Coral reef presentation tops UOG science symposium for high school students

A poster presentation exploring the use of compounds that can aid in coral reef growth won the top prize at a science symposium organized by the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation (NSF) SEAS Islands Alliance,  
The symposium took place on Friday, June 28, at the UOG School of Business and Public Administration and marked the culmination of the 2024 STEM High School Summer Internship program. 
“Coral reefs are significant for ecosystems as they provide habitats for numerous organisms,” Cecelia Rose Borja from Simon Sanchez High School said, adding those anthropogenic stressors (caused by human activities) impact coral reef health.
Borja’s winning poster presentation proposes probiotic treatment with siderophore-producing bacteria to increase coral health and reef resilience. 
Below are the poster presentations that received the top prizes at the symposium. Two students tied for the 3rd prize:  
  • 1st Prize: Cecelia Rose Borja from Simon Sanchez High School (Mentor: Bastian Bentlage, Ph.D.), “The Production of Siderophores with Associated Bacteria in Pavona decussata” 
  • 2nd Prize: Sophia Leon Guerrero from Academy of Our Lady of Guam (Mentor: Ciemon Caballes, Ph.D.), “Crystal Clear: How Water Quality Affects Coral-Zooxanthellae Symbiosis” 
  • 3rd Prize:  Ghislaine Desacula from George Washington High School (Mentor: Ernesto Guades, Ph.D.) “Repurposing Plastic Bottles in Concrete Mixtures: Study on the Strength and Displacement Performance” and Manny Marcus from GWHS (Mentor: Else Demeulenaere, Ph.D.) “Watershed” 
Addressing the interns at the start of the symposium, UOG Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant Director Austin Shelton, Ph.D., said, “We hope that your experience here at the University of Guam in the last few weeks has sparked a continuing interest in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.”  
According to Shelton, participating in the NSF-supported summer internship gives the high school students a valuable head start in STEM careers, as the NSF is a leading force in scientific research funding. 
Eight students from local high schools participated in the month-long internship program at the start of June. Throughout the program, the high school students participate in science-based research with their undergraduate, graduate, and faculty mentors.  

At the end of their internship, the students present their research in a poster format at the science symposium. The presentations focus on engineering, botany, marine biology, and other fields of science.   

Also, part of the program is the Near-Peer mentorship which aims to help students recognize how their research experiences influence their self-identity and shape their education and career path in STEM.  
Cheryl Sangueza, Ph.D., co-principal investigator of NSF SEAS Island Alliance, takes the lead in the Near Peer seminars. She mentioned that students are collaborating on their presentations, sharing reflections, and building connections. “It is really nice seeing these gatherings of students both socially and in the realm of science,” she said. 
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