Maria Rovilla J. Luhan graduated her Bachelor of Science in Fisheries from the University of the Philippines Visayas 1981. She joined the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC/AQD) in 1982 as a training assistant in the collaborative scholarship program (Masters in Aquaculture) of the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia (NACA), SEAFDEC/AQD and the University of the Philippines Visayas. This was a one-year intensive course in aquaculture which included seaweeds mariculture. Learning with the students, her passion for seaweeds came about. She obtained her Masters of Science in Fisheries from the University of the Philippines Visayas in 1991. From this time on she was involved in research on aspects of red seaweeds (Gracilaria and Kappaphycus) biology and culture such as seaweed stock assessment, tank and grow-out culture and use of seaweeds as biofilters, including physical characterization of their extracts. The decline in the country’s seaweeds production opened the window for her to study seed production of seaweeds, specializing on sporeling production and micropropagation of Kappaphycus. Her paper “Growing the reproductive cells (carpospores) of Kappaphycus striatum in the laboratory to the grow-out and maturation to tetrasporophytes” won the Best Paper Award (Basic Research Category) in the Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Agricultural Research 21st National Research Symposium in 2009.
One of the significant work she did was optimizing the culture conditions of vegetative Kappaphycus in the laboratory thereby allowing for consistent mass production of propagules for distribution to seaweeds farms. In relation to this work, she is presently the adviser of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Technical Working Group for the sustainable operation of the BFAR seaweed laboratories. Her major responsibility is mentoring personnel in the operation of 9 laboratories around the country to ensure continuous supply of seeds for seaweed farming. She is currently a Co-Developing Country Partner of the GlobalSeaweeedSTAR Project funded by GCRF-UKRI at the University of the Philippines Visayas.