Rhodora Azanza was born on the 26th of January 1951 in the town of San Juan, Province of Rizal, Philippines. From her undergraduate to graduate degrees, she pursued her studies in Botany. In her undergraduate years she obtained her associate in Arts/Bachelor of Science in Botany from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM, University of the City of Manila) in 1968 and 1972, respectively as a full scholar. During her Master’s degree once again in Botany from the University of the Philippines (UP-Diliman), she investigated the reproductive biology of Gracilaria species in Cavite Area, Manila Bay, Philippines. During her Ph.D. still in Botany at the UP-Diliman, she conducted her research on the hormone-like activities, specifically Auxin-like substances of Caulerpa lentillifera, a green alga. Her first formal training on marine microalgae was during her undergraduate and graduate course, under Gregorio T. Velasquez, a Philippine National Scientist, mentor of many ASEAN phycologists, who inspired her to pursue a career in marine phycology. Right after her Ph.D., Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) problems in the Philippines (Samar and Leyte areas) started and Dr. Edgardo Gomez encouraged her to focus on microalgae specifically on “Red Tides/Algal Blooms”. She undertook an intensive two-month post-doctoral training on the culture of dinoflagellates (Alexandrium spp and Pyrodinium bahamense) and extraction of saxitoxin at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the tutelage of Dr. Sherwood Hall. Her trainers in the field of HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) taxonomy, biology and ecology included Dr. Yasuwo Fukuyo, Dr. Donald Anderson, Dr. Gustaaf Hallegraaf, Dr. Kasumi Matsuoka, and Dr. Barrie Dale.

Life and career

For pioneering efforts concerning Harmful Algal Blooms and her significant scientific contributions to the advancement of Kappaphycus/Eucheuma biology and culture, Rhodora was awarded the 2002 Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science Award and the 2005 UP Scientific Productivity Awards, and has consistently received this latter award with the most recent as Scientist III (highest rank) for the period, 2012-2014 and 2015- 2017.

She received the Outstanding Research and Development Award for Applied Research (Julian A. Banzon Medal) Outstanding leadership on July 2014 for the two DOSTPCAARRD (Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development) research programs she headed: “Detection and Mitigation Technology and Early Warning System for Philippine Harmful Algal Blooms (HABTech)” and “Molecular Studies on HAB Causative Organisms and Associated Bacteria (HAB Genomics)”. These programs succeeded the program on the “Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms” in the Philippines also known as PhilHABs in 2009-2012, a recognized program under the Global Ecology Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (GEOHAB) of UNESCOSCOR.

Due to her dedicated and excellent service in her field as echoed through her teaching/mentoring, research outputs and both national and international contributions and extension service, she was conferred by the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) the distinguished title of Academician in July 2009 and was given the 2013 Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association, a feat only a few could achieve. Recently, she was named as the 2015 DOST-PCAARRD Pantas Awardee for most Outstanding Researcher/Scientist.

Rhodora has served the University of the Philippines in various academic and administrative positions. She was an Assistant Dean for Student and Public Affairs and also Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the College of Science, UP Diliman. After which, she became the first woman dean of the said College for six years. During her term, she played a major role in the a) development of the Institute of Environment Science and Meteorology (IESM) of the College of Science; b) creation of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development, UP Diliman; and c) Scientific Productivity System of the UP System. It was also during her term as dean that the College, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) initiated the campaign to get additional support for Science and Technology from the legislative and executive sectors of the Philippine government. This eventually led to the approval and implementation of the National Science Complex at UP-Diliman and the increase in budget for science and technology. She also served as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (AVPAA) and the Director of the Office of International Linkages (OIL) of the UP System. As an AVPAA/OIL Director, she conceptualized and implemented the following projects: (1) University of the Philippines Mobility for Vigor and Excellence (MOVE UP), which supports the enrollment of undergraduate students with high scholastic average in UP partner foreign universities as exchange student for one semester; and (2) Continuous Operational and Outcomes-based Partnership for Excellence in Research and Academic Training Enhancement (COOPERATE), which is the international collaboration between UP faculty advisers and their graduate student/advisees with foreign universities in the completion of the UP graduate students’ thesis/dissertation. Upon her retirement in July 2017, the University’s Board of Regents approved her appointment as Professor Emeritus after more than 43 years of government service.

At present, she serves as President of the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country's highest recognition and advisory body on science and technology. She has also extended her expertise to various national government agencies and international organizations. She was the Vice Chairmen of UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms (IPHAB) and the project leader of IOC’s Harmful Algal Blooms in Southeast Asia (HABSEA) Portal and e-learning for 7 years. The ASEAN Red Tide network, the first regional network of its kind, was coordinated by Rhodora for more than 10 years.

Rhodora was a member of the international Editorial Board of Harmful Algae (Elsevier) from June 2002-June 2010, the Journal of Applied Phycology (Kluwer Academic Publishers) from 2006-present and the Philippine Science Letters. In addition, she is a reviewer of the following ISI Journals: Journal of Applied Phycology, Botanica Marina, Microbial Ecology, Estuaries and Coast, and Aquaculture to name a few. She has been a scientific advisor of the International Foundation of Science (IFS-Sweden) since 1977 and has been reviewing research proposals for funding agencies here and abroad.

Research strategy and mentoring

Rhodora has significantly contributed to the understanding of the life cycle of Pyrodinium bahamense in both the laboratory and in its actual environment, and identified and further investigated key HAB species in the Philippines. After being trained by experts on microalgal isolation and culture technologies abroad (USFDA and University of Tokyo), with funding from Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Prof. Azanza created/founded the RVA-Marine Microalgal Culture Collection (RVA-MMCC) in 1998, which has remained integral part UPMSI. The laboratory currently maintains 36 strains of 28 microalagal species isolated from various parts of the country, 11 of these species are toxic and potentially toxic. Various components of multidisciplinary and inter-collaborative HAB programs and related research and teaching activities of the institute and other related institutes/agencies have been served through these cultures.

She has been a leader in conceptualizing and implementing multi- and interdisciplinary programs that aim to understand red tide/Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) outbreaks through identifying factors that affect their occurrence and design proactive strategies that can mitigate their harmful effects. Her research and development project entitled: “Application of Nuclear Techniques to Address Specific Harmful Algal Blooms Concerns” started in the Philippines as a national project and became the basis for the regional and international projects with the same focus. This project also helped in the development and recent implementation of the Association of Analytical Communities (AQAC) approved Receptor Binding assay (RBA) for the detection and analysis of Paralytic Shellfish Toxins (PSTs).

As evident from her Student Evaluation Test scores, Rhodora has been constantly rated “among the best” teachers of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI). She has successfully mentored four doctoral graduates and 14 master’s students aside from the numerous mentees from different universities that she has been helping through her research projects and other collaborations. She helped established the MS Marine Science and MS/PhD Environmental Science programs, and developed the following courses: MS 246 Marine Phytoplankton and MS 261 Physiology of Marine Algae.

10 Key publications

Corrales, R.A., 1995. Culture of Pyrodinium bahamense var. compressum from the Philippines, In: Snidvongs, A., Utoomprukporn, W., Hungspreugs, M. (Eds.), Proceedings of the NCRCT-JSPS Joint Seminar on Marine Science, December 2-3, 1993. Department of Marine Science, Chulalongkorn University, Songkhla, Thailand.

G. Usup and R. V. Azanza 1998. Physiology and bloom dynamics of tropical dinoflagellates Pyrodinium bahamense, In: Anderson et al., Physical Ecology Harmful Algal Bloom NATO ASI Springer.

Azanza, R.V. and Max Taylor, F.J.R., 2001. Are Pyrodinium blooms in the Southeast Asian region recurring and spreading? A view at the end of the millennium. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 30(6), 356-364.

Azanza, R.V., Siringan, F.P., Diego-Mcglone, M.L.S., Yñiguez, A.T., Macalalad, N.H., Zamora, P.B., Agustin, M.B. and Matsuoka, K., 2004. Horizontal dinoflagellate cyst distribution, sediment characteristics and benthic flux in Manila Bay, Philippines. Phycological Research, 52(4), 376-386.

Azanza, R.V., Fukuyo, Y., Yap, L.G. and Takayama, H., 2005. Prorocentrum minimum bloom and its possible link to a massive fish kill in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Northern Philippines. Harmful Algae, 4(3), 519-524.

Azanza, R.V., David, L.T., Borja, R.T., Baula, I.U. and Fukuyo, Y., 2008. An extensive Cochlodinium bloom along the western coast of Palawan, Philippines. Harmful Algae, 7(3), 324-330.

Hansen, P.J., Miranda, L. and Azanza, R., 2004. Green Noctiluca scintillans: a dinoflagellate with its own greenhouse. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 275, 79-87.

Villanoy, C.L., Azanza, R.V., Altemerano, A. and Casil, A.L., 2006. Attempts to model the bloom dynamics of Pyrodinium, a tropical toxic dinoflagellate. Harmful Algae, 5(2), 156-183.

San Diego-McGlone, M.L., Azanza, R.V., Villanoy, C.L. and Jacinto, G.S., 2008. Eutrophic waters, algal bloom and fish kill in fish farming areas in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 57(6-12), 295-301.

Azanza, R. V., M.L. Broznahan, D. M. Anderson, I. Hense and M. Monstressor. 2017. The Role of Life Cycle Characteristics in Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics.“ In: Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms, P.M. Gilbert, E. Berdalet , M.A. Burford , G. C. Pitcher, M. Zhou (Eds.), USA : Springer.


Prepared by Po Teen Lim.