30 June 2017

A holistic global strategic plan to include Antarctica's biodiversity

The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), provides the framework for curbing biodiversity loss by 2020. It consists of five strategic goals interspersed with 20 targets known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targetsacting as a flexible framework for addressing national needs, priorities, and progress. 

Biodiversity and conservation state of the Antarctica and Southern Ocean (which cover 10% of the planet's surface), however, has not been evaluated against the Strategic Plan
a clear gap if a holistic global biodiversity assessment is aimed by 2020. Providing an analysis of the region will generate a true representative of the state of global biodiversity; it will also allow the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) to compare conservation progress in the region with that being made globally. 

Scientists led by Steven Chown, together with Sea Around Us Senior Scientist and SeaLifeBase Project Coordinator Maria Lourdes Palomares and others, filled in the gap using empirical evidence, expert knowledge, and general guidelines for conducting biodiversity assessments. 

Fig 1. Progress for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean against the Aichi target elements compared with the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (Accessed from Chown_etal2017, PLOS Biology).  

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean biodiversity prospects for 2020 (and beyond to 2050), surprisingly, are at par or similar to those for the rest of the planet.  Still, a lot can be done to improve the state in the region through support from the government, industry, and public, creation of new tools, and an integrated biodiversity strategy and action plan.

Access the full article published in PLOS Biology: 

01 June 2017

The Kraken's Timeline Unleashed Across Myth and Science

Photo of a Kraken depicted as a sea monster devouring a ship.

Have you ever wondered how much of myths and legends we know today are based on actual events or things? What inspired mythological monsters such as the Kraken? Isn't it curious how these various stories from different era, depict creatures with striking resemblance to each other and to some organisms we know today? Wouldn't it be short of amazing to trace back the identity of the organisms from which these monsters were based on? Journeying from legends to science fiction to scientific investigations before figuring-out that creatures like the sea monk, the sea monster and the sea serpent are all but the same organism?

That is exactly what biologists Dr. Rodrigo Salvador and Barbara Tomotani uncovered in their 2014 paper entitled: "The Kraken: when myth encounters science".

By bringing together myths, legends, and science, they have revealed the Kraken to be the giant squid (Architeuthis). They are historically depicted to be as humongous as an island or a mountain, lurking sea monsters that whip and sink entire fleets. Their mystery has been told with rich, cliff-hanging stories, around the world, which we can now access and flip like a storybook.

Gianpaolo Coro transforms the narrative of the elusive Kraken into a witty, compelling timeline - from Gessner's sea serpent in 1587 to the real dimensions of the giant squid in 1982 to the Clash of Titans in 2010 and so much more. 

A segment of the giant squid's timeline, where it is depicted as a sea serpent in "Historiae animalium."

The timeline also includes the first digital distribution map of Architeuthis dux computed using D4Science e-Infrastructure.

Photo from Coro et al (2015)

What made the timeline possible was a semi-automatic tool called the Narrative Building and Visualizing Tool (NBVT) which pulls information such as images and entities from 
Wikidata or Wikimedia Commons as a starting framework for a comprehensive visual narrative. NBVT allows selection among automatically generated semantic network of narrative ontologies, with the freedom to create new entities. Information is automatically saved and rendered graphically as tables, network graphs and timelines.

This can be a powerful tool to make your narrative come to life. You can also try it here.

To know more about the giantsquid, visit SeaLifeBase.

Salvador, R. B., & Tomotani, B. M. (2014). The Kraken: when myth encounters science. História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos, 21(3), 971-994.

Coro, G., Magliozzi, C., Ellenbroek, A., & Pagano, P. (2015). Improving data quality to build a robust distribution model for Architeuthis dux. Ecological Modelling 305, 29-39.