Ecosystem Restoration Project

Our last excursion with the Feejee experience was yet another amazing highlight of our trip to Fiji.  We got the chance to visit Votua village, snorkel, and plant coral.  Votua village has two big environmental projects going on right now; one is their wastewater project while the other one is to help restore the damaged coral reef.  We took part in the latter one by helping to plant coral.

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Helping to restore the damaged coral reef is very important for the biodiversity in oceanic environments.  Biodiversity is the diversity among and within plant and animal species in an environment.  It is very important because if one organism dies other organisms around it will be damaged or die as well.  What Fiji has done to attempt to bring more biodiversity back to the coral reefs is to have Marine Protected Areas (MPA).  The goals of these areas are to have more and bigger fish and other species in the area, spread some of the organisms to areas outside of the MPA, the exportation of babies to surrounding areas, and to protect the healthy reefs.

The reason that this project started is because the coral reefs around Fiji are facing many problems like, sewage and water pollution, over fishing, the lack of environmental awareness and poor water supplies.  As you can see in the graphs above, since the project in the village has started ten years ago, the percent of coral covering the hard bottom in the MPAs has increased by 40% while the algae covering the floor has lowered by more than 40%.  When you compare these results with the results in green it is easy to see the impact the project has had on coral.

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At the moment, they are doing a very good job at providing healthy coral reefs and maintaining/increasing the amount and size of fish in the MPAs.  But there are some stuff that the village would to do as well.  For example there is a lot of money involved with coral if the it is healthy because more and more tourists will want to see them, so there are job opportunities.  The village would also like to continue to improve the coral reefs, improve the community’s knowledge about the coral, and improve the participation in marine conservation.

Mechanisms of Speciation

Below is a chart showing the taxonomy of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and of brown bears (Ursus Arctos).

Ursus Arctos

Ursus maritimus

Kingdom

Animalia

Animalia

Phylum

Chordata

Chordata

Class

Mammalia

Mammalia

Order

Carnivora

Carnivora

Family

Ursidae

Ursidae

Genus

Ursus

Ursus

Species

Arctos

maritimus

As you can see this two species have practically the same taxonomy other than their species.  The following story is fiction and is about how the two bears separated and evolved into other species.

In the province of Quebec, Canada there was a species of bears that lived in the forest.  The forest was snowy and cold some time and it was dry and warm, so the bears could survive both weathers.  But as with all species the bears varied and some bears could tolerate the cold better and there were some the tolerated the warmth better.  This meant that over time the bears that preferred the cold travelled north with the cold and the bears that preferred the heat travelled south with the heat.

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 http://assets.worldwildlife.org/photos/2330/images/hero_small/polar-bear-hero.jpg?1345901694

The habitats that the bears found themselves in were very different.  The bears that headed north ended up in Nunavut while the best swimming bears continued north to the Arctic.  These bears were surrounded by snow, so to help camouflage into their surroundings they evolved to having white fur.  This helped them to sneak up on pray without being noticed.  The skin under the fur is another thing that changed because it was very cold so the so the skin of the bears evolved to be black.  This attracted the sun heating up the bear.  Today we call these bears Polar bears (Ursus maritimus).

Brown-bear-in-springhttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Brown-bear-in-spring.jpg 

The bears that went south’s surrounding was similar to the forest they were in originally with less snow.  The ground was brown dirt and the tree trunks were brown, so to help camouflage the bears their fur evolved and became brown.  These bears had animals to eat plus they had berries everywhere.  Over time their teeth changed shape to make it easiest to chew the berries.  The skin of these bears is a light tan so that it doesn’t not absorb light since it is already so hot.  Today we call these bears brown bears (Ursus Arctos).

Antibiotic Resistance

As we all know antibiotics are vital with medical procedures.  They have helped to find the cure for pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and venereal and other diseases.  They help doctors perform surgeries such as coronary bypasses and hip replacements safely.  So without antibiotics we would be in a lot of medical trouble and the way that we are moving we could see a world like this pretty soon if we don’t change our drug usage and drug discoveries.

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http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02506/antibiotics_2506419b.jpg

The problem that we are starting to see is that the bacteria are starting to become resistant to the antibiotics.  This is called antibiotic resistance and we have started to see an increase in the frequency of antibiotic resistance since the 1950s.  Some classes of antibiotic drugs that are starting to be resisted are those that can help with respiratory illnesses, skin disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Antibiotic resistance is a very good example of a fast evolution.  When an antibiotic is used, the bacteria that can resist the antibiotic have a much better chance at surviving.  This leaves only bacteria that can resist the medicine to breed and have offspring that is also resistant.  This is an example of natural selection.  There are two different ways for bacteria to become resistant: by a genetic mutation or by acquiring resistance from another bacterium.

 

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There are ways to prevent antibiotic resistance as well.  The first way is to wash your hands with regular soap and water, because there is concern that the triclosan (an antibacterial and antifungal agent that many products contain) in antibacterial soaps could lead to resistance.  Another way is to buy your foods from local farmer’s markets because non-organic foods can cause antibiotic resistance as well.  The last too ways is to only take antibiotics that you absolutely need to take and to ask for shortened courses

Lactase Evolution (natural selection)

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http://photos.happyherbivore.com/2013/07/lactose6.jpg

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a sugar found in dairy called lactose.  The symptoms can include abdominal pains and cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.  In a country like Canada there a not too many people with lactose intolerance, but in other parts of the world it can be much more common.  In fact, it is estimated that 75% of human adults show signs of the condition during adulthood.  I had never really thought about it before and just assumed that it was a fluke.  But as part of the prep for this blog we were supposed to read an article on lactose intolerance in Fiji and it explained why some populations have more people with the condition.

The article is about the lactose intolerance rate of Fijians and Indo-Fijians.  Two men ran a test with 12 Fijians (5 males) and 8 Indo-Fijians (5 males) where they gave them 50 grams of lactose in water.  The results showed that 100% of the Fijians were lactose intolerance while only 5 out of the 8 Indo-Fijians had the condition.  The reason for this is the two populations’ background and where they came from.

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The Indo-Fijians have come from India, which is a country that raises a lot of cows.  When India first started raising cows, the people would have been born with the ability to digest lactose would have survived longer then those without the ability, allowing them to pass on the gene to more offspring. Since cows are considered religious in India, people do not eat any beef, and some of the more religious people may try not to drink any milk or have any dairy either.  This could be the reason that some of the Indo-Fijians were lactose intolerant as well.

On the other had the Fijians were never really exposed to milk, so their bodies can’t digest the lactose.  Although cows are now grown in Fiji, and milk is sold in stores, it is because of all the Indo-Fijians in the country. Plus they are all lactose intolerant so they can’t drink the milk.  So the only way that more people in Fiji will be able to drink milk in the future will be if more Indo-Fijians mate with more of the Fijians, and even then they won’t be pure Fijians.

lactose_intolerance

http://www.dsm.com/le/static/maxilact/images/lactose_intolerance.jpg

Although all mammals drink their mother’s milk as infants, humans are the only mammal that continues to drink milk as adults and as I have said not all humans do drink milk as adults.  In fact 60% of humans, mainly those in Asia and Africa, stop producing lactase as they grow up, meaning that they can’t drink milk.

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http://www.rackafracka.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/lactose-intolerant-w.jpg

Prevention and Control of the Dalo Beetle

Today we were given the amazing opportunity to visit the Koronivia Research Station.  We had expected to learn about plant propagation and we were going to write our blog on it.  But since we didn’t actually learn about plant propagation we must instead talk about anything that we learned.  At the station we learned about the insects on the island, then we learned about the chemistry part of the research station, and finished the trip off by visiting the pigs that they keep there.

Taro-beetle

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While we were in the insect room I read a poster about the effect of the dalo beetle in Fiji and decided to write my blog post on it. The dalo beetle was found in Veisari, Fiji for the first time in 1984.  Since then the beetle has spread to eight different areas in fiji, 6 areas on Viti Levu and 1 area on Vanua Levu, and 1 area on Ovalau.  To attempt to reduce the spreading of the beetle all the root crops from the infested areas that are being used in non infested areas for cultural occasions must first be inspected, approved and authorized as beetle free by locality Extension, Research, or Quarantine offices.

yam

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Some plants that host the beetles are cyrtosperma, yam, sweet potato, dalo suckers, dalo salusalu, banana, and potted plants.  Their breeding habitats include rotten logs, saw dust, poultry manure, and compost heaps.  What makes the dalo beetle so made is the symptoms and damages that it has on the plants. These symptoms and damages include damaging young plants, new planting material will shrink and die.  Arguably the worst think about the beetle is what happens when it damages the corm. When this happens the damaged corm will be rejected for selling and they are entry points for fungus that can be causing corm rot.

rotten-log

http://grandpacliff.com/Trees/Img-Trees/rotten-log.jpg

To help get rid of the beetles, there are chemicals that the farmers can apply to the infective plant.  The method of application starts by diluting the chemical with water and pouring it into a spray tank and during application the spray nozzle should be removed. Although there are methods of killing dalo beetles, they aren’t doing enough at the moment because the beetle is still a big issue and will continue to be for years to come.

Prokaryotes

There are two different types of cells: prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells.  Eukaryotic cells are found in animal and plant cells, fungi, and protists. While prokaryotic cells are found in bacteria.  In grade ten I only learned about eukaryotic cells and didn’t even know that there was a different type of cell.

A very important difference between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells is that eukaryotic cells are based around its nucleus and prokaryotic cells don’t even have one. To make up for this the shape of the DNA in a prokaryotic cell is just a loop.  Although prokaryotes are similar to eukaryotes, because they both have organelles that help the cell function, prokaryotes have no membrane bound organelles therefore they have much less organelles.  Another difference between the two cells is that eukaryotes are much bigger.  An important thing about prokaryotic cells is that they are in bacteria and the archaea kingdom.

allcell

http://www.phschool.com/science/biology_place/biocoach/images/cells/allcell.jpg

As I already mentioned the main similarity between the two different types of cells is the organelles that they have. This is a similarity and a difference because prokaryotic cells have some of the organelles that a eukaryotic cell has but not all of them.  Some of the organelles that they have in common are the ribosomes, the plasma membrane, the cytoplasm, the vesicles, and the vacuoles.

An example of a prokaryotic cell is the Cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria has helped to build reefs on earth for at least three million years.  The reason that it can help coral reefs is because it helps to create three essential communities in the reef.

cyanobacteria1

http://world.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/cyanobacteria1.jpg

Cyanobacteria can be found in most terrestrial and aquatic habitats, through plants and animals.  The way that this type of prokaryote obtains its energy is through photosynthesis. The chemical reaction for photosynthesis is:

6CO2+12H2O + light → C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O

Comparative Anatomy

For my comparative anatomy I chose the dolphin and the shark.  The reason that I chose the dolphin is because we had the chance to see them swimming around in the ocean, and the reason that I chose to compare it with the shark is because I got very interested in them when I watched the film “Sharkwater” as part of the pre-trip work.

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There are many different organs in a dolphin. For example, dolphins have a melon in their head, a structure in it’s head used for creating sounds for communication, and echolocation. Dolphins also have a dorsal fin located on the center of it’s back that helps it to stay balanced as it swims through the water, although it is not necessary since many dolphins have a damaged one or are missing one.  What allows the dolphin to steer through the water is their pectoral flippers, the forearms of the dolphin.  One of the most important parts of the dolphin is the blowhole.  This is important because, like the whale and the porpoise, the dolphin breath air not water and the blowhole is what they use to breath.

Dolphin

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The dolphin is related to whales and porpoises and believed to be a descendant of the Artiodactyl order.  Their ancestors would have probably entered the water around 50 million years ago.

 

The organ system I decided to study is the circulatory system. Dolphins have a closed circulatory system, which means that the blood never leaves the system. The circulatory system contains arteries, veins, blood vessels, and capillaries.  Since the blood needs more time to warm and circulate, the heart has a slower heartbeat.

 

Since sharks are animals that swim similarly to dolphins a lot of their organs do the same thing.  For example the dorsal fin is still a locomotive fin on the sharks back and sharks also have fins that allow them to steer.  But since sharks don’t actually communicate with each other, they don’t have a melon or anything like it. A very big difference between the two animals is the fact that sharks breath underwater and dolphins breath out of water.  So instead of having the blowhole, sharks have gills.

The InfoVisual.info site uses images to explain objects.

http://www.infovisual.info/02/036_en.html

The oldest shark scales that have been found and have been recognized by most as being a shark is 420 million years old

 

The circulatory system in a shark is also thought of being closed. An important thing about the system in a shark is that the heart is S-shaped and located in the head region. The way that the circulatory system works in a shark is like this.  The blood flows from the heart to the gills where it can be oxygenated.  The blood then flows throughout the body and back to the heart.

fish

http://www2.gsu.edu/~bioasx/closeopen.html

 

Plant Study

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The plant I chose for my plant study is the taro plant.  I chose the taro plant because it was one of the plants that Epi introduced us to while we were on our hike up the mountain.  The scientific name for the species we saw is Colocasia esculenta, it originated in eastern India and has now spread to Fiji.  The taxonomic classification of this plant is in the chart below.

Taxonomic Classification

Kingdom Plantae
Phylum Angiosperms
Class Monocots
Order Alismatales
Family Aracreae
Genus Colocasia
Species C. esculenta

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http://jessetalks.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/taro-plant-parts-color.jpg

The reproduction of a taro occurs when a piece of the corm, kalo, breaks off.  When it breaks off the plant begins to grow a new leaf, continuing to make more leaves after another.  To increase how much the taro plant reproduces it is usually better to plant it in looser soil.  The water transportation in the taro plant is very similar to that of other plants.  It absorbs through its huluhulu, roots, the water then travels up through the xylem vessels where it evaporates.  When the water evaporates, more and more water is sucked up the xylem to make up for it.

There are not many threats to the talo from weather because it, along with rice and lotus, is one of the only plants that can grow in flooding. In fact for maximum crop yield the base of the plant should always be underwater. Plus for maximum oxygen the water should be cool and flowing.  There are threats to the taro from animals.  There is a species of beetle present in Fiji called the taro beetle (Papuana uninodis).  The taro beetle causes such a big problem to the mainland of Fiji that 80% of the taro that comes from Fiji is from the island of Taveuni.  Taveuni is one of the only islands that are free of the beetle.

Monocot or Dicot?

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Today we spent our first day out of the USP campus.  We caught a public transit bus into the inner city of Suva.  The bus dropped us of near the waterfront where we had a chance to photograph the water.  From there we headed down Queen Elizabeth Dr. to the Fiji Museum.  In front of the museum is a garden called Thurston Gardens, the garden was more like a park with a path through the middle, a lot of trees, and some flowers here and there.  The museum itself was mainly historical with legends and artifacts of the history of Fiji.  We then went to the local fruit market where you could literally buy any tropical fruit could want.  After the market, we were given a little bit of free time at a nearby mall and then headed back to the university.

While at the Thurston Gardens we had the chance to observe the different types flowering plants (monocot and dicot).  The first flower I looked at was purple and pictured above.  This flower is a dicot plant, which can be proven in the photo a couple of different ways.  The first is the number of petals the flower has.  The number of petals on a dicot plant is always a multiple of 4 or 5, and the flower in the picture has five petals.  The other proof is the structure of the leaf. In a dicot plant the veins of the leaf run outward, which is visible in the photo.

The second flower that is pictured above is yellow.  The flower is clearly monocot, and it can also be proven through a couple of different ways.  The first method of identifying the plant is by looking at the petals.  In a monocot plant the flowers always have a multiple of three petals, and the flower in the image has three petals.  The other way of figuring it out is the structure of the leaves; on a monocot leaf the veins run parallel up to the tip of the leaf, plus the leaves are long and narrow.  Although it is hard to tell what the veins look like in this photo, when I was there I could see that the veins were parallel.  Plus you can also see that the leaves are long and narrow.