Our Arrival in Guam and My First Look at the Island’s Marine Species

by Addie Rowe

Addie Rowe is introduced to a Brown Tree Snake by Guam Wildlife Biologist Seamus Ehrhard. Photo by Jim Haw.

After hours of travel by boat, bus, and airplane from Catalina Island to Guam, on May 22 we finally reached our first destination that all of our scientific dive training had led to. We were welcomed to the tropical island with a picturesque sunset and a warm, humid evening. As I peered out of the van window on the ride to the Guam Hilton, I noticed familiar sights of a McDonald’s restaurant and a Home Depot, but they soon became overshadowed by the beautiful greenery, plumeria trees, and hibiscus plants. The next welcome scenery was the clear, blue ocean, in which I took my first steps the following day.

After a morning of studying, viewing, and in some cases, holding some of Guam’s wildlife on May 23, the rest of my first full day on the island included snorkeling in a shallow but thriving reef. I waded through the calm, warm water in my fins and snorkel with a tropical rain falling around me. For the first time since landing in Guam, I surprisingly felt a chill in the air, and flashbacks of Catalina’s cool 7 a.m. dock each morning for my scientific diver certification swim test.

Blue sea star between two of the transect tapes on one of the dives in Guam. Photo by Jim Haw.

However, when I finally ducked into the crystal clear water, I discovered the immediately soothing warmth of Guam’s portion of the Pacific. The marine life was unlike many of Catalina’s Southern California species, and my marine vocabulary has since made a permanent change for the remainder of the trip. I won’t be experiencing the entwining blades of giant kelp any longer, nor will I encounter the electric orange garibaldi (although it would not stand out as shockingly in the vivid colors of Guam’s reef). And finally, I much prefer the tropical, 85-degree Fahrenheit western Pacific Ocean water to Catalina’s turbid, 60-degree water. In this warm water, I discovered the first of many bright blue sea stars, convict tangs, lion fish, and of course, corals. Although Catalina’s Wrigley Institute will be missed, I definitely look forward to the unique, exciting dive opportunities I’ll be experiencing for the rest of my time in Guam.

Addie Rowe is a junior studying environmental studies for a Bachelor of Science in USC Dornsife.

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