Written by Eriza C. Asilo, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services
Dr. Wilfred John E. Santiañez, 2019 PCAARRD Balik Scientist Awardee, is one of the youngest seaweed taxonomists in the Philippines.
A Balik Scientist, Dr. Wilfred John E. Santiañez of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), authored a new brown seaweed genus, Manzaea, from the tropical western Pacific and discovered a new brown seaweed species, Asterocladon ednae from Camotes Islands in Cebu.
Dr. Santiañez currently holds the record in having the most number of new seaweed genera described/named by a Filipino scientist.
The new species, Asterocladon ednae, is characterized by chloroplasts arranged in a star-like manner and is also the first report of the occurrence of the genus Asterocladon in Philippine waters. It is named after Dr. Edna T. Ganzon-Fortes, Filipino seaweed taxonomist, ecophysiologist, and retired professor at UP-MSI, to honor her contributions to the understanding of the Philippine seaweed biodiversity, ecophysiology, and farming. Dr. Santiañez, together with his colleagues from Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan; published the details of this discovery in the June 2022 issue of Phycological Research.
Meanwhile, the genus Manzaea is named after the late Filipino phycologist Dr. Artemio V. Manza, professor of Botany and Dendrology at UP Los Baños, to honor his contributions on the taxonomy of coralline red algae of the Pacific Ocean. A detailed description of this new brown seaweed genus is published in the July 2022 issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology. It is also the sixth seaweed genus that was named by Dr. Santiañez, after Tronoella, Pseudochnoospora, Dactylosiphon, Mimica, and Phycocalidia. Because of this noteworthy accomplishment, Dr. Santiañez has been called “the most prolific seaweed taxonomist of his generation in the Philippines and in the Southeast Asian region.”
At UP-MSI, Dr. Santiañez also established the Seaweed Reference Culture Collections, composed of over 200 specimens of economically- and ecologically-important seaweeds. Dr. Santiañez was also instrumental in collecting over 2,000 Philippine seaweed specimens and increasing the herbarium collections at the G.T. Velasquez Phycological Herbarium where he serves as a resident curator and collections manager.
Dr. Santiañez’s work on Philippine seaweed biodiversity and systematics was part of his two-year engagement with UP-MSI as a Long Term Balik Scientist. An expert on basic and applied seaweed research, Dr. Santiañez’s achievements as a Balik Scientist are expected to harness the potentials of the country’s seaweed resources and contribute towards conserving and protecting both local and global marine resources.
Aside from being a Balik Scientist of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD), Dr. Santiañez also serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).
Balik Scientists are Filipino scientists, technologists, and experts who are encouraged to return to the country and share their expertise to promote scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development, including the development of our human capital in science, technology and innovation.