The 20th Annual Philippine Biodiversity Symposium will be held from 11-14 April 2011 in Dumaguete City and will be hosted by Silliman University. The theme of the 2011 symposium, “Twenty Years in Biodiversity Conservation, Preparing for Future Challenges,” is a prompt for a review of the status of Philippine biodiversity and the growth and contribution of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines over the past 20 years, and planning and networking to continue to advance wildlife research and conservation in the Philippines.

The Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines (WCSP) is a professional organization of wildlife researchers, managers, scientists, and conservationists. The Society was formed to advance wildlife research and conservation in the Philippines through promoting collaborative research, providing technical assistance and training and increasing public awareness. Since 1992, wildlife biologists and conservationists from throughout the country have been meeting at different venues around the Philippines every April and the proceedings from most of these annual meetings have been published. The WCSP was officially registeredin 1993.

Source: WCSP 2011 Symposium announcements

Felling a life

I hate the sound of a chainsaw. It is the sound of a life being felled.

The Species Dilemma

Douglas Futuyma, in his book Evolutionary Biology (1998), said, “Subspecies are quite arbitrarily defined; the same is true for genera, families, and other higher categories of classification. But one taxonomic category, the species, is thought by many to be real and non-arbitrary, and to play a critical role in evolution.” But what is a SPECIES? Ernst Mayr (1942) defined species as “a group of actually or potentially interbreeding populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.” This definition has proliferated our (and I mean the Philippines) books, our classrooms, and I could be wrong, but could still very well be what your biology student, or teacher, will tell you. However, there is another definition, one that most of our students, or teachers, may not be familiar with. Joel Cracraft (1983) defined ‘phylogenetic species’ as “an irreducible cluster of organisms which is diagnosably distinct from other such clusters, and within which there is a parental pattern of ancestry and descent”.

Each definition is of course, not without criticism. Mayr’s Biological Species Concept begs the question: how can you define a species by simply basing it on reproductive capacity? What of fossils and asexual organisms? Are they not species as well? What of spatially-isolated populations? The differences in trait between two groups, even those not related to reproduction may not be sufficient to prevent them from interbreeding. This conundrum brings us to phenotype, which of course, also ushers in problems, given that phenotype is influenced by the environment.

The fundamental problem with Cracraft’s Phylogenetic Species Concept is that it requires a phylogenetic tree. But what if we cannot construct one for a certain organism? Is it not longer a species then? And what is ‘diagnosably distinct’ anyway? Who defines that? Who draws the line in such a hierarchical concept as the tree? And, how much weight do we give each of these: morphological, behavioral, or molecular diagnosibility?

So what if we do not have a clear definition of a species? Well, rightly, or wrongly (and this could be another blog!) our conservation activities are often centered on certain ‘species’. Our policies, action plans, management schemes, and the very core of our work rely heavily on ‘conservation status’, which is assessed mostly on the ‘species’ level. Enough said.

The debate amongst scientists is sizzling hot such that publications on the topic are spit out out like an old woman chewing on nganga. Join the kerfuffle?

Fundamental Question

I actually thought my first [long overdue] blog would be something that is more profound than this. But I thought, hey, isn’t this one of the most basic questions we ask ourselves, and others ask of us? So, to every blogger in this site, and every reader of samu’t saring buhay, my question is this: “WHY do you work in/for CONSERVATION?” Just asking.

Invitation to the Biodiversity Forum

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