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Esteban Agudo is a doctoral student in the UNC Department of Biology, housed in the College of Arts & Sciences. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, he studied the importance of corals for reef fish during his bachelor’s and master’s degree (in the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas) and also worked on environmental impact projects. Currently, he studies the indirect effects of ocean warming on marine communities.

Esteban Agudo

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

I had followed my current advisor’s (Professor John Bruno) research for some time and was very interested in working with him. After my first interview, where I learned about his research in the Galapagos, I became even more excited as I think for any biologist, including me, obviously, the Galapagos is one of those sites where we always dream to go. Furthermore, when I started looking into Ph.D. programs and read about what UNC-CH’s program in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) could offer in terms of education and research experience, my motivation to pursue a Ph.D. here peaked. I like the EEOB program because there are people working in many different types of research. Finally, reading about life in the Triangle, including the access to nature and outdoor activities, moderate weather, and reasonable cost of living also played a very important role in my decision to come here.

Tell us about your work.

Previously, I had worked mostly in coral reef ecology. However, my research focus changed after I started my Ph.D. Currently, I am studying how temperature can affect ecological interactions such as predation and herbivory on marine communities. Both processes are fundamental for structuring marine communities and maintaining diversity and ecosystem function. However, these processes can be altered by ocean warming, one of the consequences of human-induced climate change. I plan to answer these research questions through a series of experiments throughout different sites in The Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador, where we work with the support of the Center for Galapagos Studies and alongside colleagues from the University of San Francisco de Quito.

What are some of your favorite places and things to do in your home country?

I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital and largest city. Even though my country is going through one of the hardest times in its history, I still love Caracas. It is a chaotic, amazing city where big buildings mix with beautiful natural surroundings. I love Caracas because I love outdoor activities. I could take a 30-minute ride and get to a beautiful Caribbean beach; ride for another hour, and I could be in amazing sites for scuba diving. At the same time, I was only 15 minutes away from one of my favorite places, La Guairita, a rock-climbing park where I could spend all day climbing with friends.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

Oh, many things actually. I love to be in the sea, and I love to do research. I want to keep working in research focused on the impact of climate change and human disturbance on marine ecosystems, and doing outreach that helps people understand these consequences. So, my long-term goal is to find a position where I can accomplish this, whether that is in academia or at an NGO (Non-governmental organization). I believe completing a Ph.D. at such an amazing institution as UNC-CH is going to help me achieve this. Science is a collaborative effort and I expect to develop a network of colleagues with whom I enjoy working now and in the future. Additionally, I also expect to use what I learn during my Ph.D. to bring new ideas and skills to my home country and work on new projects to better understand the relationship between people and marine ecosystems.

Describe Global Grads in five words.

A place to find support.

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