College of Science

Department of Applied Environmental Science

ENSTU Major Participates in Summer Research Experience in Puerto Rico 

Rafael Perez holding a fish


Rafael Perez, a current Environmental Studies major, participated in an undergraduate research experience (REU) in Puerto Rico this past summer. For his research, Rafael worked extensively with the Midas cichlid (also known as Red Devils), a fish endemic to the San Juan River and watersheds in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. This opportunity taught him how to successfully analyze data and write a manuscript. 

We recently touched base with Rafael to learn more about his summer REU experience.

What led you to participating in this REU? 

This is my second REU. I did one last summer in 2021 in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, and I wanted to do one more before graduating, and this one was related more towards ecology/biology, which is what I was looking for.  

What was your favorite part about your REU experience?

I definitely loved Puerto Rican culture and being able to travel the entire island as part of my fieldwork.

Did you live in Puerto Rico over the summer? If so, what was it like to live & work in Puerto Rico? 

Yes, I lived in Carolina, PR, which is about 30 minutes away from San Juan.  It was definitely amazing to be able to work and live there, especially since I had never been to Puerto Rico before.  

How did your educational experience at CSUMB prepare you for this opportunity?

Some of the climate change and biology classes that I took in the past helped me better understand the weather patterns, as well as the wildlife that was out there.

What did you gain from this experience? 

I gained a lot of hands-on experience working with Red Devils (Midas cichlid) and successfully writing a manuscript and analyzing data.  

Does this experience contribute to your career goals? 

Yes, I would eventually like to become a wildlife biologist and/or ecologist and this REU was right up my alley.

What are your future plans? (Career goals, more REU experiences, etc.)

I graduate at the end of the year and would love to work in the wildlife/ecology field, conducting research and gaining experience before pursuing my master's. 

Any advice for fellow students interested in participating in an REU?

Apply to as many as possible.  I applied to as many as five, and this was the only offer I got.  Once you’ve applied, I would email the person in charge to let them know of your interest in the program; sometimes, that can go a long way.


We are glad to hear that you gained new insight from participating in this experience, Rafael! We look forward to seeing where your future academic and professional endeavors take you.