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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 2018

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

Dr. Ambariyanto and his group were busy with multiple research and capacity building activities during the third quarter of 2018. One highlight was a bioinformatics training workshop and lecture on marine biodiversity presented at Universitas Diponegoro July 18-20 in cooperation with their visiting U.S. partner, Dr. Chris Meyer of The Smithsonian Institution. Two Indonesian PhD candidates currently studying at UCLA also contributed to the workshop as instructors during the workshop and commentators during Dr. Meyer’s lecture. There were 45 participants (30 faculty members and 15 students). Following this event, Dr. Meyer and project participants traveled to Permutaran, on the northern coast of Bali, for a joint workshop July 22-25 in cooperation with staff from the NGO BIONESIA. Rodney J. Ewing, a U.S. bioinformatics specialist working on the Genomic Observators MetaDatabase (GeOMe) also served as an instructor, assisting the 22 participants from BIONESIA, Universitas Udayana, and Universitas Pendidikan Ganesa Singaraja. The main purpose of this workshop was to develop an Indonesian Nationwide Marine Bioidiversity database that would provide all types of researchers (students, faculty, and private researchers) with a tool they can use for research data management and online identification of species collected. Dr. Meyer subsequently visited Universitas Udayana on August 1 to present a general lecture and share his experiences doing research in Indonesia with almost 50 students and faculty members. In addition to the public events, Dr. Meyer and the Indonesian PEER team also took the opportunity of his visit to engage in detailed discussions to plan further collection trip and data analysis and to compile existing data. With these recent events during July-August 2018, the PI reports that he and his team have trained more than 500 students and faculty members from more than 10 universities across Indonesia since the project began in January 2016.

The discussions during Dr. Meyer’s visit highlighted the need to conduct extra fieldwork to complete data collection and obtain a better picture of decapod diversity Indonesia-wide. The additional fieldwork is planned for November 2018. Upon completion, the project will be one of the first decapod expeditions ever completed covering most areas in Indonesia. A no-cost extension will likely be necessary to provide more time for Dr. Ambariyanto and his group to complete the project, including the additional sample collection work, analysis of the samples in the lab, and preparation of research papers documenting the findings. One more student will also be sent to the Smithsonian in 2019 to carry out lab work and data analysis under Dr. Meyer’s supervision. 

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