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Diver int he Reef
Diver int he Reef

Isabela Cunio

As a natural-born fearless, determined, passionate worker,  I follow the constant perusal of knowledge and self-growth through tackling challenging experiences and expanding diverse relationships. As I continue to grow my unique skill set, I am confident in my ability to approach old and new problems with an open mind and motivated future plan. Read about my background to learn more about me and my future plans, and access the About page for further inquiries.

Education & Professional Experience

Roles & Academic Institutions

December 2022 - Present

Field Technician - Sociedad Ambiente Marino

I work as a field technician and data analyst for the nonprofit Sociedad Ambiente Marino (SAM) in Culebra, Puerto Rico. I perform tasks including coral fragmentation and transplantation, coral farm construction and maintenance, coral census and reef maintenance, demographic and reef cover photography in CPCe, as well as practice practical boat and gear handy skills. Additionally, I have strengthened my team working skills and fearlessness through approaching new problems with the groups best interest in mind. 

August 2022 - Expected December 2024

Master - University AGM

At the University of Ana G Mendez, Gurabo campus, I am completing my Master's degree in Environmental Sciences with specialization in Environmental Analysis. I am conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Alex Mercado Molina entitled Lower growth rates and higher susceptibility to bleaching in the coral Acropora cervicornis linked to zones of high wave energy. Field work and data analysis are preformed, including PVC trap creation and collection for water column sedimentation and bedload sedimentation; use of RBR and HOBO sensors for wave, temperature, light, dissolved oxygen information; public resource data collection from CARICOOS for salinity; demographic photograph analysis on CPCe; data analysis on R studio. Main skills include leadership and problem solving as the director of field trips dedicated to my project.
 

August 2018 - May 2022

Bachelor - Colgate University 

I completed my Bachlor's degree at Colgate University in Biology and Global, Environmental, and Public Health. With Dr. Bineyam Taye of Colgate University, I conducted and presented research entitled Effect of mass deworming in risk of atopy and allergic disorders among school-aged children, central Ethiopia. Comparative cross-sectional study. at Stanford Global Health Research Symposium 2021 and Consortium of Universities for Global Health Symposium 2021. Main skills aquired include scientific writing skills, data analysis on SPSS, confidence presenting at professional conferences. My thesis research titled Effects of human-animal interference on gastrointestinal bacterial microbiome: Comparative cross-sectional study of human-canine owner-pet pairs. built my skills in DNA extraction and grant proposal writing.

P7138968.ORF

Current Research

May 2023 - August 2024

Lower growth rates and higher susceptibility to bleaching in the coral Acropora cervicornis linked to zones of high wave energy.

The biologically diverse coral reef systems are declining up to 80% globally. In the age of the climate crisis, corals are exposed to altered physical, chemical, and biological systems within their ecosystems. Various studies suggest adverse effects of the climate crisis on coral resilience, yet the influential variables and cumulative impacts remain undocumented. This study aims to address fundamental questions concerning variations in coral growth and bleaching patterns across different reef sites, investigating potential correlations with environmental parameters and original coral transplant size class. We transplanted 300 endangered keystone Acropora Cervicornis, a coral often utilized in restoration efforts, between three distinct reef sites on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico. Data for water column sedimentation, bedload sedimentation, water temperature, water pH, dissolved oxygen, light, and wave energy were gathered monthly over the course of a year. Initial findings reveal a statistically significant difference in sedimentation, wave energy, and predation levels between the three reef sites. These environmental variations appear to influence growth rates and bleaching susceptibility of A. cervicornis. Wave energy stands out as the prominent environmental driver, evidenced by the site with the slowest growth rate experiencing the highest incidence of bleaching. Our study reveals the overriding effects of wave energy on coral susceptibility, likely due to higher mechanical stress and physical damage, emphasizing the importance of considering wave movement in reef site decisions. Understanding the effect of unique environmental conditions on A. cervicornis transplants is essential in devising effective conservation and management plans tailored to increase transplant resilience. Pre-assessment of environmental conditions will allow increased transplant survival, while site-specific management plans further protect transplants from their respective reef threats. Thus, our study emphasizes the complex response of corals to climate alterations, while providing practical guidance for intentional conservation practices through sustainable restoration of coral reef ecosystems.

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