21 July 2020

SeaLifeBase at 15: Looking back at its wealth of data

Numbers can speak a lot. 

SeaLifeBase, a biodiversity information system on the world's marine organisms other than fish, started in 2005. 

It's patterned after the well-known FishBase, the world's leading biodiversity information system on all fishes. 

It took a lot of work to make this database possible -- with dozens of staff and hundreds of collaborators around the world.

It's been 15 years since then. 

Time flies, right?

We can now look back and dip into the wealth of data which can only become more important in the years to come.

SeaLifeBase now covers 76,000 marine species (apart from finfish) with 56,000 common names backed up by 36,000+ references. Globally, we now have 300+ collaborators who helped us make available 13,000+ pictures. 

SeaLifeBase and FishBase are freely available.

If you're keen to learn more about non-fish marine organisms, from the charismatic sea turtles down to the fascinating world of meiofauna, be sure to share this resource.

16 July 2020

Coronavirus: boon and bane for sea turtles

The global pause in the last months has seen an overall resurgence in water and air quality around the world.

It's also a breath of fresh air for marine life.

This has been evident in major ecosystems like River Ganges, where, in some places, the waters have become drinkable again for the first time in two decades [1].

Horseshoe crabs have seen stabilization in its population in Delaware Bay. A precarious respite, it's important though that there's no resurgence in fishing of this dinosaur age relic since its blue blood is crucial to meeting the growing demand for the production of safe coronavirus vaccine [1].

Quieter oceans have also led to the resurgence of 2000 dolphins off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE [2], superpod of 350 sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) off Sri Lanka [3], and more sightings of endangered dugongs (Dugong dugon) off the coast of Thailand [4].

Despite all these good news, giving wildlife time and space to recover can be a double-edged sword for some animals. 

This is the case for sea turtles [5].

Photo of a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) hatchling, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica,  from Forbes

The logic is that beach closures would be a good thing for these creatures since this would mean less disturbance to them [5]. True enough. This has been the case in one beach in Thailand where 11 leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) nests have been found since November, the highest record in the past two decades. No such nests had been recorded in the last five years. A real boon. [6,7].

On the other side, the pandemic also meant hampering important research and conservation projects [5,8].

In the case of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), 300 volunteers are typically enlisted to monitor hundreds of kilometers of beaches in Texas. With the onset of COVID-19, however, only two full-time staff are left to patrol the stretches of beach once a week [5].

This poses a huge threat to the critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) since the transfer of their eggs to the hatchling facility is curtailed. Poachers are also likely to steal eggs for income. Beach closures also mean slow response to the threats they are facing [5].

Many turtle conservation groups are also hard hit financially [5,9]. Budgets are usually obtained from volunteer programs which have come to a complete halt due to travel bans [5,10]. Along with this is loss of donations from larger institutions, drying up funding reserves for conservation [5]. This is most critical for projects that have taken decades of work for sea turtle populations to recover [9].

[1] Degnarain, N. (2020, May 16). Six places where oceans, rivers and marine life have rebounded during the coronavirus pandemic.  Forbes. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y8hdjm8p

[2] Haza, R. (2020, April 14). Watch: rare albino Risso's dolphin spotted off Fujairah coast. The National. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ya6vvkb3

[3] Rodrigo, M. (2020, May 6). Researchers miss out on sperm whale superpod in Sri Lanka amid pandemic. Mongabay. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y8ed449s

[4] The Star. (2020, April 27). Thai oceans see more fish and dugongs amid coronavirus closures. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y73zjl39

[5] Owens, B. (2020, May 6). COVID-19 is not all good for wildlife. Hakai Magazine. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ycap8owy

[6] Geggel, L. (2020, April 21). Baby leatherback sea turtles thriving due to COVID-19 beach restrictions. Live Science. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y9jwte9d

[7] The Guardian (2020, April 20). Coronavirus lockdown boosts numbers of Thailand's rare sea turtles. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y9z4bdcd

[8] Daffurn, E. (2020, April 27). COVID-19: Good or bad for the ocean? Scuba Diver Life. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ya2ljun7

[9] Sea Turtle Conservancy (2020, June 1). Sea turtle conservation work in Tortuguero threatened due to COVID-19. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/yamjeg6p

[10] Sunkara, L. (2020, April 29). COVID-19 travel restrictions are further endangering sea turtles. How to help. Forbes. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y9xk2tyj

30 June 2020

SeaLifeBase Turns 15!

The ocean is teeming with life that one cannot possibly fathom all its deepest secrets. 

But if data is crunched into its meaty bits, made sense of and presented cohesively, it is certain to be useful in marine studies and conservation. 

Such have been the roles of FishBase and SeaLifeBase, two online global biodiversity information systems that, together, provide biological and ecological information on more than 110,000 marine species.

Last month, video highlighting the origin and evolution of FishBase from its conceptualization in the late 1980s to the present. 

Now, it is SeaLifeBase’s turn!

SeaLifeBase covers most marine species in the world apart from finfish (and notably those that are exploited, threatened, endemic and charismatic). 
This responded to making sure all remaining sea creatures of the world other than fishes can share the limelight. 
In essence, SeaLifeBase emulates the highly commended framework of FishBase, aiming to provide key information on scientific and common names, distribution, ecology and life history data for all multi-celled organisms of the world’s oceans.
It has been around since 2005, and to date, has been strengthened by contributions from over 300 collaborators from all around the world.
Embracing the gift of sharing free and relevant information its proponents have perpetuated, SeaLifeBase team carries with it the goal of forming meaningful collaborations and providing relevant and far-reaching information to attain its long-term goal of completing all large marine ecosystems.

We hope you get to learn more about the origin of SeaLifebase, its evolution and the people behind the scenes that brought this project to life, adding value to students, researchers, fisheries managers, NGOs and enthusiasts alike. 

Enjoy the video!

31 January 2020

The Missing Biography: Where Do Baby Turtles Go During Their 'Lost Years'?

The life of a sea turtle begins as it hatches within the buried sand and instinctively sprints into the water amidst a gauntlet of predators. But many survive... then vanishes, their movements secretly held by the vast ocean.

Depending on the species, a sea turtle spends 1-15 years in the open sea, the so-called ‘lost years’ — the period that ensues after the turtles break free from their eggs to reach the open ocean until the time they come back as large juveniles to their feeding grounds near coastlines. Scientists find it critical to understand this because it serves as the foundation of sea turtle populations. Sea turtles live long lives so understanding this missing part of their ‘biography’ and the threats they may encounter is important to inform conservation efforts and guide policies.

According to Katherine Mansfield, who has studied turtles for more than 20 years, the challenge in completing the turtles’ biographies is that it’s just difficult to survey an entire ocean.

But they did it.

Figure from Mansfield et al. (2014)

She and her team of researchers from the University of Central Florida fit 17 newborn loggerheads with tiny satellite tags. It took them a long time to perfect this. What they realized is that turtle’s shells are made of keratin (as our fingernails are). So what they did is seek a collaborator’s manicurist, and, with her brilliant idea, they were able to fit the satellite tags using an acrylic base coat that seals the shell from peeling. The tags lasted for more than 7 months.

These efforts produced a map which clearly shows the movements of loggerheads for 27 to 220 days.

What Mansfield found out is that the basic overall pattern of movement of loggerheads coincides with previous knowledge, but there were significant nuances in the path each individual turtle takes. 

For instance, contrary to common knowledge that turtles go straight and fast to the North Atlantic Gyre (and they’re mostly right), it turns out they took their time running in local circles, even taking them away from the gyre to the Sargasso Sea.

, a type of brown algae, is a favorable habitat for baby turtles since it provides shelter against predators. It's also a haven for the cold-blooded turtles because the warmer waters of the seaweed-filled surface allow them to grow faster and reach sexual maturity earlier.   

Unraveling clues where baby turtles go during their 'lost years' and have it mapped out has been a feat for Mansfield and her team. There are more questions though. So after 5 years, she and a large team of researchers  took it a notch higher.

They developed a computer model that predicts where sea turtle hatchlings go after they leave Florida's shores.

That's for our next blog.

Stay tuned.

Keen to learn more about these fascinating turtles? You can learn more HERE.


Mansfield, K. L., Wyneken, J., Porter, W. P., & Luo, J. (2014). First satellite tracks of neonate sea turtles redefine the ‘lost years’ oceanic niche. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1781), 20133039.

Putman, N. F., Seney, E. E., Verley, P., Shaver, D. J., López
Castro, M. C., Cook, M., ... & Peña, L. J. (2019). Predicted distributions and abundances of the sea turtle ‘lost years’ in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Ecography 42:1-12.

Science Daily (2019 Dec 23). Where do baby sea turtles go? New research technique may provide answers. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/37Mpcls

Yong, Ed. (2014 Mar 4). Where do Baby Turtles Go During Their Lost Years? Retrieved from https://on.natgeo.com/2uM5K9I 


Q-Quatics is looking for three (3) Research Assistants and one (1) Software Engineer.

For qualifications and requirements click on the photo above or see HERE. We are hoping to attract interest from the widest pool of young talents.

Work location is here in Los Ba
ños, Laguna, Philippines. 

Deadline of the application process is on 29 February 2020.
Quantitative Aquatics, Inc. (www.q-quatics.org) is a non-stock, non-profit, non-governmental organization established in the Philippines in February 2017. Q-quatics was created to support the assembly and dissemination of key data on living aquatic resources for the development of research tools in collaboration with international partners. As such, Q-quatics manages the global biodiversity information systems FishBase (www.fishbase.org), SeaLifeBase (www.sealifebase.org), and the global aquatic biogeography initiative, AquaMaps (www.aquamaps.org).

Q-quatics also supports the cutting-edge databases and research developed by the Sea Around Us (www.seaaroundus.org), which provides policy options for marine fisheries resources, their sustainable use and possible responses to climate change. As such, it partners with the Sea Around Us in identifying projects that would help initiate or maintain research on global fisheries and biodiversity conservation.