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Virgin Islands student wins first place at research conference

Shruti Arora, a marine biology student at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), emerged a winner at a recent conference in Costa Rica.

Arora, who is doing her master’s degree in marine and environmental science, was awarded best student poster presentation at the Association of Marine Labs of the Caribbean conference.

Her work investigates how human activities on land may be impacting the health of coral reef communities in the US Virgin Islands.

In particular, her research examined the diversity of bacteria associated with Montastraea, a group of three reef-building corals which form a single boulder, in sea water of varying quality.

“This was actually my first international conference throughout my entire academic career,” Arora told the Virgin Islands Daily News. “I have done other presentations, but nothing like this.”

She intends to pursue a PhD in marine biology after graduation in December 2011.

Arora completed bachelor and master’s degrees in microbiology in India before concentrating specifically on marine biology.

Arora’s presentation and master’s thesis is being completed under the supervision of Marilyn Brandt at UVI’s Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, in collaboration with Pamela Morris at the University of South Carolina.

Her student achievement award is named after Ivan Goodbody, an Irish-born professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, who spent half a century in marine biology in the Caribbean.

Previous years’ winners include three students from the University of Puerto Rico: Claudia Patricia Ruiz Diaz from the mathematics department, Pascal Mege from biology department and Alex Mercado Molina, from the marine sciences department.

The Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean, which represents more than 30 research, education and resource management institutions, met in May in San Juan, Costa Rica.

Third place for the best student verbal presentation at the 2011 conference went to Natalia Barrantes Rojas, of the University of Costa Rica, for her talk on reef management on Quiribrí island, a national monument in Costa Rica.