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War In The Pacific Marine troops landing on Guam
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Dwayne Minton, Ecologist, Wins Highest Natural Resource Honors


Dr. Minton is the park’s first Natural Resource Manager, and single-handedly brought to the park and to his associates, a sense of direction that extends beyond the MarianasIslands. In only three years he has aggressively tapped into large-scale and small-scale fund sources in order to build a program of terrestrial and marine based research, where non ever existed before. Guam has over a 2000 year indigenous cultural record, one of constant outside change brought about by cultures that have come to Guam with their own perspectives and agendas. Dr. Minton has easily threaded the generations of cultural complexity and invited people from all walks of life to participate in his program of education and resource protection.

Dwayne brings researchers from around the Mariana Islands, and from around the world to this park, to demonstrate the real-life links between the health of our small piece of terrestrial land, and the coral reefs that surround us. He has been able to clearly demonstrate to the children of the island’s prehistoric Chamorro and Carolinian people that their actions upon the landscape are critical to the survival of their culture. With patience and skill, he has developed research grants that will study traditional land practices on Guam by showing how seemingly traditional (albeit modern) actions on the land are destroying the islands reefs and water ecosystems. He also rolls-up his sleeves, leaves his computer, and picks up shovels and tools to work the land, and the coral reefs, collecting tangible information that demonstrates first-hand just how fragile this island in the ocean truly is.

Dr. Minton has developed what WAPA staff lovingly refer to as his “silt-o-meters,” which he and his staff have built and installed through the coral reefs to monitor silt run off. More appropriately described as a “sediment sampling apparatus,” the container or trap consists of three PVC pipes. Each pipe collects sediment that is brought back to park’s field station and analyzed to determine how much is sediment is present and from where that sediment originated. Sediments are one of the primary threats to Guam’s coral reefs, and the park needs to obtain baseline data on the seriousness of this problem so it can better manage the coral reef’s within its boundary.

Additionally, the Natural Resource staff is investigating coral recruitment on the park’s coral reefs. PVC recruitment plates allow Dwayne and his staff to efficiently collect floating particulates that will ultimately settle on them for analysis. During most of the year the plates will be collected every six weeks and microscopically examined for number of recruits, recruit taxonomy, and spatial location on the plate. However, during peak coral spawning times (summer months) plates will be collected and analyzed more frequently. Measuring recruitment patterns of corals at War in the Pacific NHP is necessary to our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the park’s coral populations and mediate species coexistence on the reef. Without information on coral recruitment relative to the reef’s primary threat (sedimentation), park staff cannot make informed management decisions to preserve the long-term health and persistence of the parks most significant marine resource.

Poor land management, anthropogenic fire regimes, and soil chemistry all contribute to soil erosion and subsequent sedimentation in Guam’s marine environment. This can be seen at nearly all the river inputs all along the coast of Guam following a rain storm when plumes of silt are carried downstream and onto the reefs. Sediments can smother and kill corals and other marine organisms, destroying this economically, culturally, and ecologically significant ecosystem. By collecting terrestrial silt from runoff, it can be shown that over time, this accumulation of debris will eventually strangle marine life. Recreational burning and fire is seen as a traditional response to living on the island. In fact, fire is not part of the natural or cultural history of Guam, and its continued presence, either for fun or for benefit, is destroying both the island and its coral reefs.

As a member of the NPS Pacific Islands Coral Reef Program, Dwayne has not only brought Chamorro students and non-island students from the University of Guam into his research program, but toured his laboratory with Assistant US Secretary Manson. Inviting him to War in the Pacific National Historical Park during his visit to Guam for the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting, Dwayne showed the Secretary first-hand the efforts of our Nation’s coral reef program, and the substantial natural and cultural resources the Park is entrusted to protect. In addition, Dr. Minton annually takes his findings on the road, showing his research to classrooms (both on military bases and in the villages), and to adult groups. Dwayne and his staff have several programs underway to evaluate, monitor and manage coral reefs in the Park, consistent with the goals of the Coral Reef Task Force.

He initiated a first of its kind project to assess the relationship between wildfires, upland erosion, and impacts from sedimentation on coral reefs in island watersheds, working with the Territory and private partners. And he also is obtaining information on catch, fishing methods, and population estimates of key fishery species, as well as market fate of fish caught in the Park to ensure compliance with Park fishing limitations. The Park is adjacent to the Marine Protected Area established by the Territory, so he is studying the movement of fish and spillover effects that may enhance fish populations in the Park. Dr. Minton is a catalyst for environmental research, and multi-disciplinary research, bringing terrestrial and marine research into the same picture. He is defining the presence of islands as small ecotones that have wide-reaching environment impacts upon both discrete environmental systems. His mantra of protecting the land to protect the reef is now part of the entire staff’s language.

The National Park Service is committed to efforts mandated by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in developing and implementing a comprehensive program of research and mapping to inventory, monitor, and "identify the major causes and consequences of degradation of coral reef ecosystems" (Executive Order 13089). Dwayne’s research on this subject not only directly benefits the park, but the entire island, and will be used as a model for other inhabited islands throughout the Pacific.

In conjunction with ongoing sedimentation and water quality projects, information from this study will be used to develop best management practices for upland terrestrial watersheds at the park with respect to erosion mitigation. This information will be provided to the Territory of Guam and to the University of Guam for consideration in future academic or natural resource management projects. This data will be used to develop and assess the park's Fire Management Strategy and erosion best management practices.

Before leaving this particular aspect of Dr. Minton’s assessment, it must be noted that Guam, as with all the islands of the Pacific, are intensely remote duty locations. Issues such as marine and terrestrial environmental protection are not even a common part of discussion among islanders (both local and non-local). For this to succeed, the project must be seen as not only viable to this “Federal” undertaking, but it must reach local villages, local land management agencies, and school children. Dwayne has done this, and brilliantly. His research is now extending beyond the park with help from the University of Guam and the Historic Preservation Office. By making this easily demonstrable technology available, it is within grasp of local researchers that often have very small budgets and limited staff.

In addition to such undertakings as the Recruitment-Sedimentation Project, Dr. Minton is a prominent figure with the Guam EPA, Guam Division of Aquatics and Wildlife and Coast Guard. He has involved himself with local communities seeking to understand localized landslide episodes and break water erosion. Within the park, Dwayne and his staff recently discovered the park’s first bona fide wetland, and documented a heretofore thought extinct species of plant. Most importantly, Dr. Minton is accessible to not only his staff, but the island. His presence and enthusiasm for his work is contagious, and gains greater public acceptance by his even-handedness than all the directorates and laws combined. Guam is a small community, but Dwayne is an integral part of it. He is unmistakably a proud example for the National Park Service and its mission.

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