Filipino Marine Scientist Receives L’Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship Grant

Dr. Charissa Marcaida Ferrera, who studies the impact of nitrogen and phosphorous contamination on water bodies, received the equivalent of US$7,600 to support her research.

AsianScientist (Jun. 6, 2018) – The L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO have awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science (FWIS) National Fellowship in the Philippines to a marine scientist. Dr. Charissa Marcaida Ferrera, a researcher at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), is the 2018 FWIS National Fellow. She has received 400,000 pesos (~US$7,600) for her choice of research activities.

The FWIS National Fellowship seeks to recognize outstanding women researchers in the country who have contributed to scientific progress and society. Ferrera is the fifth scientist in the Philippines to be awarded the FWIS National Fellowship since the program began in the country in 2011.

Ferrera has been working as a researcher at the UP MSI since 2012. Her research interests lie in understanding the water quality in local communities, particularly in Bolinao and Anda in the province of Pangasinan, which is about five hours away from the Philippine capital, Manila. She is particularly interested in assessing the amount of phosphorus present in the water in mariculture-impacted tropical coastal areas in Bolinao and Anda.

“Water in Bolinao has more phosphorus than nitrogen because the excess fish feeds end up in water columns and sediments. When these decompose, they give off phosphorus, contaminating the water in the area,” Ferrera told Asian Scientist Magazine.

She explained that this is especially prevalent during the dry season lasting from March-May. However, during the rainy season, nitrogen contamination becomes a problem.

“Once the rainy season starts, the runoff into rivers contains more nitrogen. Phytoplanktons which were deprived of nitrogen during the dry season thrive during this period, resulting in harmful algal blooms or what is known as a red tide. When the organic matter from the red tide decomposes, the oxygen level of the water is depleted, which causes the fish to die,” she explained.

Ferrera intends to use part of the FWIS grant to produce science communication materials for the local government and the communities in Bolinao.

“I also want to expand my research into studying oxygen isotopes in the sediments to understand what other forms of phosphorus are present in them,” said Ferrera.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shai Panela.
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Shai Panela is an award-winning freelance science journalist based in the Philippines. She was part of the Asian Science Journalism fellowship program of the World Federation of Science Journalists in 2013 and covers stories in science, health, technology and the environment.

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