This research group presented its data through posters during the March 2013 visit of Dr. Drika Weller, a AAAS fellow on the PEER Science steering committee. Dr. Kerry Reeves and Ms. Becky Guieb of the USAID mission in Manila also participated.
Severe declines in fisheries resources have implications for millions of coastal families dependent on fisheries for food and livelihood in developing countries. In most cases, the communities dependent on the resources have very few alternatives to the loss of their fisheries-based livelihoods when resources are devastated. Fisheries in these areas urgently need management strategies that will not only halt overfishing and habitat degradation but also hasten recovery of fish stocks. Recovery and eventual sustainability of fisheries subjected to intense fishing pressure hinge on the availability of new recruits and their success in replenishing resources harvested from the system. Information on spatial structure of populations and connectivity will potentially benefit management efforts related to fisheries because it contributes to answering the biological question “why do species occur where they occur?” and “how can we ensure survival of populations in an area?".
This project will use naturally occurring genetic tags to obtain the information needed. Genetic markers will be screened using a recently developed technology called NextGen sequencing. The selected markers will be retrieved from samples from populations within selected bioregions in the Philippines and analyzed to determine which populations have distinct genetic signatures across the Philippine archipelago, likely to be dependent on other populations. This project compliments two major USAID programs, the Coral Triangle Initiative and the Global FISH Alliance. It will provide badly needed biological information on fish stock structure and population connectivity that should help local and regional agencies in setting and implementing fishery management policies to ensure that viable populations survive and thrive.
In July 2015, two proposals from the project team—one by Dr. Lagman entitled “Integrating genomics with image analysis and GIS technologies for improved rearing of mud crabs” and another by co-PI Dr. Rachel Ravago-Gotanco entitled “Developing genomic resources for stock delineation and sustainable development of mud crabs”—were selected for funding by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST). They build on the experience of using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) by both proponents and are a result of Dr. Lagman and Dr. Gotanco’s collaborative work through PEER.
Accomplishments by the project team’s students have been substantial as well. Ms. Chona Vince Cruz, a PhD student at DLSU completed work for two chapters of her dissertation through the PEER grant and was chosen for a Fulbright PhD dissertation Fellowship. As a result, she will be doing research at the lab of Dr. Billie Swala at the University of Washington in Seattle working on identifying a DNA marker which is associated with the late maturing female phenotype. Outreach activities are also continuing. During the last quarter, Dr. Lagman attended the meeting of the USAID Chiefs of Parties of the USAID Office of Environment Energy and Climate Change held at the BWISER office in Makati City, where she met other PEER grantees from Cycle 3, including Dr. Sev Salmo, Dr. Rey Donne Papa, Dr. Marivic Pajaro, and Ms. Maribel Garcia.
Most of the data gathering through field and laboratory activities by all five institutions involved in the PhilFishConnect project has been completed as of October 2015. The manual “Barcoding 101 for Marine Organisms” is now being revised and will be jointly published via the DLSU Press. Going forward, the DLSU, UPMSI, and UP Mindanao teams will present the results of the project at the 13th Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS) meeting in General Santos City on October 22-25, 2015, and at the 44th Federation of Institutions for Marine and Freshwater Sciences (FIMS) meeting in Cebu City on October 24-26, 2015. At least seven paper presentations on the PEER project will be given by the students, the PI, and co-PI. Final input from the partners is anticipated by mid-December. The Philgenesdiversity.org
website, the manual, and the field guide from the project will be finalized by the end of the year, and NGS data is anticipated to be made accessible after the project ends.