22 April 2016

Earth Day 2016: Trees for the Earth



Artwork by: Mike Yap

The 22nd of April marks the 46th Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day, where man puts nature on a pedestal and highlights our commitment to be stewards of this planet.

It all started in 1969 when a peace activist, John McConnell, at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, requested a special day to celebrate and honor the Earth, and the concept of peace. The proposed date coincided with the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere, March 21, 1970. Then, US Senator Gaylord Nelson, by only a month later, instigated Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Originally, it was only in the US that this was observed, but in 1990, Denis Hayes and his organization brought forth awareness and extended the celebration of Earth Day in 141 nations. Today, Earth Day Network facilitates its annual celebration in more than 192 countries [1].

"But the big decisions that lie ahead are not just for world leaders and policy-makers..." 
                                                                                   - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [2]

The battle to save the environment is not just for those who are in position, it is a mandate that everybody should take part in. As with the theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration, “Trees for the Earth” [3], let us join in and show our support, even in our very simple ways.

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[2] International Mother Earth Day 22 April. www.un.org. [Accessed 04/21/2015].

[3] Earth Day - April 22. www.earthday.org[Accessed 04/22/2016].


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12 January 2016

Fearsome fiddlers?



Photo of a male fiddler crab Uca  from www.arkive.org


Judging a confident male fiddler crab, one can be easily captured by its unique, brightly colored, threatening enlarged claw. Fiddler crabs (Genus Uca) are major inhabitants of mud and sand flats along estuaries and sheltered coasts in the tropics and subtropics [1]. They may be small but their claws appear robust and powerful that you would not even think twice of its combating prowess. Or, should we?

Australian ecologists discovered this “bluff” in a group of fiddler crabs. The crabs use their massively enlarged claws for fighting over turfs as well for attracting females [1].  Once they lose a claw upon battle, they may grow another one, most of the time a replica of the original. The new claw, however, is a far cry to how they physically appear. It is lighter and toothless, rendering them weak and inferior [2].

Fighting ability is measured through major claw size, claw strength and the ability to resist being pulled from a tunnel. Crabs size up each other through their major claws, waving them in the air with surety. This means that physical make-up of the enlarged claw is detrimental in picking fights [2]. 

Now, to advertise one’s sex or to incite fight over territories, a crab will wave its regenerated claw, either up and down, others sideways, during low tide at territories established around their burrows [1]. Now, the wave is done and a fight may ensue. Unfortunately, the potential opponent, which is about to be fooled but is clueless of it, cannot distinguish the regular, powerful authentic claws from the cheap ones. The shining, regenerated claw is unfortunately void of any information on its fighting capacity. The opponent is then deceived and backs off. This remains true unless the crab with the regenerated claw holds territory and is trumped by a stronger opponent, revealing his bluff [2].

Knowing that this kind of dishonesty in the animal kingdom exists may provide an opportunity for ecologists to study dishonest signals. This discovery can also shed light on the individual reproductive success and survival among fiddler crabs by a thorough understanding of dishonesty mechanisms and consequences [2].

To know more about fiddler crabs, visit SeaLifeBase or come be a collaborator!

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[1] Castro, P., & Huber, M. E. (2003). Marine Biology (4th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: McGraw Hill.
[2] British Ecological Society (BES). Fiddler Crabs Reveal Honesty Is Not Always The Best Policy. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081111203501.htm.


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29 October 2015

THROWBACK THURSDAY: DR. PAULY IN THE WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE FORUM



Dr. Daniel Pauly at a White House event on citizen science. (Source: Sea Around Us)

We take pride as SeaLifeBase’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Daniel Pauly speaks in the recently held discussion of the Oceans and Coasts session of the “Open Science and Innovation: Of the people, by the people, for the people”, a live-webcast forum of the White House held last September 30, 2015. The event was hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Domestic Policy Council, having three objectives: (1) to celebrate the successes of citizen science and crowdsourcing; (2) to raise awareness of the benefits these innovative approaches can deliver and; (3) to motivate more Federal agencies and Americans to take advantage of these approaches [1].

In this forum, Dr. Pauly presented FishBase and briefly discussed the efforts of its project staff in the Philippines in gathering and extracting data from vast references in order to make information on all fishes become freely available to the world through the database. FishBase, an online information system founded more than 25 years ago, has grown to become one of the largest global database sources (GSDs) that provides systematic information on all fishes of the world including Etheostoma obama and Teleogramma obamaorum, two species of fish named in honor of President Obama. The database has received almost 50 million hits from over half a million users in a month and has been cited by more than 5000 scientific studies over the past decade, based from the Google scholar [2].

The forum was participated by respected citizen science professionals, researchers, stakeholders from different levels of the government, acadaemia as well as the non-profits and private sectors. It is such an honor for the whole FishBase team to be recognized as a successful science project by the White House. SeaLifeBase and  the whole FishBase Information and Research Group Inc. (FIN) family are very proud of what FishBase, with its founders, Dr. Pauly and Dr. Rainer Froese, have achieved.

Cheers! For future great collaborations that this opportunity might bring.

Watch the complete footage of the event here.

Links to other posts about the event: for Sea Around Us and for FishBase.

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[1] Kalil, T. and D. Wilkinson.  Accelerating Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to Address Societal andScientific Challenges. Published on September 30, 2015. [Accessed 10/22/2015].

[2] The FishBase Project Facebook page. Coming Soon: FishBase in the White House! Published on September 28, 2015.  [Accessed 10/22/2015].

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