Junior University of Guam biology major Jerilyn Calaor is spending this summer conducting research at Harvard University’s Forest Summer Research in Ecology Program.
The 11-week program selects top students from across the nation, offering opportunity for participants to engage in mentored, paid, independent research focused on the effects of natural and human disturbances on forest ecosystems.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Calaor said. “I mean, to be honest, when I turned in the application, [I thought] it was a long shot because it’s Harvard. But, after going through the interview process and finally getting accepted, I was really happy with the outcome.”
Not a stranger to building her résumé during school breaks, Calaor participated last year in the Native American Pacific Islander Research Experience program in the jungles of Costa Rica.
“I really liked that experience, because I want to pursue a career in ecology, and felt NAPIRE met my interests,” she said. “In school, the hot topics were conservation and sustainability. I knew I wanted a career in environmental science and, seeing the cool things the professors get to do, I wanted to do ecology too.”
While at Harvard, Calaor is focusing on cow grazing and its effect on invasion dynamics at the university’s farm.
“This project is one that I think is really relevant for Guam, particularly because we have issues with feral ungulate populations,” she said.
Following her acceptance into the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program, Calaor was surprised to find another opportunity waiting for her.
Based solely on her personal statement and résumé submitted in her application, Harvard nominated Calaor to a fellowship run by the Ecological Society of America.
The prestigious Strategies for Ecology, Education, Diversity and Sustainability Fellowship helps promote diversity and inspire future ecologists, said associate professor of Biology Dr. Frank Camacho. Although having filled all six slots for the fellowship, the ESA made an exception and invited Calaor to be their seventh fellow.
“It’s very exciting for me,” she said. “The best part of it all is being able to represent UOG. Being a student at UOG has given me so many opportunities.”
Calaor is expected to continue conducting research throughout the fall semester and present the abstract of her findings at the ESA national conference in New Orleans next August. (UOG)