Colombian Scientist Wins Award For Lifelong Lizard Studies

Last December, an important representation in the Colombian population has been announced, what with the announcement of biologist Jhan Salazar as the winner of the Young Afro-Colombian 2019.

Part of the program that’s currently led by the El Color Foundation and El Espectador Foundation, this marks the first time that the award has been given to a scientist, marking an important representation for Colombians in the scientific field.

According to Salazar, however, he hasn’t had the faintest clue as to who nominated him in the first place, yet he’s thankful all the same since he believes it’s important in showing younger people that science is a career choice that’s just as viable as any other out there.

“The prize was cool, but the young people can see that we can be scientists, anyone can. There are many young people in communities of color that can see themselves like this,” Salazar said. According to him, both indigenous people and afro-Colombians (six percent of Colombians are said to have descended from Africans) are terribly invisible in the scientific community, even “rendered invisible,” but that’s starting to change after a very long time.

“Things are improving. But the pace is slow. I want to motivate more young people to get into science. We have to be visible and keep motivating people,” added Salazar, who graduated from the Biology Program in 2018 from Icesi University, in Cali, in the south of Colombia. At the moment, he is currently pursuing his PhD in Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology at the University of Washington in St. Louis, USA.

Per Salazar, the work he’s been recognized for is his focus on lizards and reptiles, which started way back when he was still growing up in the countryside of Cauca, Colombia.

“My research is focused on Anolis lizards now, but I want to study other lizard genres, snakes, and frogs in the future. We grew up surrounded by nature and when I was 11, I went out with my family we went on a trip and that really influenced me. It’s a rural zone and a forested zone,” he said, stating that it’s important to recognize biodiversity before it all completely disappears.

Anolis Lizard The first gene-edited Anolis albino lizard was born last week. DrakeBliss/Pixabay