Else Demeulenaere, is an associate director of the Center for Island Sustainability and the main botanist in the Guam Restoration of Watersheds initiative—a project that is restoring badland areas and preventing sedimentation from harming the coral reefs in Guam’s waters.
In 2013, she started working at the College for natural and applied sciences where she did forest inventory work and was a coordinator of the Guam plant extinction prevention program.
She then moved to CIS in the beginning of 2016 as the associate director for natural resources.
“It’s not just resources. It’s people, it’s the culture.” Demeulenaere said “I think it’s important that on Guam we be more self-sustainable and produce our own food.”
As a botanist, Demeulenaere’s main focus is promoting endemic plants on Guam which is a vital aspect of the GROW initiative. She did forest work in Palau, Rota and Yap.
In the GROW project, she helps to distinguish which species work well in restoring badlands and when to harvest these species.
“You need to know when and how to collect seeds,” Demeulenaere said. Currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Alaska Faitbanks in collaboration with UOG, she is involved in several restoration projects and research that aim to preserve limestone environments.
When she was 15 years old, she became a vegetarian and aspired to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and has been writing children’s stories since she was 16. She got involved in organizations became active in advocating sustainability and got involved in organizations such as the Environmental Youth Nature Conservation in Belgium and the Clean Clothing Campaign.
Demeulenaere was born and raised in Flanders, Belgium and moved to Guam in 2006 with her husband and two-month-old son. Her husband was hired as a professor at the Marine Lab. She had earned her a master’s degree in Biology and had six years of work experience at the University and Nature Conservation in Belgium.
Despite the move to a new place and starting up a family she could not keep away from her passions.
Within the same year of moving to Guam, Demeulenaere started a community garden project in her backyard. Children would come with their parents and plant all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
“I organized weekly meetings and gatherings at my house.” Demeulenaere said. “I always did a story with puppets and everything and taught the kids about natural resources and culture.”