In a nutshell...

Growing up by the bay, I have always had a strong connection with nature. This connection has helped develop my curiosity and interest in biological sciences, which is why I took a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, where I investigated the response of the sandfish Holothuria scabra population to lunar phases. This early experience piqued my interest in research, especially on how species are distributed across time and space. I am generally most interested in how biodiversity arises, where did they come from, and the mechanisms behind this process. 

After graduating from college in 2015 and in the hope of gaining research experience, I worked as the research assistant for Dr. Kim Hill (Arizona State University-Tempe) in his coastal foraging models project in southern Mindanao, the Philippines. I conducted ethnographic fieldwork and gathered data on foraging return rates to understand the economic productivity, resource flows, and life history of sea gypsy communities in Sarangani Bay. More than the concepts I learned from Dr. Hill, field anthropology has trained me to be a critical, clear-thinking, and detail-oriented researcher. I learned to appreciate the hard work and perseverance involved in gathering empirical field data to answer the questions that motivate scientists to do science. This appreciation inspired me to pursue a Master’s degree in Wildlife Studies at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) for my professional growth. 

At the UPLB, I worked with Dr. Leticia Afuang and have taken her interest in herpetology. Dr. Afuang gave me independence in designing my research project and writing grant proposals, which eventually received funding from The Rufford Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development—my first research grants! This training solidified my interest in doing herpetology work, which eventually marked the start of my ongoing passion project on the Biodiversity of the Mt. Busa Key Biodiversity Areaa largely understudied yet high conservation priority KBA in my home region. Our works were instrumental in the ongoing process to fully establish the KBA as a protected area, which I have helped facilitate as the Ecosystems Management Specialist for the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources - South Cotabato (2020-2022) (and endeavor to continue through my science as a Ph.D. student). I highly value the importance of science communication in the biodiversity conservation process, so I have actively engaged with diverse stakeholders in the past to help narrow the gap between science and policy/practice. These are exemplified by my diverse experiences doing public engagement and policy advocacy from southern Mindanao to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity

After working for the DENR, and with the pandemic starting to subside, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas to further develop my knowledge about biodiversity science and skills as a research scientist. But why KU? The generations of scholarly works produced by the KU EEB have influenced the way I view and appreciate Philippine biodiversity. Thus, KU’s EEB program resonates with me on both personal and professional levels. I share EEB’s research interest in understanding the evolutionary processes of diversification in island archipelagos, including the Philippines. Dr. Rafe Brown, my present adviser, and his collaborators have done impressive work elucidating the evolutionary history of Philippine vertebrates, especially amphibians and reptiles—so there is no other way to go if you want to study Philippine herpetofauna but at KU's Herpetology Division!

I am currently in my first year at KU EEB. The prospect of spending the next five or six years in the US for graduate school both scares and excites me: scared because starting a Ph.D. was a huge decision; excited because I can do so much more, with my diverse background, to advance biodiversity conservation in my country. I look forward to generating new knowledge about Philippine biodiversity and using it to inform concrete conservation outcomes. 


Ongoing       PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

                             Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA


2020           MSc, Wildlife Studies (minor in Zoology)

                               Institute of Biological Sciences, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna, PH

 Thesis: Amphibians and Reptiles in Mt. Busa, Sarangani, Philippines: Species Distributions in a Tropical Forest Gradient


2016                   Environment and Natural Resources Management (15 graduate credits)

                University of the Philippines Open University, Los Baños, Laguna, PH


2015                   BSc, Marine Biology (Cum laude)

                               Mindanao State University, General Santos City, PH


Ecosystems Management Specialist II (2020 – 2022)

Protected Area Management Office - Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve/Protected Landscape (DENR)

Research Assistant - Philippines (2015 – 2017)

Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University – Tempe 

Project: Coastal Foraging Models – Project 4 of Evolutionary Foundations of Human Uniqueness; Supervisor: Kim Hill, Ph.D.