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2022 Seed Fund Recipient Final Project Updates

A little over two years ago, Nanushka Collazo, Omar Zayas, Ivanis Sanchez, and Daniel Toledo embarked on their research journeys as Isla Mar's 2022 Seed Fund recipients. We reached out to them one last time for a final update on their work and the steps that follow.


Nanushka Collazo, who has spent the past two years studying microbial communities in Puerto Rico's bioluminescent bays, is happy to report that her findings support her hypothesis that the size of the bay's channels influences the distribution of microbial communities, ultimately demonstrating a significant difference between both of the studied Bioluminescent Bays. Among the difficulties encountered in the process, staying organized and managing time effectively presented its challenges as Nanushka navigated the final analyses of her research and her other responsibilities as a graduate student.

"The Isla Mar seed fund not only provided us with financial support, but also helped us expand our research, significantly deepening our study and effectively advancing towards our goals."

In his research, Omar Zayas explored the genetic connections between octopuses in Puerto Rico. As he now organizes and compiles data in preparation to defend his thesis, Omar recalls the challenges he overcame over the past several years; among them was having to analyze the extensive amount of data all over again after losing it in a computer crash. The next step in Omar's research includes publishing his findings in a scientific journal and sharing the results from this effort with our community.

"Estoy complacido y agradecido con la subvención de Isla Mar en este trabajo y en un futuro veo posibilidad de colaborar en los trabajos que realizan en el área de las pesquerías."

Ivanis Sánchez, who has spent the past two years studying the micro-environment of sea turtle nesting sites and analyzing the variables influencing the reproduction success rates, finds herself in the process of transforming the numerical values from her research into meaningful information. The primary challenge faced was maintaining safety during the nighttime surveys on the beach. Though no major incidents occurred, having to remain alert of her surroundings interfered with the tasks at hand. Looking forward, Ivanis hopes to publish her findings through a scientific paper.

"The support from Isla Mar has been instrumental in making my project a reality, and I am sincerely grateful for being selected as one of the recipients."

In his research, Daniel Toledo chose to work with tunicates—commonly known as sea squirts—because of their relation to human beings and their role in the development of modern treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer. Daniel reports that his team has since expanded their collection from 28 to 42 tunicate species, which will provide a broader scope for genetic diversity analysis. While amplifying DNA from the collected tunicate samples, Daniel and his team encountered technical challenges with this procedure and the subsequent molecular processes. These efforts are ongoing, and Daniel is committed to resolving these technical obstacles to advance genetic analyses. In the coming weeks, Daniel will be making a final field trip to collect additional samples and will be attending the 2024 Ascidian Taxonomy Workshop, where he hopes to grasp advanced methodologies crucial to his research.

"I have a strong desire to collaborate on future projects, the seed fund's support has not only enabled the current research but also inspired further scientific inquiry."


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