Monday, July 15, 2024

Biologist wins first Outstanding Young Scientist award for Silliman university

By Samantha L. Colinco

A RESEARCHER AT the Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management (SUAKCREM) was named Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) by the country’s highest recognition body on science and technology.
Dr. Rene Abesamis, also an assistant professor at the SU Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences, bagged the university’s first OYS title given every year by the National Academy of Science and Technology. The award is given to 12 Filipino scientists under 40 years old who have made significant contributions to science and technology through their research as shown in the quality and impact of their published works. “I hope it inspires others to see that anything is possible. It’s a big deal nationally, but the bigger picture is you really have to contribute knowledge wherever you are,” the 37-year-old said. Abesamis’s research on the spillover of fish from Apo Island Marine Reserve, which garnered 85 citations, is one of his highly cited papers by many authors also involved with various coral reef studies. Currently, he is working on the spatial scale of fish larval dispersals or the distance of drifting of fish eggs and larvae beyond the marine reserve. Abesamis graduated with a Biology degree at the University of the Philippines – Diliman and finished his masters and doctoral studies at James Cook University in Australia. He became associated with SU while working under Dr. Angel Alcala during his post-graduate work in Dumaguete. “I like the fact that I’m already associated with this university when I received the award because Silliman has an important part in making those contributions powerful. So it’s a way of thanking the university as well,” he said. Born and raised in Manila, Abesamis’s earliest exposure to the marine environment was snorkeling as a young boy in Pangasinan and Quezon during summer vacations. But it was during his first job as a research assistant studying coral reefs off the Spratly Islands that he became deeply interested in marine science. He said that while marine biologists have specialized training to conduct experiments, there are local fishermen and their skills from decades of experience that make their jobs as scientists easier. “Some of the guys I work with who are from Bantayan, are fish whisperers. One of them is Socorro. What we do is we go underwater with our scuba tanks, we lay a net and we look for a fish. And he goes out to look for these fish. And you see him coming  back with two fish in front of him, slowly herding them towards the net.

“It’s almost like magic. There are hundreds of fish in the reef and we’re
looking for this particular one. He has a sense. And that knowledge
and skill is so invaluable. Even my colleagues from abroad, whenever I
tell them that’s how he does it, they scratch their heads,” he said.

Abesamis added that aside from the fun they have while “chasing fish
underwater” and “diving at exotic waters,” being a marine biologist is
interesting because their studies can affect the way people manage marine
resources. Something, he said, that is bigger than any award in the future.
Abesamis said:

One of the things I realize while out on the field is that
whatever you do or the things that you find out may eventually be useful
to somebody. As a scientist, if you do something right and it becomes
useful, you’re happy.”
With reports from


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