SIL recognizes Science faculty member Vicera for research on bacteria in Lake Taal copepods

The International Society of Limnology (SIL – Societas Internationalis Limnologiae) recognized the research of Graduate School alumna and College of Science faculty member Carmela Vannette B. Vicera in the January 2021 issue of SILnews. Vicera completed her study on bacteria associated with copepods through the SIL’s Tonolli Memorial Fund (TMF) for which she applied and was chosen in 2016 during her graduate studies under the UST GS Master of Science in Microbiology program.

While working on her copepod samples with the help of the Zooplankton Ecology, Systematics, and Limnology (ZESL) research group of College of Science Dean Dr. Rey Donne S. Papa, she found out about SIL and the TMF and was encouraged to apply.  This opportunity gave Vicera a chance to obtain additional funding and to share what post-graduate students like her have gained interest in while studying limnology in the country.

Vicera’s research, conducted under the tutelage and supervision of her adviser, Assoc. Prof. Mary Ann G. Santos, Ph.D., looked into the different bacteria found in copepods.

According to the report, bacteria (genus Aeromonas) found in freshwater copepods in Lake Taal “are capable of degrading chitin using both organic and inorganic carbon source and in a wide range of pH and temperature, suggesting that the different species of this group of bacteria easily adapt to the environmental changes in the lake, allowing them to produce chitin-degrading enzymes even under unfavorable conditions.”

The biodegradation of chitin, an insoluble marine waste product, is vital to the nutrient cycling in lakes. In ecosystems like Lake Taal, most chitin is derived from crustaceans such as copepods.

TMF provided the additional funding needed to finish the study, said Vicera in a grant experience video promoted by SIL in November 2020. She added that this was the first study to be conducted on zooplankton’s associated bacteria in Lake Taal, so she hopes that her initial study will lead to more limnological research in similar sites across the country.

Vicera, who obtained her Master of Science and Bachelor of Science in Microbiology degrees from UST, added that she is thankful for the Tonolli Fund because “It gave me the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience where I can share what I’ve done, especially to those researchers who are conducting similar studies.”

The Tonolli Memorial Fund of SIL was created in 1985 through a bequest from Vittorio and Livia Tonolli, well-known limnologists at the Istituto Italiano di Idrobiologia in Pallanza, Italy.

The purpose of the fund is to provide assistance to young limnologists in developing countries and to encourage them to join SIL. In recent years, the awards committee for the Tonolli Fund has used the fund primarily for supporting students who are working toward post-graduate degrees (M.Sc., Ph.D.) in the field of limnology. Awards from the Tonolli Fund are generally $1000 to $1,500 for one year.

Vicera is currently a part-time lecturer at the UST College of Science teaching various subjects in Microbiology. She was chosen by the American Society for Microbiology to be a Young Ambassador of Science for the Philippines until 2022.

SIL is the oldest and only international society entirely devoted to inland waters, with over 1250 members from 70 countries. It will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2022.

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