skills, including DNA extractions, polymerase-chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, DNA sequencing and DNA analyses. In addition, students will have the opportunity to learn about basic coral biology, taxonomy and morphology.
Students assigned to the Biorepository function essentially as curatorial assistants. In this role they will participate in the collection and curation of specimens, following iDigBio protocols, tissue preservation, whole organism preservation, photographic documentation, 2-D and 3-D scanning for digitization of images or whole organisms or structures, data base utilization and maintenance, analysis of data, assistance with manuscripts preparation and maintenance of collections.