austin shelton 

holds a Ph.D. in Zoology with a specialization in Marine Biology from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa.


 Austin coordinates The Humåtak Project 

The Humåtak Project is a community initiative dedicated to reviving Guam's watersheds, coral reefs, and near-shore fisheries.


Coral reefs are important coastal ecosystems for tropical islands and their societies.  They provide immense ecological, economic, and cultural benefits.

 Unfortunately global stressors such as climate change and sea level rise threaten these ecosystems.  In order to build resilience against these stressors, island communities must address local stressors impacting these ecosystems

The project addresses a major local environmental stressor, accelerated erosion, which is caused by poor land-use practices.  Erosion is associated with the loss of native forests and the resulting sedimentation on coral reefs, which smothers and kills corals and destroys essential fish habitat.



Community groups contribute hundreds of volunteer hours each year to restore the degraded environment.  Tree seedlings are planted to reforest bare-soil areas, and sediment filter socks are installed along eroding hillsides. 

Observations of restoration plots indicate that vegetation is greatly increasing and hillside slumping is decreasing. Soil analysis 21 months after restoration treatments indicates soil accumulation is greater around trees and sediment filter socks than at reference plots. Water quality and coral data are being collected to evaluate the effectiveness of and further refine erosion control measures.

Time-series photos of a Humåtak Project restoration plot. An eroding hillside was identified.  Sediment filter socks were installed and tree seedlngs were planted to slow down water velocity and trap sediment to prevent it from reaching coral reefs in the ocean below.  Less than 1-year later, exposed soil was covered with new vegetation.   

The Humåtak Project also builds awareness of environmental issues among community members through educational outreach events and social media.  Findings of this research will be used to promote effective watershed restoration practices, as well as improved mitigation strategies intended to offset adverse impacts to aquatic resources.