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Current Lab Members

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Cecilia Conaco, PhD

Professor

Cecilia is fascinated by neuronal development and early animal evolution. She is also interested in the regulatory networks that control gene expression dynamics underlying the ability of many marine organisms to rapidly respond and adapt to their environment.

  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara (2012)

  • PhD Molecular and Cellular Biology, Stony Brook University, New York (2007)

Email: cconaco@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Niño Dan Posadas

University research associate and graduate student

Niño is interested in understanding the responses of corals, sponges, and their associated microbial assemblages to anthropogenic stressors. He is currently investigating the impacts of coastal acidification on the stress response and skeletogenesis of calcareous sponges.

  • BS Fisheries, University of the Philippines Visayas (2016)

Email: ngposadas@up.edu.ph

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John Bennedick Quijano

Student researcher

JB would like to understand how organisms respond to the changes in the environment. Currently, he is studying the effects of ocean warming on reef-building corals and the microscopic algal communities (Symbiodiniaceae) associated with them.

  • Project: ACIAR Coral Restoration (2021-present)

  • BS Biology, University of the Philippines Baguio (2017)

Email: jbquijano@up.edu.ph

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Gardson Quimado

Research Assistant

Gardson is interested in how marine organisms react to ocean warming. He is currently working on selective breeding of thermotolerant corals and food supplementation for coral larvae to enhance survival and settlement.

  • Project: ACIAR Coral Restoration (2023-present)

  • BS in Marine Biology, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (2023)

Email: gquimado@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Sibyl Hanedzo Alatraca

Research Assistant

Sibyl is broadly interested in the effects of various environmental stressors on cnidarians and the mechanisms underlying the response of coral larvae to settlement cues, such as acoustic cues.

  • Project: ACIAR Coral Restoration (2024-present)

  • BS Biology, University of the Philippines Cebu (2022)

Email: sdalatraca@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Marielle Anne Carungay

Graduate student and research associate

Marielle is interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying the adaptative responses of macroinvertebrates to varying environmental conditions. She also aims to investigate the transcriptome profiles of mesophotic corals and sponges and their shallow-water counterparts to provide insights into the biology of organisms distributed along a depth gradient.

  • Project: DOST-PCAARRD Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Program (2022-2025)

  • BS Marine Biology, Visayas State University (2022)

Email: mcarungay@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Gabriella Maala

Graduate student and research associate

Gab is interested in the molecular evolution of marine organisms, their gene expression under varying environmental conditions, and the potential of assisted evolution as a  novel approach to marine conservation. Currently, she is exploring gene family expansions and artificial hybridization in giant clams.

  • Project: DOST-PCAARRD Giant Clam Program (2018-2021); Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Program (2022-2025)

  • BS Biology, University of the Philippines Los Baños (2019)

Email: glmaala@up.edu.ph

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Vanessa Diamante

Graduate student and DOST CIP Fellow

Van is interested in learning more about the sponge holobiont system, particularly how the host and its symbionts contribute to the holobiont stress response and adaptive capacity.

 

  • BS Biology, University of Southeastern Philippines (2012)

  • MS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of the Philippines Los Baños (2016)

Email: vdiamante@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Kelly Rome Publico

Research associate and graduate student

Kelly is interested in understanding the molecular responses of marine invertebrates to environmental stress. He is currently studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the responses of corals to artificial light at night. He aims to gain insights on how this will impact aspects of coral biology, such as reproduction.

  • Project: CORDAP Developing transgenic corals as a novel technology for reef restoration (2024)

  • BS Biology, University of the Philippines Manila (2019)

Email: kpublico@msi.upd.edu.ph

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Michael Angelou Nada

Graduate student

Mike is interested in exploring the diversity and functional roles of microbial symbionts in sponges. He aims to better understand how sponge-symbiont interactions influence host adaptation and processes in the marine environment.

  • Project: DOST-PCAARRD Coastal Acidification Program (2018-2021); UPGRADE-CIA (2021)

  • BS Biology, Southern Luzon State University (2012)

Email: mlnada@up.edu.ph

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Hazell Valencia

Graduate student

Hazell is interested in investigating the influence of geography on the microbial community of marine sponges. She also aims to understand the contribution of other factors to variability in sponge microbiomes.

  • BS Biology, University of the East (2017)

Email: hbvalencia@up.edu.ph

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Vic Lorence Madariaga

Graduate student

VL is broadly interested in the complexities of marine organisms, how they adapt to their environments, and how they respond to changes. Currently, he wants to investigate the structure of microbial communities in reef-building corals to understand how they contribute to holobiont resilience.

  • BS Biology, University of the Philippines Baguio (2022)

Email: vbmadariaga@up.edu.ph

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Marichelle Barolo

Graduate student

March is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the acclimatization and adaptation of scleractinian corals in different environments. Currently, she wants to explore the gene expression responses of reciprocally translocated corals at shallow or mesophotic depths to investigate their potential capacity to tolerate the gradient of depth-associated environmental conditions.

  • BS Marine Biology, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (2022)

Email: mgbarolo@up.edu.ph

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Aubrey Joy Tejada

Graduate student

Aubrey is interested in exploring the bacterial microbiome of giant clams using molecular approaches. She aims to reveal functional bacterial symbionts that may have a significant role in immune response, nutrition, and disease resistance of giant clams.

  • BS Fisheries, University of the Philippines Visayas (2017)

Email: aptejada@up.edu.ph

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Adelyn Escobar

Graduate student

Ely is interested in exploring different techniques to help corals survive and adapt to the changing environment. She aims to explore the potential of microbiome transplantation in conferring increased thermotolerance to corals, as well as develop feeding methods to enhance and support growth and survival of transplanted corals onto reefs to scale up restoration efforts.

  • Supported by: ACIAR Coral Restoration (2021-2022)

  • BS Biology, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (2019)

Email: asescobar@up.edu.ph

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Francis Tagnong

Graduate student

Francis is intrigued by the adaptive potential of marine invertebrates, particularly how genes are differentially regulated in response to varying environmental conditions. He is currently investigating how depth-generalist corals and sponges and their associated symbiont communities adapt to changes in depth.

  • Supported by: DOST-PCAARRD Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems Program (2022-2024)

  • BS Fisheries, University of the Philippines Visayas (2022)

Email: ftagnong@msi.upd.edu.ph

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