An important program developed by PI-CASC at the University of Guam is the GIS@Guam center for climate science GIS investigations, designed to promote outreach to GIS users throughout the US Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) by bringing GIS training, new technology, and supporting data to the western Pacific.
The University of Guam (UOG) aims to be the geospatial hub for Micronesia by supporting the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in research and application development at UOG, the Guam Community College, and other interested community colleges in Micronesia, and by providing regular trainings and hosting geospatial data with a special focus on building resilience to climate change.
Thus, PI-CASC collaborated with the Geography Department at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at UOG and with the Center of Island Sustainability (CIS) to develop a robust GIS academic program with a strong, Micronesia-focused curriculum. Concurrently, partnering with EPSCoR, both by a grant through NASA EPSCoR Research Infrastructure and Development and via connections with UOG’s NSF-EPSCoR award, cyberinfrastructure improvements were made possible through GIS@Guam by expanding bandwidth, connectivity, and data transfer capacity to connect UOG with USAPI and mainland US research communities.
Building GIS-User Capacity
Availability of sound data and skilled personnel can improve spatial analysis for natural resource agencies, allowing them to better balance economic, social, and environmental concerns of the current populations with sustainability issues of future generations. Staff from PI-CASC at UOG led this program and expanded it through technical assistance, data, and other resources for GIS users in the natural resource management community and, somewhat uniquely, the business community.
To increase local capacity, GIS@Guam partnered the Water & Environmental Research Institute (WERI) at UOG to develop a GIS curriculum with an emphasis on Micronesian challenges. The first undergraduate GIS course at UOG was offered in the 2016 summer session, and the program hopes soon to offer both undergraduate minor and major degrees. At the graduate level, existing GIS courses were restructured, and a GIS Bootcamp was offered for graduate students during the spring of 2016.
Building Technical Capacity
Increasing technical capacity should ideally increase the resiliency of small islands to the impacts of climate change. True to this ideal, GIS@Guam program has worked to build technical capacity by providing regular trainings, hosting geospatial data, and providing technical assistance at UOG and at interested community colleges across Micronesia. Grants and connections through NASA and NSF EPSCoR awards made available NASA-supported imagery and technology for highly sophisticated analyses, as well as methodologies to advance and support climate change research and data monitoring in the region.
For example, such improvements helped real-time data monitoring efforts of Guam’s coral reefs to evaluate climate change impacts and communicate these data to island stakeholders for their management needs. Coordination with other agencies, such as USGS EROS, promoted research toward long-term monitoring of sea level change by establishing ground controls and shoreline data clouds.
GIS@Guam leveraged funding through a NOAA CZM grant to purchase GIS equipment for UOG researchers to borrow. To reach those with no access to computers, GIS@Guam created a mobile GIS laboratory, suitable for sharing at trainings throughout UOG and the region, by using extra funding from UOG Sea Grant Program to purchase five laptop computers. GIS@Guam continues to provide technical support to the university community and partners throughout the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI).
Select Outcomes to Date
- GIS@Guam conducted a regional survey of GIS users and worked with researchers and stakeholders to build useful products, such as three-dimensional maps of critical coral reef habitats and the basis of the geospatial framework for the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands.
- With graduate and undergraduate student efforts, GIS@Guam has assembled several databases and inventories as usable resources for the region including an assemblage of known climate science projects occurring in Micronesia, climate science literature pertinent to the region, and an inventory of all the paper maps from the Guam Coastal Management Program.
- GIS@Guam has organized several avenues for outreach, including geospatial pre-CIS Conference workshops to share knowledge and identify geospatial data and training needs in the region.