Leading through innovation: The 2020 Outstanding Researchers

Steve Jobs once said that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

If that is so, this year’s outstanding researchers – certified innovators – are leaders. They may not be found in an executive office, but they thrive in their own turf – laboratories, farms, and nature.

Scientist Nelly S. Aggangan of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology is a seasoned leader, and Carolyn E. Alcasid of the Institute of Plant Breeding, a promising fresh entrant in agricultural research.

Scientist Aggangan, outstanding researcher (senior REPS), is known for her contributions in improving MYKOVAM, a soil-based biofertilizer for fruit trees, agricultural crops, reforestation species, and ornamentals that is widely used in the Philippines and other countries.

In one application, MYKOVAM can replace 60-85% of the recommended fertilizer requirements of a plant. It enhances the absorption of water and nutrients, improves soil properties, increases yield, and is highly applicable in organic farming.

Alcasid, outstanding researcher (junior REPS), is one of the co-developers of the first mango hybrid in the Philippines. She developed the first breeding block for mango breeding in the country and put together an efficient mango breeding plan to enhance the fruit’s competitiveness.

Her work led her to develop strategies in evaluating resistant pineapple varieties, making selection for breeding more efficient. This increased disease resistance in plants and subsequently, improved harvest, among others.

Meanwhile, three other researchers have led the way toward managing and understanding nature better, all motivated by the need to balance environmental protection and community needs.

Dr. Ramon A. Razal, outstanding researcher, senior faculty member-natural sciences, studies and promotes non-timber forest products (NTFPs), especially the use of bamboo, rattan, resins, and forest foods to prevent exploitation of trees and boost reforestation.

His projects promote the role of foresters in helping communities develop sustainable NTFP-based livelihoods, and push for making more quality bamboo available through the micropropagation of genetically verified superior species and inventory using remote sensing and mapping.

Dr. Razal was the president of the National Research Council of the Philippines in 2018-2019 and was reelected for another term from 2019 to 2020.

Dr. Razal, and a fellow awardee, Dr. Dixon T. Gevaña, outstanding researcher, senior faculty member-social sciences, both teach at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Dr. Gevaña works at the forefront of coastal forestry and watershed governance research, combining the rigors of natural and social sciences to help communities conserve forests and adapt to climate change.

He is a pioneer of blue carbon studies to mitigate climate change in the Philippines, working particularly on community-based mangrove management. His insights are indispensable in developing strategies to holistically manage and develop participatory- and science-based planning tools for watersheds.

Equally important to the quest for ecological balance are the efforts of Museum of Natural History’s Dr. David Emmanuel M. General, outstanding researcher (junior REPS). An ant expert, he has identified 11 new species, contributing toward greater appreciation of biodiversity.

He developed field techniques for surveying nocturnal ground-foraging ants and sampling nocturnal arboreal ants. He also produced a generic guide to the ants of the Philippines. These innovations have helped researchers and students explore and understand the diversity of the said insect.

The trailblazing spirit of these outstanding researchers certainly help push the frontiers of science. (John Glen S. Sarol, Jessa Jael S. Arana, and Mark Jayson E. Gloria)

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