1 Tahrcountry Musings: May 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cracking the mystery of bird egg colour

The vibrant colors of many birds’ eggs, particularly those that are blue to blue-green have eluded evolutionary functional explanation. It was with great fascination that I read this paper titled Shedding Light on Bird Egg Color: Pigment as Parasol and the Dark Car Effect authored by David C. Lahti and Daniel R, which appeared in The American Naturalist.
Researchers David C. Lahti and Daniel R. Ardia propose that egg pigmentation mediates a trade-off between two routes by which solar radiation can harm bird embryos: transmittance through the eggshell and overheating through absorbance. They  quantitatively tested four components of this hypothesis on variably colored eggs of the village weaverbird (Ploceus cucullatus) in a controlled light environment: (1) damaging ultraviolet radiation can transmit through bird eggshells, (2) infrared radiation at natural intensities can heat the interior of eggs, (3) more intense egg coloration decreases light transmittance (“pigment as parasol”), and (4) more intense egg coloration increases absorbance of light by the eggshell and heats the egg interior (“dark car effect”).  Results support all of these predictions. 

The scientists conclude that  in sunlit nesting environments, less pigmentation will increase the detrimental effect of transmittance, but more pigmentation will increase the detrimental effect of absorbance. The optimal pigmentation level for a bird egg in a given light environment, all other things being equal, will depend on the balance between light transmittance and absorbance in relation to embryo fitness.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sharks of the same species can have different personalities- An interesting study

A new study by E. E. Byrnes and C. Brown has come out with the finding that Sharks have individual personalities.

The authors write “The study examined interindividual personality differences between Port Jackson sharks Heterodontus portusjacksoni, utilizing a standard boldness assay. The correlation between differences in individual boldness and stress reactivity was also examined, exploring indications of individual coping styles. Heterodontus portusjacksoni demonstrated highly repeatable individual differences in boldness and stress reactivity. Individual boldness scores were highly repeatable across four trials such that individuals that were the fastest to emerge in the first trial were also the fastest to emerge in subsequent trials. Additionally, individuals that were the most reactive to a handling stressor in the first trial were also the most reactive in a second trial. The strong link between boldness and stress response commonly found in teleosts was also evident in this study, providing evidence of proactive-reactive coping styles in H. portusjacksoni. These results demonstrate the presence of individual personality differences in sharks for the first time. Understanding how personality influences variation in elasmobranch behaviour such as prey choice, habitat use and activity levels is critical to better managing these top predators which play important ecological roles in marine ecosystems.”

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Journal of Fish Biology 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Are you a young blue solution provider? Here is a golden opportunity to promote the projects of young people

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Marine Young Professionals Task Force have partnered with the Blue Solutions project, Mission Blue, #OceanOptimism and TerraMar on a new initiative to highlight and promote the projects of young people working for marine conservation around the world.
The competition partners invite youth and young professionals actively working on innovative and creative marine conservation initiatives from around the world to take part in this competition.
 Are you a young blue solution provider?
Do you have an innovative and creative approach or process that successfully address marine conservation issues that you are implementing with your own organization and you are not older than 35 years? Then become a young professional blue solution provider by submitting this form by 31st May. 
Emerging blue solutions need to:
  • Come from a young marine conservationist not older than 35 years
  • Be innovative and creative, having solved a tricky challenge in a new,  “out-of-the-box” manner
  • Respond to challenges to sustainable development and human wellbeing in the marine and coastal realm and contribute to maintaining or improving the status/health of biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Be effective and have been implemented with a demonstrated positive impact and,
  • Have the potential for replication or upscaling in other geographic, social or sectorial contexts.
All solutions submitted will be reviewed by a judging panel, consisting of experts of all ages from a broad range of organizations and regions active in the sustainable management and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems. This panel will review your solution regarding aspects of innovation, creativity, scalability and impact, and select winners focusing on a balance between age, gender and regional representation.
 What is an emerging blue solution?
Blue solutions are specific, applied examples of successful processes or approaches that address challenges related to the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of marine and coastal biodiversity with a demonstrated impact.
What are the benefits & prizes?
Winners’ solutions will be showcased through high-profile international marine platforms including the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i. Additionally, a series of prizes and benefits are available.
High-profile international exposure – The contestants have the opportunity for their work to be showcased on and promoted through high-profile international marine platforms, social media channels and networks including the “Solutions Explorer” platform, IUCN WCPA Marine, #OceanOptimism, Mission Blue, TerraMar and CoalitionWild.
Showcased at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress – Winning entries will be showcased on a poster at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i.
Networking – Submitting your solution into the competition will link you up with a growing network of marine and coastal practitioners and decision-makers who are part of the Blue Solutions network.
Sharing – Bring in your experiences and innovations as a young professional in the field of marine and coastal biodiversity management and conservation, and allow others to learn from, and build on your successes, thus accelerating action towards healthier oceans and coasts.
Self-learning – In the process of documenting your solution, you are able to identify and highlight the innovative aspects of your work.
Prizes – All contestant winners will be presented with a series of prizes. More to be announced at a later date!
How to enter the challenge?
Complete the application form available on IUCNs official MPA Blog or follow the direct link to the application form here and then keep your fingers crossed that your solution will be selected!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Best practice for minimizing drone disturbance to wildlife in biological field research

 Researchers Jarrod C. Hodgson and Lian Pin Koh writing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 say that steps should be taken to ensure that UAV operations are not causing undue stress to animals.
Hodgson and Koh offer the following recommendations:
  1. In cases where the evidence is lacking, UAV users should consult with appropriate experts and proceed with an abundance of caution. The researchers also say that further study on the impact of UAVs is needed.
  2. UAV users should seek approval when appropriate and explain the anticipated benefit of using UAV technology in their situation.
  3. Suitably trained UAV operators should comply with all relevant civil aviation rules, which may include restrictions on flying beyond visual line of sight, above a defined altitude, at night, and near people or in the vicinity of important infrastructure and prohibited areas.
  4. UAVs should be chosen or adapted to minimize disruption, for example, by disguising UAVs as other non-threatening animals.
  5. UAVs should be launched and recovered from a distance, and a reasonable distance from animals should be maintained at all times during UAV flights.
  6. Behavioral and physiological stress responses should be measured whenever possible, and UAV flights should be aborted if excessive disturbance is found.
  7. UAV specifications and flight practices should be detailed accurately and shared in full in published studies, along with any animal responses, accidents, or incidents.

The researchers signs off saying “Promoting the awareness, development and uptake of a code of best practice in the use of UAVs will improve their suitability as a low impact ecological survey tool. We consider this code to be a first and guiding step in the development of species-specific protocols that mitigate or alleviate potential UAV disturbance to wildlife.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

A suggestion to use perceptions as evidence in conservation practice

Using perceptions as evidence to improve conservation and environmental management
Nathan James Bennett
Conservation Biology, Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 582–592, June 2016

The researcher start off saying that as part of a broader move toward adaptive management and evidence-based conservation, the conservation community is increasingly focusing on the monitoring and evaluation of management, governance, ecological, and social considerations .Evidence is any information that can be used to come to a conclusion and support a judgement or, in this case, to make decisions that will improve conservation policies, actions, and outcomes. Perceptions are one type of information that is often dismissed as anecdotal by those arguing for evidence-based conservation.

 In this paper the researcher points out the contributions of research on perceptions of conservation to improve adaptive and evidence-based conservation. The researcher goes on to add that studies of the perceptions of local people can provide important insights into observations, understandings and interpretations of the social impacts, and ecological outcomes of conservation; the legitimacy of conservation governance; and the social acceptability of environmental management. The researcher goes on to add that perceptions of these factors contribute to positive or negative local evaluations of conservation initiatives. He says it is positive perceptions, not just objective scientific evidence of effectiveness that ultimately ensure the support of local constituents thus enabling the long-term success of conservation. The researcher signs off saying research on perceptions can inform courses of action to improve conservation and governance at scales ranging from individual initiatives to national and international policies. Better incorporation of evidence from across the social and natural sciences and integration of a plurality of methods into monitoring and evaluation will provide a more complete picture on which to base conservation decisions and environmental management.

Friday, May 20, 2016

IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 – A Gentle Reminder

Early-bird registration ends May 31st 

11 days left to take advantage of early bird offers.

Register by May 31st to take advantage of reduced rates 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Organized by the Ministry of Interior with the cooperation of Frederick University and the Caprinae Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN
AUGUST 28 - SEPTEMBER 1, 2016, Nicosia, Cyprus

Message from Dr. Eleftherios Hadjisterkotis
1. Participation fee is free for all the scientists or students who are going to submit an abstract for an oral or poster presentation until the 31st of June 2016, according to the instructions in the web site: www.mountainungulates.gov.cy
 2.  The manager of the Nicosia City Centre Hotel informed us that after the 31st of June the hotel is closing for renovations.
The new venue hotel is Cleopatra, situated in the most central location in the city Centre of Nicosia and 6 minutes’ walk from the old part of the city. Cleopatra is within walking distance of the main business, nightlife venues, cafes and shopping centers, government offices, museums, ancient churches, medieval building and galleries, with superb accommodations and great service in a relaxing environment. http://www.mountainungulates.gov.cy/moa/symposium/symposium.nsf/enfsi05_en/enfsi05_en?OpenDocument
 Dr. Eleftherios Hadjisterkotis
Environment Officer
Ministry of the Interior, Nicosia Cyprus
On behalf of the Organizing and the Scientific Committee

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Community wisdom and conservation

The contribution of community wisdom to conservation ecology
Martin Predavec, Daniel Lunney,Ben Hope, Eleanor Stalenberg, Ian Shannon, Mathew S. Crowtherand Indrie Miller

Conservation Biology, Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 496–505, June 2016

Collecting population data is often limited by geographic scale and time frame.  Understanding of trends comes from only part of their ranges at particular periods. The researchers say Working with citizen scientists is an excellent way to overcome these limits. This has the added benefit of exposing citizens to the scientific process and engaging them in management outcomes. 
The researchers asked community members to answer a question directly and thus examined whether community wisdom can inform conservation. They reviewed the results of 3 mail-in surveys that asked community members to say whether they thought koala populations were increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. They then compared the survey results with population trends derived from more traditional research. Population trends identified through community wisdom were similar to the trends identified by traditional research. The community wisdom surveys, however, allowed the question to be addressed at much broader geographical scales and time frames. The researchers sign off saying “Studies that apply community wisdom have the benefit of engaging a broad section of the community in conservation research and education and therefore in the political process of conserving species.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

Portable nanopore DNA sequencers to combat wildlife crime

DNA sequencing device, the MinION  an innovation of  University of Leicester,  developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies  to read the 'barcode genes' of animals is expected to render a big help in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking.

The technique developed under the leadership of by Jon Wetton from the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics, uses DNA barcode genes to identify animal species in real time.  The team will also explore the use of VolTRAX, a sample preparation device designed to allow non-scientists to prepare samples outside a laboratory environment. Together these technologies are intended to fully automate DNA analysis.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rescue role for wolverines

Alaskan conservationists are training wolverines to sniff out humans trapped in debris and avalanches. Wolverines have incredible power of smell and shovelling abilities. Sceptics scoff at the idea, but Alaskan Conservationists working on it insists that wolverines can very well do what dogs do, sometimes even better. The only constraint according to them is the fact that wolverines are hard to breed in captivity. Environmentalists worldwide are eagerly waiting to see the results of this path breaking initiatives.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Worldwide Leopards have lost nearly 75 percent of their historic range

According to a paper published in the scientific journalPeerJ. Leopard (Panthera pardus), has lost as much as 75 percent of its historic range. The study was conducted jointly by National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative, international conservation charities the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Panthera and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group.

Leopards historically occupied a range approximately 35 million square KM throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Today, it has dwindled to approximately 8.5 million square KM. Of the nine recognized subspecies, three (P. p. pardus, fusca, and saxicolor) account for 97% of the leopard’s extant range while another three (P. p. orientalis, nimr, and japonensis) have each lost as much as 98% of their historic range.  The study underlies the fact that leopards are increasingly threatened throughout its range. Habitat loss, prey decline, conflict with livestock owners, illegal trade in leopard skins and parts are factors contributing to leopard decline. The researchers say that while leopard research was increasing, research effort was primarily on the subspecies with the most remaining range whereas subspecies that are most in need of urgent attention were neglected. Small patch size, few remaining patches, and isolation further threaten those subspecies with the least amount of remaining range (P. p. orientalis, nimr, melas, kotiya, and japonensis).

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Bee inspired breakthrough in the development of autonomous robots

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have created a computer model mimicking how bees avoid hitting walls. This they expect will pave way for breakthrough in the development of autonomous robots.
The researchers add “We are interested in how bees are capable of navigating complex environments. Experimental evidence shows that they use an estimate of the speed that patterns move across their compound eyes (angular velocity) to control their behaviour and avoid obstacles; however the brain circuitry used to extract this information is not understood. We have created a model that uses a small number of assumptions to demonstrate a plausible set of circuitry. Since bees only extract an estimate of angular velocity they show differences from the expected behaviour for perfect angular velocity detection, and our model reproduces these differences.”

Details appear in the latest issue of journal PLOS Computational Biology

Friday, May 06, 2016

Stunning Alien-like jellyfish discovered

A stunning alien-like jellyfish has been discovered on the Enigma Seamount near the Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and southern Japan. Scientists identified the creature as a hydromedusa belonging to the genus Crossota. The jellyfish was glowing with red and yellow lights in as deep as 3,700 meters.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Researchers' understanding of the Long-eared bats' flying technique could lead to better drones

According to a study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden understanding of the Long-eared bats  ' flying technique could be significant for the future development of drones.
The researchers found that air behind the body of a long-eared bat accelerates downwards, which means that the body and ears provide lift.  Large ears do not merely create strong resistance, but also assist the animal in staying aloft. The forward motion is generated when the wings are held high and away from the body at the end of each beat. Researchers say "This specific way of generating power could lead to new aerodynamic control mechanisms for drones in the future, inspired by flying animals," 

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Scientific Reports13

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Message from Dr Eleftherios Hadjisterkotis, Chairman of the Organizing Committee

Participation fee is free for the scientists who are going to submit an abstract for an oral or poster presentation until the 31st of June 2016. All other participants who are not going to submit an abstract please follow the instructions below.

€150 for non-students (early registration fee until June 31st 2016, €200 from July 1st until August 29), and €100 for students (official confirmation is requested). Registration fees will cover all administrative cost, printing of conference materials, refreshment breaks, three conference lunches, all social events including a cocktail party and the conference dinner, a full day trip to the center of Pafos Forest the habitat of the Cyprus Mouflon, a visit to cedar valley, and a visit to the historic Kykko monastery. The fee for accompanying persons is €100. It includes a cocktail party, the official dinner, ladies program in Nicosia, and one day excursion with lunch, etc. 

For full details please log on to http://www.mountainungulates.gov.cy  

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Sea Urchin inspired space exploration device

A team of engineers and marine biologists from the University of California have devised a tool, taking inspiration from sea urchins’ (Strongylocentrotus fragilis) intricate mouth and teeth, to sample sediments on other planets. The device was attached to a remote-controlled small rover and used to claw on sand that simulates Martian soil in density and humidity. It is worth mentioning here that a colony of sea urchins can destroy an entire kelp forest by churning through rock and uprooting seaweed. 
Details appear in the latest issue of the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Have a look at this video also

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The wonderful world of fireflies

I just finished reading Silent Sparks, a beautiful book about fireflies, borrowed from a visiting American friend. In Silent Sparks, noted biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis walks us through the fascinating world of fireflies and gives us an update about latest discoveries .The book is profusely illustrated. Sara Lewis is a professor in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. 

Silent Sparks
Published by Princeton University Press
223 pages, 50 colour photos and illustrations, 8 b/w illustrations, 6 colour distribution maps

ISBN-13: 9780691162683