UH Hilo student Sofia Ferreira attends grad school with support of local and international Zonta scholarships 

Zonta International, and its member Zonta Club of Hilo, gave $6K in STEM scholarships to Sofia Ferreira who is researching the ecology of coral reefs.

Sofia Ferreira underwater in dive suit and with camera in hand.
UH Hilo graduate student Sofia Ferreira collects coral reef data using photogrammerty techniques. She is lead author of a study published last fall on predicting habitat complexity using a trait-based approach on coral reefs in Guam. (Photo by Jeff Kuwabara)

By Susan Enright.

The women-focused Zonta Club of Hilo and its parent group Zonta International have both given generous support to a graduate student at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo studying the ecology of coral reefs.

Sofia Ferreira Colman pictured in lei.
Sofia Ferreira

In November, Sofia Ferreira received a $1,000 STEM scholarship from the Hilo club, and shortly thereafter, was selected as one of 30 women representing 20 countries who were awarded the 2023 Zonta International Women in STEM Scholarship of $5,000. Ferreira was nominated for the international award by the Zonta Club of Hilo.

Zonta Club of Hilo is member of Zonta International, whose mission is to build a better world for women and girls. The scholarships are awarded to women who demonstrate outstanding potential in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

“Being a Latina and Indigenous woman in STEM, it is an honor to receive these scholarships,” says Ferreira. “The scholarships will help me fund my education and focus on my studies and research.”

Ferreira, who hails from Paraguay, earned a bachelor of science in marine science and certificate in data science from UH Hilo in 2022. She is now a graduate student in the university’s tropical conservation biology and environmental science program where she is focusing on coral reef ecology. Her master’s thesis is on creating three-dimensional models of Hawaiian coral reefs to investigate connections between reef habitats and local fish communities.

Images of coral reef.
An example of mapping area images created from Sofia Ferreira Colman’s research. (Courtesy photos)

Ferreira is lead author of a study published last fall on predicting habitat complexity using a trait-based approach on coral reefs in Guam. She is conducting her investigations this academic year while working as a research technician at UH Hilo’s Multiscale Environmental Graphical Analysis Laboratory, commonly called MEGA Lab, that specializes in the study of coral reefs.

“Underneath the shimmering waves, coral reefs flourish as underwater cities, carefully designed by nature’s architects, corals themselves,” says Ferreira. “Much like architects design unique houses for different people, corals create diverse habitats and refuge for the ocean’s inhabitants. This diversity within coral refuges is the foundation to the health and resilience of coral reef ecosystems.”

Learn more about her research:

UH Hilo marine scientists investigate how shapes of corals shape life on reefs

Zonta scholarships

Open to women of any age, students applying for the Zonta Club of Hilo Women in STEM scholarships must be students enrolled at an accredited university/college/institute in at least the second year of an undergraduate program through the final year of a master’s program at the time the application is submitted.

Learn more about Zonta scholarships on the Hilo club’s website.

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Marine science student Sofia Ferreira wins best oral presentation at Hawai‘i Conservation Conference

Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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