The Krill Lab: Getting to Know the Work of the Team Led by Distinguished Marine Biologist Dr. Ramiro Riquelme

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The headquarters of the Krill Lab are located in the Department of Zoology at the University of Concepción (UdeC). This lab is led by junior IMO researcher Dr. Ramiro Riquelme, under whose guidance there is a team of marine biologists, including Erika Jorquera, who is Dr. Riquelme’s special assistant. Additional members of the team are Master’s student Constanza Meriño, who left Santiago for new learning experiences, and undergraduate student Eric Orellana, who is currently working on his thesis to obtain his bachelor’s degree in marine biology. Thus, the Krill Lab has four members, who all talked to Jean Pierre Molina about their projects, personal careers, and views on the current situation of marine sciences in Chile.

The beginnings

Ramiro Riquelme has been interested in marine sciences from a very early age and this curiosity was finally satisfied when he decided to study Marine Biology at UdeC, from which point he has steadily progressed in the field. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, he decided to do a doctorate in Oceanography.

“We research the biology of marine invertebrates and try to understand biological processes and the functioning of organisms, and then we relate this knowledge to reality. We begin by organizing expeditions, then we go on a voyage to take samples and analyze them,” he said, to explain the way in which his team works. Dr. Riquelme collaborates closely with IMO’s deputy director Dr. Rubén Escribano and assistant researcher Dr. Pamela Hidalgo. “Rubén was the person who gave me the opportunity to work in Dichato in 2005. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the intertidal zone and after that I began to study the open sea. I can say that Dr. Escribano was my guide and inspiration,” recalled Dr. Riquelme.

In 1998, Dr. Riquelme began his studies at UdeC. Since 2016, he has been assistant professor in the Department of Zoology. He also obtained his doctorate at this university.

  • I imagine that having spent all your study and professional life at UdeC it must be rewarding to contribute to the work of new generations.
  • Certainly; I don’t regret anything at all. My motivation was my family, I really can’t imagine being very far from them. My mother and I are very close, and I didn’t feel like spending so much time working abroad. Back then, it wasn’t easy to get scholarships, either. When I was a student even the Beca Chile scholarship didn’t exist.

An interdisciplinary team of marine biologists

UdeC marine biologist Erika Jorquera describes her inclusion in the team in the following words: “I went to Canada to do a Master’s degree. After that I had a child and we decided to come back to Chile. My husband was writing his doctoral thesis from here when the opportunity for me to work with Ramiro came up and I accepted it.”

Ms. Jorquera traveled to Canada on a Beca Chile scholarship. She has returned to her alma mater after many years in other institutions. This is a very important step in her career. “In 2010, I went to study in Canada. Before that, I used to deal with plankton, and worked with Dr. Rubén Escribano. There I studied pelagic shrimps, which is a different area. It is always tiring to do a postgraduate degree, so it was motivating to come back and fall in love with science once more.” These words show how strenuous scientific academic training can be and how important it is to refocus a career.

The Krill Lab team also includes a Master’s student and an undergraduate student. Constanza Meriño, a young marine biologist who studied at Andrés Bello University, arrived from Santiago thanks to a colleague who put her in contact with Ramiro Riquelme. “I have always been interested in Oceanography, which is not the focus of the program taught at my university. I really love being here, because there’s a different approach from that in Santiago. We work in an open space, and I have collaborated with people whose papers I used to read when I was a student. I have also contributed to scientific dissemination, which I wouldn’t have done in Santiago,” concludes the marine biologist, who is currently analyzing the Cimar 21 samples.

The importance of scientific dissemination

Constanza expressed her opinion on this subject: “It is important to disseminate science, and that doesn’t happen much in Santiago. Dissemination is very positive because, for example, children very often have never been to the seaside and are not familiar with algae; they are astonished when they begin to learn about marine life, and that motivates me a lot more.”

Eric Orellana is currently working on his thesis with this team. He studies Marine Biology at the University of Concepción. “I also come from Santiago. When I was a child, I would always watch documentaries related to the sea; it was always interesting for me, especially the animals and their environments. When I was in my third year in high school, I decided to take this degree. I applied for a place at UdeC, and I don’t regret the decision,” explains the undergraduate student.

“Science loses its meaning if people don’t get to know about it. Public funds are allocated to us to do research, so we are talking about a scientific duty,” commented Erika Jorquera when reflecting on scientific dissemination. This is especially relevant when we take into account that marine sciences are barely mentioned in the Chilean secondary school curriculum.

“I am now working with a public school in Lota. They asked me to work with a group of students and I feel deeply committed to this task. It is a duty and, although not everybody has the abilities to carry it out, they can still contribute from other areas,” added Dr. Ramiro Riquelme.

As you can see, the Krill Lab comprises a group of marine scientists with a firm commitment to scientific training, research, teaching and dissemination.

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