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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

One Fits All: developing decapods biodiversity research for education, conservation and research benefits

PI: Ambariyanto (,, Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center and Diponegoro University
U.S. Partner: Christopher Meyer, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Project Dates: January 2016 - December 2019

Project Overview

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Photos courtesy of Andrianus Sembiring

Biodiversity is defined as the variety of organisms within a given area. The Convention on Biological Diversity indicates that the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for economic growth. However, despite having the highest marine biodiversity in the world, Indonesia frequently faces significant economic challenges and poor development due to unsustainable exploitation of their natural resources. Efforts to quantify biodiversity have traditionally relied on easily observed parameters like coral cover and fish biomass, while smaller invertebrates that significantly contribute to reef diversity are often ignored due to difficulties in identification, potentially resulting in inaccurate assessment of biodiversity and reef health. Although Indonesia is home to seas featuring more than half of all known marine species, not all taxa of these species have been assessed and quantified, and local expertise to support biodiversity research is small in relation to Indonesia’s size and biodiversity. This project focuses on quantifying the biodiversity of decapods (an order of crustaceans that includes crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns, and shrimp) across the Indonesia while also nurturing international collaboration and improving local taxonomic expertise. The research team will implement an integrated research and education program using autonomous reef monitoring structure (ARMS) and dead coral heads (DCH) as artificial and natural collection platforms for reef-associated decapods. Decapod diversity will then be assessed using both traditional taxonomy and cutting-edge genetic approaches. The results of this project will provide the first insights into the magnitude of marine biodiversity in one of the most diverse groups of marine metazoans in Indonesia, while also assessing how this diversity is distributed throughout the archipelago. Results will help inform local researchers and managers regarding health of reef ecosystems across Indonesia, facilitating the development of conservation strategies based on current biodiversity assessments.

The data collected will be helpful in designing management strategies to preserve biodiversity hotspots within Indonesia and in focusing conservation efforts on particularly threatened areas. Trainings and workshops organized through this project will increase local capacity to develop high quality biodiversity research and nurture the growth of local taxonomists. In addition, smartphone applications ( and online database produced through this project will, for the first time, make biodiversity research accessible to people beyond the scientific community, which is critical for mobilizing grassroots support for marine conservation. Through joint research and educational programs with the Smithsonian Institution, the team will train dozens of Indonesian students and researchers through experiential learning in research-intensive courses. By using research as a platform for education, the project will simultaneously improve understanding of Indonesian marine biodiversity and develop the next generation of biodiversity scientists.

Summary of Recent Activities

As of mid-July 2019, the PI Dr. Ambariyanto and his team had collected around 1,600 samples from all planned sampling locations in Indonesia, including the sites added after the original proposal was approved (Bali; Bengkulu, Sumatra Selatan; and Raja Ampat, Papua). To the PI’s knowledge, this is the largest ever sampling effort for decapods in Indonesia. At the beginning of April, the project sent Andrianus Sembiring for a three-month internship at the Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Working under the supervision of U.S. partner Dr. Christopher Meyer, Andre analyzed the collected samples and carried out other lab work, including working with a U.S. intern to quantify decapod biomass from dead coral heads previously collected. In addition, he further developed the GeoMe database, which will be used as an online virtual platform by Indonesian and global scientist to store, share, and manage research data. All the existing sample metadata have been stored and uploaded online, allowing anyone to access and utilize the data.

On May 11-13, back at Diponegoro University, the PI and his colleagues organized a three-day short course on genetic data analysis for nine undergraduate students from the university’s Marine Science Department and one doctoral student from Brawijaya University. This course was held to help the students analyze their genetic data from various marine-related projects and covered multiple software platforms, including MEGA, DNA sp, and Arlequen. The students brought data from their own projects and after receiving some training from the instructors, they had the chance to put it in practice by analyzing their data and creating finished outputs.

Dr. Ambariyanto and his group will be working closely with other members of the Faculty of Marine Science at Diponegoro University to organize the 5th International Conference on Tropical and Coastal Region Eco-Development. The event will be held in September 2019, with about 200 participants expected. The theme will be “Integrated Coastal Zone Management for Sustainable Development.” In addition, during the remaining months of 2019, the PEER researchers will be analyzing their latest data and doing further work on the GeoMe database.

Links to Publications

The researchers on this PEER team published three joint papers with their U.S. partner during 2018, which may be downloaded from the website of the open access IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science (EES) through the links below: 

Community Structure of Decapod Inhabit Dead Coral Pocillopora sp. in Pemuteran, Bali

Biodiversity of Cryptofauna (Decapods) and Their Correlation with Dead Coral Pocillopora sp. Volume at Bunaken Island, North Sulawesi

Conditions of Decapods Infraorders in Dead Coral Pocillopora sp. at Pemuteran, Bali: Study Case 2011 and 2016