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ALIEN INVASION -Species Spread Across the Globe for the Last 500 Years

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Non-native species don’t always cause damage in new areas that they colonize. However, if and when they do, they could potentially cause billions of dollars of damage. Invasive species have also been linked to the decline of four in every 10 endangered or threatened species in the United States.

A study in Nature Communications this past Feb shows that species are spreading exponentially outside of their native ranges. From Science:

“A team of researchers from across Europe, Asia, and the United States combed through more than 500 years of records from scientific publications, books, and unpublished works taken from more than 280 countries and islands. The documents revealed the very first sightings of alien species in each region, from squirrels to mosquitoes. Altogether, the scientists found 16,926 records of alien species of plant, mammal, insect, bird, and fish […]

 

Then, the team analyzed the speed at which new incursions were taking place, broken down by major taxonomic groups. Since 1800, that speed has increased for all groups, with the absolute number of new species reaching 1.5 sightings per day in 1996. Part of this is inevitably because of better recordkeeping over time, says Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California (UC), Riverside, who was not involved in the work. But Hoddle, who directs the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside, adds that the key trends are not surprising.

The introduction of nonnative plants exploded in the 1800s thanks to the growth of globalized trade, and it has remained high ever since. Mammals and fish peaked around 1950. But other groups, including algae, mollusks, and insects rose steeply after 1950, thanks to climate change and the post–World War II wave of global trade. For those plants and animals that can easily stow away in the ballast of ships, there is a strong correlation between the spread of nonnative species and the market value of goods imported into each region.”

Biosecurity measures seem to be helping but as Margaret Stanley, an ecologist at the University of Auckland who was not involved in the new analysis, adds,  “The challenge now is to set policies that prevent more inconspicuous nonnative species from becoming established.”

In Singapore, the brown anole, Norops sagrei, is one of the recent alien species that sneaked into the country with imported plants [Tan & Lim, 2012]. Native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and some adjacent islands in the Caribbean, the species was recorded for the 1st time in Gardens by the Bay. The authors conclude:

“The possible ecological impact from feral brown anoles in Singapore is unknown. At the time of writing, the species seems to be confined to the Marina Bay area, which is an artificial habitat planted with mostly ornamental vegetation. The anole’s preference of exposed scrubland and gardens should enable it to spread beyond the Marina Bay area. However, this should also prevent the anoles from penetrating dense forest at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve where most of Singapore’s small native lizards with similar habits, such as Aphaniotis fusca and Eutropis rugifera, are locally confined. Its effect on native fauna in Singapore remains to be seen, and is worthy of study. Its interaction with the changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor), another introduced species with similar habitat requirements, would be of particular interest. The anoles provide interesting diurnal activity to the gardens, and can probably be tolerated.

Eradication of these lizards may be an option before they spread further, but it would be difficult considering their small size and great agility. The population can probably be restricted to the Marina Bay area by creating barriers on the landward sides, and ensuring that individuals are not inadvertently transported out among plant debris.”

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Real Life Pokemon of Singapore – Sean Yap

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Besides otters, Singapore has plenty of wildlife to look out for instead of virtual cartoons. Sean Yap, a student at NUS, started the Real Life Pokemon of Singapore page to show the cooler and real life versions of Pokemon characters. Here are some of my favourites:

Sandslash // Pangolin

 

 

Ferroseed // Durian
From Sean “Paras & Parasect are cicada nymphs infected by Cordyceps fungus. Ever noticed that when Paras evolves into Parasect, its eyes become all blank and possessed-looking? If you thought the pokemon you were training was a bug, guess again – it was a fungus the whole time! Zombies may not walk among us yet, but they sure plague the insect kingdom. Most fungi obtain their nutrients from decaying organisms, but Cordyceps prey on insects that are still alive and kicking – they NEED to. What the diabolical fungus does when a spore lands on an insect is to send its root-like mycelium into the insect, invading and eventually replacing host tissue. Some of these have the ability to alter the insects’ behaviour, encouraging them to climb to higher ground and hang on to an exposed branch with the last of their strength in order to put the growing fungus in the optimal position to spread its spores and further infect other insects. For every group of insect there is, there is likely a specific cordyceps species that targets it. Thankfully, this hasn’t latched on to mammals yet, otherwise a zombie outbreak would be VERY real (this is the entire premise of the game The Last of Us). “

 

Click here for the full Straits Times article on Sean and his love of Pokemon and nature.

Citizen Science @ Bern

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Some familiar faces from Europe, cool “meeting” Hackteria friends 🙂

biodesign for the real world

What is biohacking?

Hackteria members were invited to the Swiss Citizen Science Network’s meeting “Biohacking meets Citizen Science” in Bern at Dialog Science and Society (Stiftung Science et Cité).

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bern 1

In the style of hackteria workshops, we started the morning hands-on.We set up the room as a temporary/mobile open source DIY bio-lab. During the round of self-introductions, we assembled gel-trays for electrophoresis. People were mainly from the German speaking parts of Switzerland, and Geneva’s Bioscope was represented – with educators, artists, biotechnologists, geologist, botanist…history of science – it was a nice atmosphere.

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To use some of the generic lab equipment, we decided to extract some DNA from the participants and run a genomic PCR on the serotonin transporter. This was inspired by some protocols from the Science Bar Incubator in Tokyo.

Also, genotyping ourselves is a great starting point for a range of discussions on gene <> phenotype  (can we tell…

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Going beyond the “ecological turn” in the humanities

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Not just the humanities but also in 2017, a prestigious science journal giving attention to Ecology with a new journal (but sharing the spot with Evolution).: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/nature-to-launch-new-ecology-and-evolution-journal/

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

By Aaron Vansintjan.*

Talk about the Anthropocene often has a tendency to rely on apolitical and colonialist assumptions. But the turn to ecology in the humanities will require acknowledging—and, more importantly, supporting—those peoples who have never turned their back on ‘ecology’ in the first place.

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Alert: Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet

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Written by Amy Harmon, the NYTimes article published yesterday describes the latest in the battle for open access science:

“On Feb. 29, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University became the third Nobel Prize laureate biologist in a month to do something long considered taboo among biomedical researchers: She posted a report of her recent discoveries to a publicly accessible website, bioRxiv, before submitting it to a scholarly journal to review for “official’’ publication.

It was a small act of information age defiance, and perhaps also a bit of a throwback, somewhat analogous to Stephen King’s 2000 self-publishing an e-book or Radiohead’s 2007 release of a download-only record without a label. To commemorate it, she tweeted the website’s confirmation under the hashtag #ASAPbio, a newly coined rallying cry of a cadre of biologists who say they want to speed science by making a key change in the way it is published.”

Traditional journals are going to have to deal with the growing acts of rebellion from scientists who are tired of waiting for the speed and openness of scientific research to keep pace with the 25 year old Interweb – one of the more famous open access heroines [1] being the Sci-Hub researcher from Kazakhstan (also mentioned in the article). It ends with a tweet from a long-time advocate for scientific publishing reform:

Good point.

For the entire article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/science/asap-bio-biologists-published-to-the-internet.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

[1] More on Alexandra Elbakyan and open access publishing in another NYtimes article, “Should all research papers be free?

Announcement: 1st Singapore Eco Film Festival in Nov 2016

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Get excited .::. The 1st Singapore Eco Film Fest #SGEFF is taking place this year and Biodiversity Connections is one of the community partners!

The fest will showcase films on environmental issues relevant to Singaporeans and our regional neighbours e.g. haze, food and e-waste; just as importantly, there will be workshops, panels, children’s activities and more to engage and inspire participants. All activities held throughout the festival will aim to engage participants creatively on how they can contribute to sustainable changes locally and globally.

sgeffpango

Our mascot for SGEFF is (what else?!) a pangolin so here’s a little Friday doodle from Nikhita Venkateish, one of the lovely volunteers helping SGEFF get up and running.

Check out the website for more information and updates. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved!

 

ASAP website launched – speciesonthebrink.org

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Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP!) is an interagency coalition to address the extinction risk among the most threatened non-marine vertebrates of Southeast Asia. Organizations within the international conservation community are joining forces to minimise impending extinctions in this area of the world, where habitat loss, trade and hunting has contributed to a dramatic loss of its rich and incredible biodiversity.

How Will the Asian Species Action Partnership Work?

As a matter of urgency, reverse the declines in the wild of Critically Endangered freshwater and land vertebrates in South-east Asia.

Map of Threatened Species / Burmese Roofed Turtle
Left: Map of Threatened Species / Burmese Roofed Turtle Left: Global map of threatened mammal species (Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List) (Jenkins et al. 2013). Right: Burmese Roofed Turtle Batagur trivittata © Brian Horne, once thought to be extinct; its rediscovery in 2002 underscores the need for additional surveys for this species so that extant wild populations and their habitats can be effectively protected. There is also a pressing need to diversify the captive holdings of this species as all the captive individuals are housed in Myanmar.

ASAP aims to:

  • catalyze urgent actions to reduce immediate threats causing the decline of ASAP species by filling knowledge gaps, initiating new initiatives for species recovery
  • strengthen ongoing conservation action by facilitating partnerships, raising profiles and increasing financial support
  • convene and support dialogue among stakeholders by helping coordinate and streamline action
  • improve efficiency and impact of conservation action by promoting conservation best practice for species planning and impact monitoring

ASAP’s key role will be in catalyzing action to meet the conservation needs of a critical list of species. Shortfalls which are currently failing these species need to be identified and addressed, like improved access to funding, better species-specific information and gaining higher-level political leverage to influence policy and shape interventions.

ASAP will also help to identify and prioritize what the needs of species are on the ground, for example, determining the specific threats that need to be removed or mitigated and how – often through one or more of securing critical sites and breaking trade networks. ASAP also needs to facilitate safeguarding of populations where threat reduction may not now be enough e.g., through captive breeding programs.

In summary, ASAP faces some very stiff challenges by targeting high-risk species already facing a serious threat of extinction. Through the development of, for example, a strengthened network of specialists, a heightened global awareness of the urgency of action required, and an increased commitment to conservation by donors or governments in the region, ASAP aims to save species rather than witness their accelerated loss.