Past CRI Intern Projects 2013-2016

2016 CRI Summer Internship Projects

Lagoon Habitat Mapping- Aldebert Deleon Guerrero and Katelynn Delos Reyes, NOAA Interns 

The Coral Reef Internship has given me the invaluable opportunity of allowing myself to gain knowledge and continue to grow as an individual. Working under NOAA for the past two months was an absolutely exciting and delightful experience. Throughout the course of the internship, I was given the task of constantly going into the Saipan Lagoon and navigating to a variety of habitats in order to update its’ benthic map. Over the course of two months, I have had the greatest pleasure of meeting wonderful people as well as getting hands-on experience in the area of coastal resource management.  As a result of participating in this internship, I have decided to pursue a career in natural resource management. I heavily encourage other students to take this opportunity when available to them in the future!- Aldebert Deleon Guerrero 

As a part of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program project for the CNMI, we collected data by ground-truthing satellite imagery of the Saipan Lagoon. Our NOAA mentors provided us with all the equipment needed, this includes: a GARMIN GPS device, meter quadrat (made by interns), PAM safety float, Reel for anchoring, Canon camera, meter stick for measuring depth, our individual snorkel gear (provided by BECQ-CRI), and customized data sheets (made by Matt Kendall). A set of data points were given to my partner and I to help collect data within the intertidal zones where the depth is less than 4 feet. This project is led by Matt Kendall and his partner Bryan Costa who are currently on island to continue collecting data farther out in the lagoon. The information from this data will be used to create an updated benthic habitat map to track changes in the lagoon over time, as well as create better monitoring and management decisions for the Saipan Lagoon.-Katelynn F. Delos Reyes 


Seagrass Resilience- Zia Buniag and Michelle Kautz, CNMI Marine Monitoring Interns

My name is Michelle Kautz and I was given an amazing opportunity to be an intern under the BECQ Marine Monitoring Team. This summer I have been studying and surveying our local sea-grass beds and what common invertebrate, macro-algae, and sea grass species are found here in the CNMI. Going out almost every week to do surveys while snorkeling, was the best part of this internship because I believe that hands-on work is the best way to learn. Other than the snorkeling, the other group activities such as turtle tagging, Laolao bay watershed field trip, and outreach to our local children, made me realize how important it is to have knowledge on what is happening here in the CNMI. The biological research itself is not the only thing we can do; outreach is just as important as scientifically studying the environment.

Besides going out to the beach, data recording and lab work play a large part of the internship. Processing the samples we collect from the field takes time, and we must make sure that we record everything accurately and as efficient as possible. Other than the surveying of sea grass, my partner Viktoria Buniag and I go out to reef dive spots and check for any indications of coral bleaching. Coral Bleaching is beginning to become a huge problem here in the CNMI. Bleaching indicates that the coral is stressed because of the conditions it is living in. Climate change plays a huge role of coral bleaching because warmer temperatures can decrease the calcification and growth rates which can link to ocean acidification. Because of this internship I have gained knowledge through witnessing these occurrences of coral bleaching in our reefs and how sea grass beds can help prevent them from dying off. -Michelle Kautz 

My name is Zia and I fortunately had the chance to work with the Marine Monitoring Team this summer. I spent most of my time under water, which was the cherry on top! During my internship I learned about the types of seagrass we have, and about various algae and invertebrates that are common in our lagoons. I also learned about the importance of seagrass and how great they are for our environment and coral reefs. Seagrass provides nursery areas for many marine organisms, prevents shoreline erosion and acts as a filtering system for the coral reefs. Seagrass acts as the first line of defense for coral reefs they prevent sediments from getting to our coral reefs. Sediments can reduce the light that reaches the corals and if a great amount of sediment reaches the coral reef it may bury them. Seagrass and coral reefs are a major part of our island ecosystem so we must do everything we can to protect them. –Zia Buniag 

Shoreline Monitoring and Beach Profiling- Teisha Camacho and Kiana Palacios, DCRM Planning Interns 

The goal of the Shoreline Monitoring program is to monitor areas of coastal erosion and accretion, which is also known as beach loss or beach growth. We monitor the Western beaches from south to north including the Island of Mańagaha which has five sections to it. We also collect data to see the change in sea level over time and create a beach profile for all the Western beaches and the Island of Mańagaha. Teisha Camacho, an intern under the Coral Reef Initiative and her partner Kiana Palacios are working with Ariele Baker under the DCRM Planning team, to come up with a long-term method to monitor the shoreline.  So far, we came up with two ways to collect data about the shoreline which is surveying and beach profiling using the Berger Level. We have leveled all the beaches using existing elevations at benchmarks around the island. The other method is beach profiling which mainly focuses on the slope of the beach.  We have sampled all the Western Beaches from south to north including Mańagaha. Kiana and I learned that is very important that we monitor the shoreline to see the changes.  If our data shows that the beaches are eroding or growing, we must take action to find resolution before drastic effects may happen. Especially now that we are experiencing some sea level rise from climate change, we need data for future actions.  My experience under this internship has been great.  It has exposed me into a whole different field of environmental science and I am glad that it did. I see myself pursuing a degree in Natural Resource Management and perhaps becoming a Climate and Coastal Hazards Specialist. –Teisha Camacho 

Early morning walks by the beach with swim wear outfits, water jug with ice and water, Berger leveler, waterproof camera, a rod, measuring tape, and some morning snacks (usually two vegetable lumpia) for my partner and I. The hot sun out shinning bright on our body making us darker than usual while we set our equipment up to start our day. Shoreline monitoring was fun. My partner and I were assigned to a project to monitor the shorelines of the Western beaches running from south to north including the island of Mańagaha which has five sections to it to monitor coastal erosion.

Measuring our land marks and about five to ten feet into the water requires a lot of walking up and down while my partner reads through the tripod and writes data down into our data sheets. You take this process and multiply it by three because we measuring the beginning, middle, and end of each beach which probably starts to build up our muscles by longs walks and carrying our equipment from one place to the other and back. We do these measurements to determine if we are going through coastal erosions and update our beach profiles. Some beaches have shown damages from coastal erosion like Sugar Dock, where the end point is broken into pieces leaving cracks in between the dock making it dangerous for our community to use or Micro beach where the side walk along the right side of the pavilion had collapsed. –Kiana Palacios 

Sea Turtle Monitoring- Dan Kaipat, DLNR Sea Turtle Program Intern 

Green sea turtles are endangered in our region. By working within the DLNR Turtle Program I was able to help conserve and work with turtles to assure them a better chance of survival. My job deals with conducting beach surveys, nest inventory, night tagging, and in-water tagging. Beach surveys are when we patrol beach areas to find turtle tracks and nests or signs of hatchling emergence. When we do nest inventories we count egg shells and sometimes find one or more live hatchlings who have not escaped, which we release immediately. Night tagging involves waiting patiently in the dark for female turtles to come on shore. Depending on the turtle, it can take several hours for a turtle to find good habitat in which to lay her eggs. After a turtle lays her eggs we tag her flippers, measure her shell, put a temperature data logger within the nest, and cover her tracks. In-water tagging is where we hand-capture turtles on the reefs and bring them to shore  where we measure and tag each turtle. These measurements are used to record their size for data comparisons and to see how much they’ve grown the next time they are caught. The tags we insert in each turtle has a unique coded number  which are used to track and gain valuable research data. After all our measurements and tagging are finished, the turtles are then released back into the water. As a Northern Marianas College Natural Resource Management program (NRM) student, this internship means a lot to me. In NRM we learn so much about the environment and endangered species. By working in this internship I was able to participate in different areas relating to our environment. I was able to get exposed to research field work and get hands on training and experience. This internship has opened my mind to many more areas of scientific interest, and has motivated me to continue with environmental studies.

Marine Invertebrate Harvesting-Mallory Muna, DFW Intern 

My name is Mallory Muña and I am a Coral Reef Initiative Summer Intern with the Division of Fish & Wildlife. This summer I am assisting Fish & Wildlife biologists in a research study that aims to identify the potential impacts that new commercial developments and an increased tourism economy has on marine invertebrate species. My responsibilities for this project included writing and administering a human dimensions survey to local residents regarding marine invertebrate harvesting and consumption habits. Ultimately, this research will assist local agencies in establishing a comprehensive list of threatened marine invertebrate species, therefore allowing them to make informed management decisions. –Mallory Muna 

“Let’s Protect What’s Ours” – Tanner Kenty, DCRM Enforcement Intern

Our island displays some of the best sunsets on Earth. They may not always be the same, but they are beautiful every time. What makes them even more fascinating is that when we look out to the sea, we see an unbelievably pristine ecosystem. So whom should we thank? Well, first and foremost, we should be thankful for picking up after ourselves, whether we are at the beach, or at home. Our small effort contributes to such a great cause, which is keeping our coastal resources clean and free. Secondly, we should be grateful to the men and women of the Division of Coastal Resource Management’s Enforcement team. Day in and day out, these guys and gal put so much effort in preventing any hazardous materials, whatever it may be, from damaging our streams, wetlands and ocean.  So let’s help out one another and contact the enforcement team of DCRM @ (670) 588-2926, (670) 664-8300 or (670) 664-8500 to report any activity that you assume may be threatening to our coastal resources. In addition, a Reef Report App is available for you to report violations using your mobile device or computer. Hopefully, our efforts would allow future generations to enjoy the beauty of our island and its sunsets as we do. -Tanner Kenty

2015 CRI Summer Interns’ Conservation Messages

We had a great time this summer with the 2015 Coral Reef Initiative internship participants! This summer14 interns held various positions with DFW, BECQ-CRM, MINA, DLNR, and NOAA learning about the various ways our government and partners work to protect CNMI’s precious natural resources.

Check out this fun video of the CRI intern cohort (and CNMI Micronesia Challenge Young Champion Carey Demapan) during a field trip to the Managaha Marine Conservation Area! How many of these bright young CNMI stars do you know or recognize?

The video was compiled and edited by CRI intern Romana Chong. Original song by Nikkie Ayuyu

(Photo below is a link.)

CRI Interns 2015 Conservation Video


  • Delfin Camacho – worked with DCRM Enforcement, monitoring enforcement and compliance of permitted projects and marine sports activities.
  • Miso Sablan and Andrew Johnson – Conducted reef flat surveys looking for signs of coral disease with the CNMI Marine Monitoring Team based at BECQ.
  • Nikkie Ayuyu and Anathalia David – conducted marine debris education outreach and research, with MINA (Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance – a key partner NGO).
  • Erick Dela Rosa and Max Garcia – worked with the DLNR Sea Turtle team conducting nest surveys and monitoring as well as in-water live capture and tagging of sea turtles.
  • Kallie O’Conner, Jacklyn Garote, Romana Chong – Designed and assisted in implementation of various MPA education and outreach strategies, with the MPA Coordinator based at DFW.
  • Austin Piteg and Mary Fem Urena – worked with the CNMI NOAA field office staff conducting water quality and seagrass monitoring along the length of the Saipan lagoon.
  • Eric Cepeda and Ian Iriarte –  Worked with DFW fisheries department on various fishery biology and tourist –interaction projects.


2014 CRI Interns



The Garden That Can Save Our Ocean

AmberLet’s think about how water travels after a rainstorm.  It rolls down hills, picks up loose dirt and sediment, finds its way across pig farms and streets full of car oil, and then eventually ends up in our ocean.   Would you want to swim in that? Didn’t think so.  Our oceans are a sacred part of our lives, both culturally and economically.  Luckily, there is a way to mitigate this problem that both homeowners and businesses can turn to: rain gardens. Rain gardens are gardens that are specifically placed to help slow down, collect, and filter polluted rainwater.   They are attractive and can even increase biodiversity of your landscape.  Instead of the rainwater going straight into our ocean, water can be collected in rain gardens and given time to filter into the ground, which can benefit the health of our ecosystem. For examples of local rain gardens, check out the rain garden at the CNMI Museum, right along Middle Road. Contact DEQ for more information about rain gardens and how you can install one at your own home or business.



Beach Atlas

DaphneSea level rise, climate change, erosion, and much more may be a problem to our island and this is why we are creating a beach atlas. A beach atlas is very important to have anywhere that has to deal with waters surrounding a location. Saipan’s beach atlas will be a map of Saipan’s shorelines that can be updated annually to show changes in the shorelines. The data we have collected at beaches around Saipan is being compared to how beaches were in the nineties. Managaha in the nineties experienced many changes from sea level rise to parts of the island breaking off, whereas Susupe Beach Park shrunk in size. The purpose of this project is so Saipan residents will know about climate change and sea level rise threats. My coworker and I started working on our beach atlas project at the start of the summer and have made fast progress in collecting information from over 10 beaches on Saipan. The information we gathered from the beaches includes: beach widths, sediment size, weather, tide levels, and signs of accretion, and erosion. “There is potential for the sea level to rise by three feet in the CNMI over the next 75-100 years. Understanding where the problems with natural processes are now will help us identify where problems will worsen in the future,” stated Robbie Greene, mentor and NOAA Coastal Fellow. I’m positive to say that the Saipan beach atlas we are creating will be an annual project because this is something that should and will be worked on yearly.



CNMI Marine Monitoring Team

JuliusThe goal of CNMI’s long-term coral reef monitoring program is to provide the information necessary for the wise management of our precious reef resources. We document how reef communities change over time in response to natural environmental fluctuations as well as those caused by people. Julius Reyes, an intern under the Coral Reef Initiative is working with MMT and is studying variations of algae species and invertebrates at beach sites with submarine groundwater discharge or SGD’s, which are fresh water streams that occur on the shores in our lagoon. I will be comparing sites with SGD to beaches without SGD’s. SGD’s can carry nitrogen in its streams. The ocean has a minimal amount of nitrogen, also known as being nitrogen limited. Algae thrive in ocean water where the nitrogen levels are higher, like estuaries, or on the shore where SGD occurs. Algae populations can detrimentally harm coral reefs by blocking out sunlight essential to the growth of corals. People from all over the world come to Saipan to dive and enjoy the coral reefs, therefore we must do all we can to protect them.



Napoleon (Humphead) Wrasse

Napoleon WrasseOn June 24, Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA) welcomed its Coral Reef Initiative intern, Keena Leon Guerrero. As part of her summer internship, Keena was assigned an exciting project involving the Napoleon Wrasse (also known as the humphead wrasse), a large, majestic fish that can live up to 30 years, grow up to six and a half feet, and weigh up to 400 pounds. It is also one of the few species of fish that willingly associates with humans, making it likeable to divers and tourists worldwide. The humphead wrasse has many more unique characteristics, including the fact that it is one of the only species in the world that is able to eat the crown of thorns starfish- a venomous starfish that damages the coral it feasts on. The overall purpose of Keena’s project is to educate the general public on the importance of the Napoleon Wrasse and explain why we should protect it. This would involve creating outreach material explaining what the Napoleon Wrasse is, what is threatening it, and why it should be protected. To learn more information on the Napoleon Wrasse, visit the website:



Beach Atlas

KyannaThe purpose of a beach atlas is to have a map of Saipan’s shorelines that can be updated annually to show changes. This is important because recorded changes can help predict future changes to Saipan shores which could have potentially negative effects on the people and wildlife. A project such as this is important to the people of the CNMI as a whole, because it affects us all. Before making a beach atlas, data must be gathered by going to each of Saipan’s beaches to take measurements and pictures. Measuring tape is used to record the width of the beach and the grain size of the sand. Pictures of the beaches help scope out indicators of erosion and accretion as well as things that might be affecting the beach. All of this data is gathered together to create the final result, which is the beach atlas.



Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS)

MelanieMany understand the definition of pollution, but do they understand what non-point source pollution really is? Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) is defined as any source of water pollution such as runoff, toxic chemicals such as motor oil, pesticides and fertilizers; this type of pollution greatly affects our land and our sea. For example, during rainfall exposed soil from home gardens or farms gets washed away along with trash and chemicals that are on the ground. All of these eventually find their way into the ocean which endangers the health of our marine life and our coral reefs. Living on an island, we rely on our beaches and coral reefs for food and tourism so it is important for us to care for our natural resources and its inhabitants. Campaigns such as RARE, Think Blue and Our Laolao are designed to educate the public on the importance of our natural resources and how to preserve their health and beauty. My project is to create education and outreach materials designed to help increase knowledge and awareness within the community about NPS. Just remember that what happens on land affects our sea. Protection is key to sustainability so that future generations may enjoy our beautiful island resources as well.



Loan a Box of Knowledge

MonTimes are changing, along with the environment. Coastal Resources Management (CRM) has been developing a loan box, or as we call it, treasure chests. They include all sorts of creative games and activities, ranging from crossword puzzles to animal crafts to fishing games. It is designed to be used as both an educational and entertaining tool for kids. Teachers around the CNMI will be able to rent these boxes to supplement and enhance their teaching plans in a range of subject areas. Boxes are free to rent and can be checked out through CRM. Be part of the movement by educating yourself and others on matters that affect our islands. You can start small in helping the environment just by renting these treasure chests full of knowledge.



Shark Education for Everyone

NemiShark species are decreasing rapidly to about 73 million each year due to shark fining and that is why I am working on educating the public and local department stores/businesses here on Saipan about this issue. This outreach is important for everyone from kids and adults to fishermen and business owners. The purpose of this project is to educate the people of Saipan about the problems we could face with a decreasing shark population and possible effects on the  oceans environment. I am requesting that businesses and store owners eliminate certain products that contain shark ingredients from their shelves and cease future purchasing of these products. This project is important because it supports the Shark Conservation Act 17-27 that was established here in the CNMI. I started working on this project on the 24th of June and I hope to educate the public and share my interest to make a difference in our environment by simply being responsible for our actions in our environment.



Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)

PhilMany people do not quite understand what the role of the fisheries division is, they help the people achieve more when it comes to fishing. One of the major projects to help local fishermen is the fish aggregating device (FAD) project, which will have a great impact on fish production. FAD’s are basically just buoys that float in certain areas around the CNMI. Fish use these buoys as shelter from predators and also to help them navigate around the ocean. It also makes the fishermen focus on a fixed location to fish instead of travelling farther and catching smaller amounts. Some other projects include dissecting and tagging fish. There are two types of fish we dissect, Parrotfish and Kali Kali. The parrotfish samples come from local fish markets and the Kali Kali is caught by DFW employees. The types of fish we tag are Mafute, which we also collect ourselves. We head out at least once every week and are lucky to tag two or more every time because they are hard to catch in the afternoon. We tag and dissect these fish so that we can get an overall production rate annually and also to know the average size being caught by the fishermen. For instance, if the average size being caught every year drops, the fisheries division would recommend not catching a certain fish until it’s at a certain size. Working here has given me a greater insight on biology, sea ecosystems and why we should help preserve it.



Fish Sampling

Parrot FishUnderstanding the main concepts of fish anatomy has really given me a great perspective on what biologist do to obtain samples. Dissecting Parrotfish and Kali Kali were some of the main samplings I had to do. The purpose for dissecting these fishes are to find their maturity and reproduction growth in the CNMI. Not only do we dissect fish, but we also look at their habitats, such as sea grass areas. Our project is to take underwater video footage of sea grass areas while also recording the number of juvenile fish we see along the transect line. From our first transect, we found that certain fish migrate to a specific area, while other fish tend to roam freely to find food. The average size fish recorded was about 2-3 inches long and was found around the sea grass areas. Many of the fish we found were the juvenile fish trevallies. We will be continuing this project and are looking forward to see more fish around the Western side of Saipan. The reasons why we collect data are to provide information to biologist/researchers and others for use in program planning and management. My experiences here have greatly helped me fulfill my expectations on my future career and I look forward learning more about what the fisheries section do.



Don’t Feed Fish

ManagahaThe DFW Enforcement section continues to provide education and outreach to the users at Managaha Marine Protected Area. As much as it may enhance a tourist attraction, feeding fish regularly, can be harmful to the marine ecosystem at Managaha Marine Protected Area (Sanctuary). This can be seen through the fish behavior towards humans. The fish at Managaha are observed to be more aggressive compared to other beaches on the island. One of the most apparent fish behaviors at Managaha Marine Protected area is the swimming towards people in the water. This behavior makes the fish dependent on the tourist feeding them, rather than getting their own food which are algae, plankton and other small fish. Fish provide an important role in the marine ecosystem by reducing algae cover on coral reefs and maintaining a balance in fish population and the marine environment.



Box Jellies

Box JellyHave you ever heard of a “Box Jellyfish”? Have you ever been stung by one? Chances are you haven’t. Still, it’s good to know things about these cubozoan critters, since contact with them tends to leave you in pain. Dr. Angel Yanagihara, a world renowned researcher in the field of Box Jellyfish (Cubozoans) from the University of Hawaii, recently embarked on a trip to Saipan to attempt to find the nearly invisible creatures. She confirmed the presence of Box Jellyfish around Saipan, yet still very little is known about the jellyfish we have here. The Pacific Marine Resources Institute (PMRI) and their Coral Reef Initiative intern, Yoshi Yagi, are working on finding out more about box jellyfish in Saipan.  How prevalent are box jellies in our islands?  Are their population numbers increasing, decreasing, or stable?  How many people have ended up in the Emergency Room because of box jellyfish stings?  Can we predict the next time the jellies will arrive on our shores?  Answering these questions will help safeguard both tourists and residents alike from a painful sting.  In order to further our research PMRI is requesting fishermen, lifeguards, tour guides, and anyone who might have any information on the box jellyfish to assist us. Please contact 233-7333 for more information or to schedule an interview.



CNMI Making a Difference in Sea Turtle Conservation

ZabrinaSea turtles have been around for millions of years and they’ve played a big role in maintaining and contributing in a variety ways to the oceans ecosystems. These creatures are becoming endangered and their numbers are dropping fast due to many anthropogenic or human related impacts. Their main threats are accidental capture or by-catch, coastal developments, illegal harvest, and global warming. The CNMI’s DLNR Division of Fish and Wildlife Sea Turtle Program (STP) have taken a dive in to the pacific seas to gain more information on the sea turtles that inhabit the CNMI waters. The goals of the STP are to protect, monitor and collect important data and information on these ancient creatures and share what is gained with the community and the rest of the world. Every little effort counts when dealing with conservation of the planets wildlife and natural resources. The CNMI is but a tiny spec on the globe; with strong efforts the STP is making a difference in keeping our coral reefs healthy and helping to regain sea turtle population on our side of the earth.