Bio in Fiji

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August 5, 2013
by nickwaterman

Speciation Blog- The Mongoose

Speciation is the process through which a new species is formed that can interbreed and produce viable offspring under natural conditions. New species form when barriers exist to prevent outbreeding: these are usually environmental (mountain ranges, climatic barriers, oceans) or biological (cannot produce an offspring).

The following is a fictional example of speciation-
The mongoose is an invasive species in Fiji and has been for some time now. The small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) was introduced into Fiji in the late 1800s. It is found on 11 Fijian islands including the two main islands: Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. In 2007, a new species of large, red coloured mongoose was found when trapping mongoose near Suva for testing the spread of leptospirosis in Fiji. DNA testing revealed that this recently discovered mongoose is of a new species: the Red Mongoose (Herpestes jalabicus).

Mongooses prey primarily on rats, and occasionally snakes. On one island in Fiji called Humunaka Veru there was a disease which caused all of the rats to perish. This removed a vital piece in the food web: the mongoose was pressured since less food was available to them. The mongooses on this island grew more dependent on snakes as a food source, and in turn, they evolved to become better at catching snakes: evolution caused the mongooses on this island to grow larger, and stronger. Over generations, the coats of the mongooses got redder and redder: this allowed them to better camouflage when stalking the snakes which enjoyed sunbathing on the beach. As well, the natural mating times of mongooses changed from nighttime to daytime. Previously, the mongoose had been a nocturnal animal: it hunted rats in the dark. Now, the red mongooses on Humunaka Veru were active primarily during the day since their prey (snakes) enjoyed coming out and sunbathing during the day. This evolution also affected the times of mongooses` mating. The mongooses on Humunaka Veru still mated during the early spring, just like the Small Indian Mongooses. But, they mated during the daytime rather than the nighttime.
The evolution of the new species of Red Mongoose (Herpestes jalabicus) is an example of speciation through reproductive isolation. This new species underwent ecological isolation since it lived on a separate island separated by the Pacific Ocean, and temporal isolation since it mated at different times. These two types of reproductive isolation resulted in the evolution of a new species of mongoose: the Red Mongoose.


August 5, 2013
by nickwaterman

Lactose Intolerance Blog

Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency, is a condition that prevents the full digestion of the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products. This is caused by a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme found in the lining of the small intestine. Many people have low levels of lactase, but people who have signs and symptoms from this deficiency are classified as being lactose intolerant. The signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance generally appear between 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose. Common signs and symptoms are: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms of lactose intolerance are generally mild, and do not last long, but in some cases can be severe.

Lactose intolerance is extremely common in humans. Approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting more than 90% of adults in some of these communities. Lactose intolerance is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent. The prevalence of lactose intolerance is lowest in populations with a long history of dependence on unfermented milk products as an important food source. For example, only about 5% of people of Northern European descent are lactose intolerant.

Natural selection is the process by through evolution organisms obtain traits that better enable them to adapt to specific environmental pressures. These pressures include: predators, changes in climate, or competition for food or mates. The organisms better adapted to their environments tend to survive longer, and produce more offspring with those same advantageous traits.

Humans have not always possessed the ability to digest lactose throughout their lives. A new Cornell University study found that it is primarily people whose ancestors came from places where dairy herds could be raised safely and economically, such as in Europe, who have developed the ability to digest milk. Once dairy farming had developed in Europe, the increased exposure to milk and the benefits of drinking milk, meant that the few people who had the mutated, lactase-persistence allele were more likely to survive longer and produce more offspring. Gradually over many generations this allele has increased in frequency and the world’s population has become more lactose tolerant. Natural selection played an important role in pressuring populations such as Indians to develop some ability to digest lactose. This is because it was advantageous for them to be able to do so: it helped them to better adapt to their environments.

Modern Fiji consists of two different populations; Indo-Fijians, and the native Fijian population. Studies have shown that all native Fijians are lactose intolerant. This is because they have lived for thousands of years without being in contact with cows, and their bodies stop being able to digest milk after infancy. On the other hand, approximately 50% of the Indo-Fijian population possess the ability to digest lactose. Indo-Fijians originally came from India: a country that has been greatly influenced by cows : it is the largest producer of milk in the world. These different environments have created a difference in genetics between Indo-Fijians, and native Fijians: natives cannot digest lactose, yet Indo-Fijians can. This is a good example of how natural selection can affect the genetics of two, separate cultures in different ways and cause different mutations in each.

To conclude, the evolution of lactose tolerance is a good example of natural selection that has occurred in certain populations in different parts of the world relatively recently. Lactose tolerance is caused by an inherited mutation that causes lactase production to continue after infancy into adulthood. This mutation is a result of an increase in dairy farming causing the lactase-persistent allele to gradually become more prominent over the generations. It has become advantageous to possess this mutation as it helps people to better adapt by allowing them to safely consume dairy products.


August 5, 2013
by nickwaterman

Antibiotic Resistance Blog

Around the world today, there is an increasing concern worldwide that organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites are becoming resistant to drugs that are used to fight against them. An example of this progressive resistance is the increasing resistance to antibiotics, which are used to treat numerous types of infections. The downside to this is that fewer effective antibiotics are available that can treat infections and infectious diseases; Causing treatment to become more difficult due to the ineffectiveness of the once functional drugs.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when a drug is no longer effective in killing or stopping the growth of particular micro-organisms, like bacteria. This resistance is caused by the overuse, and inappropriate use of antibiotics in preventing or treating infections in people, animals, and plants. Until the 1940’s, when antibiotic drugs were discovered, people with infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases often died because the available treatments at that current time were not adequately effective in treating or curing the illnesses. The discovery of new drugs has given humans the ability to fight these once deadly diseases, but unfortunately germs have now started to become resistant to these drugs. The overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, and problems in patients including allergic reactions and serious diarrhea infections.
Germs constantly adapt to their environment and have the ability to take on characteristics of other germs. What occurs when antibiotics are used inappropriately is that the weak bacteria are killed, while the stronger, resistant ones survive and multiply. When a germ develops resistance to one antibiotic, it has the ability to develop resistance to another antibiotic. This is known as cross-resistance.

Antibiotic resistance can develop through multiple ways like mutation as well as a process called natural selection. When an antibiotic is administered to fight a certain species of micro-organisms it can cause a mutation in the genetic code of certain organisms within the species causing them to be resistant to the antibiotic. The surviving micro-organisms will then replicate and spread the advantageous mutant gene until the entire colony becomes fully resistant to that type of antibiotics. This highlights an example of natural selection: a process through which an organism has a genetic mutation that better allows it to survive in its environment and produce more offspring. Since the resistant microorganisms survive, they go on to produce more offspring, and pass on the advantageous mutated gene that allowed them to survive the antibiotic.
One factors that that can cause antibiotic resistance is when drugs are given to animals, or when chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables. Resistant germs can be passed on to humans through, milk, meat, fruit, vegetables, and drinking water. Other factors that can cause antibiotic resistance are: incorrect drugs being prescribed, the use of an antibiotic when the infection is viral (antibiotics do not work on viruses), and not following the prescription instructions (such as not taking the antibiotic for the time required).

In order to prevent antibiotic resistance, patients, healthcare providers, hospital administrators, and policy makers must work together to improve the health care system, and save lives. There are a number of thing patients can do to help. They can take the antibiotics as prescribed without skipping doses (and do not stop even when they start feeling better), avoid sharing antibiotics with others, and maintain good hygiene. Healthcare providers should assure to prescribe correctly (assure to not overlap medications), educate patients about correct use of antibiotics, and monitor how the patients are reacting to the drugs. By following these precautions, one can help to minimize the impact, and occurrence of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance has a large impact on developing countries, including Fiji. A Fijian doctor in Suva believes that superbugs can be avoided through rational prescribing. Dr. Ram Raju, from the Fiji College of General Practitioners says that “some doctors are fond of prescribing newer broad spectrum expensive antibiotics when simple, narrow spectrum antibiotics would suffice…” He recommends that every GP in Fiji have a copy of the Antibiotics Guidelines booklet: he believes that it will help prevent the emergence of antibiotics resistance and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ in Fiji.


August 5, 2013
by nickwaterman

Eco-System Restoration

Today, I got to participate in a variety of different interesting activities, I got the chance to watch the unbelievable snorkel around the developing coral, and visit Votua village to see their wastewater project and participate in a tradition local welcoming ceremony performed for guests who enter the village.

The coral restoration project is extremely important in maintaining the oceanic ecosystems in Fiji, as well as promoting biodiversity. Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given species, ecosystem, biome, or planet. Biodiversity is important for all of the species’ survival. Species depend on each other to survive, so if one becomes extinct, another species that relies on it could go extinct as well. Individual traits allow certain species to cope with certain environmental changes, but often if the habitat, and food chains of a species are greatly altered it will go extinct. The more biodiversity in an ecosystem, the more resilient it is to collapsing.

The main purpose of the coral restoration project in Votua was to restore coral and the ecosystem that depends on it. The reason for doing this is because much of Fiji’s coral reefs have been damaged or killed due to: overharvesting, destructive fishing practices, wastewater pollution, global warming, and sedimentation/ runoff from land. To improve the condition of corals near Votua and neighbouring villages an extensive action plan was put in place. Some of the elements of this plan included: reducing the pollutants from wastewater disposed in the Pacific Ocean, and a coral planting project. We were given the opportunity to plant small coral pieces that had been grown for an average of 6 months on underwater metal trays. By replanting the pieces of coral in places where much had died, we were promoting the redevelopment of a new coral ecosystem.

I believe that the project is effective in the restoration of a coral ecosystem: they manage to effectively grow coral shards and plant them with tourists’ help. On the contrary side, they are only planting a couple different types of coral, so this will likely cause the ecosystem to be less diverse. Some of the short term impacts of the project include: regrowth of coral in areas where it was damaged, support of the growth of a new ecosystem, reduction of algae on the ocean floor. Some of the long term effects include: a stable and biodiverse ecosystem, a large reef preventing soil erosion from waves and storms, more large game fish available for fishing, and a self-sufficient natural resource supporting Fiji’s economy.

In conclusion, the ecosystem restoration project in Votua is very helpful. It helps promote a healthy marine ecosystem in Fiji, and ensures that Fijians can continue to rely on the ocean to sustain them: it is extremely important to their economy, it is a vital food source, and it is historical religious totem to the tribes living in the village.

August 5, 2013
by nickwaterman

The Kava Plant Study

While on Epi’s epic tour, I went on a breathtaking hike in a Fijian rain forest with both the grade 11s and 12s. While on the hike Epi showed our group a variety of different medicinal plants that were used by Fijians for centuries. There were plants to cure a variety of diseases, disinfect wounds, and heal mosquito bites as well as a number of edible plants which I did try and I must say it made my breath smell great. Epi told us about Kava which is a traditional local plant grown in Fiji, as well as in some islands in Hawaii. This plant had traditionally been served as ‘tea’ used to welcome visitors to their villages. It is known for its stress-relieving and anesthetic properties. I was fortunate enough to get a few bowls of this masterpiece myself. Locals farm this plant and sell it overseas for $50-$70 per kilogram: it is sold in Europe and North America as an anti-depressant, a sleeping aid, and as anti-stress medications.

Kava (piper methysticum), is a common Fijian shrub with green, rough-like texture, it also has yellow or green flowers. There are over 100 different species of Kava, which is a member of the “Pepper” family native to the South Pacific. Kava is known under multiple names including Kava-Kava, Grog, Sakau, ‘Awa, Yaqona, Kew, and ‘Ava.

Kava is classified as a dicot plant and has a stem with vascular bundles in a ring, and roots branching out in multiple ways. Kava has a tail-shaped inflorescences, which is a cluster of flowers on a stem composed of a main branch. It flowers (not visible at this time) in multiples of 4 or 5, and heart shaped leaves with branched veins from midrib to the edges of the leaf. (This proves once again that it is a Dicot plant)

Kava requires a mixture of approximately 50% soil, and 50% Perlite: this ensures that the soil is well drained, and the roots do not flood since they can rot very easily. Transpiration, evaporation, cohesion and adhesion are processes used to deliver water in and out of the plant. The Capillary action develops a suction system that drags in the water and other nutrients from the roots through the xylem vascular tissue up to the leaves. The xylem is made of tracheids, which are dead cells that form the vascular tubes that branch throughout the plant.
Kava reproduces asexually through vegetative propagation. (Vegetative propagation is a process in which meristematic cells are capable of cellular differentiation allowing new plants to grow from the bits of the original plant without the use of seeds or spores) This process only requires only one parent plant, which generates and disperses tissues that form the new Kava plants. Some methods of (vegetative) propagation include: stem cutting, as well as “striking” (a method used by natives). Because of the farming of this plant, Kava is considered to be an invasive species: in many parts of the South Pacific as it kills off other plants, and lives in abundance. Kava has no predators that feed on it aside from humans using its root for its traditional and medicinal uses. If humans were to completely stop using Kava, It may possibly go extinct as it relies surprisingly heavily on humans for vegetative propagation.

Kava is believed to have evolved from a plant that grew in the wild thousands of years ago called piper wichmannii.
Experts believe that locals on the island of Vanatu domesticated Kava and replanted the seeds of the plant. This explains why there are over 20 different forms of Kava today: this replanting caused the piper wichmannii to evolve into a bunch of unique, different species.
The main factors that affect the growth of Kava are the soil, water, and sun conditions it lives in. Kava Lives most pleasantly in warm tropical conditions between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and partial shade with strong sunlight. Kava needs some rainfall to keep the soil humid.

To conclude, while on Epi’s Tour we saw many different and unbelievable plants with many unique properties and capabilities. I chose to discuss the plant called Kava since it has a distinctly unique history of being used by native Fijians as a traditional drink, and it has many medical benefits. I believe that plants like Kava have much medicinal potential. Naturopathic cures for diseases may someday become extremely helpful in the creation of medicines, or even replace synthesized medications entirely, but for now, I shall stick to drinking it while at the villages ahead.

August 2, 2013
by nickwaterman

Koronivia Research Station

Today we had an marvellous day at Koronivia Research Station. While we were there we expected to encounter different methods of plant propagation, (a method of reproducing plants either sexually or asexually). Although, when we arrived we learned about other interesting topics including invasive species, pesticides, fertilizers, endangered insects and plants, and saw a bunch of different scientific equipment that is used in the labs of Fiji.

Fruit flies are a major pest in Fiji! 7 different species of these annoying fruit flies are found in Fiji and today they are known as the Bactrocera passiflorae (Fijian fruit fly), Bactrocera xanthodes (Pacific fruit fly), Bactrocera distincta, Bactrocera gnetum, Bactrocera passiflorae, Bactrocera kirki, and but not least the Bactrocera obscura. The Fijian fruit fly and the Pacific fruit fly both have a surprisingly large impact on the Fijian economy. They cause damage to commercial fruits and vegetables including all over Fiji like guava, mango, breadfruit, papaya, vutu and a variety of other fruits. The Koronivia Research Station study these two flies including studying the determination of the host specifically of potential export commodities. Scientists from the National University of Fiji use a total of 157 modified Steiner fruit fly traps, and three types of pheromones to trap fruit flies. The specimens are carefully identified and counted for monitoring. Scientists at Koronivia are also experimenting with new ideas made in and out of the lab like protein bait spraying. This is a technique used to kill fruit flies by attracting sexually immature females fruit flies in search for a liquid protein meal because that is what they require to lay their eggs. This protein once applied to plants attracts fruit flies that come to feed, which are killed by other insecticides in the ‘mixture’. Another project Koronivia is testing is ‘fruit bagging’, a method that works by wrapping a young fruit with newspaper to prevent fruit flies from reaching the fruit. This is very simple but innovative as it can be used by all Fijians ver simply. Maybe ill try this while I’m in Fiji!

To conclude, today was a very insightful day learning about how devastating the fruit flies actually were to the economy in Fiji. Its amazing how that one little organism can create such a problem. But overall I feel very informed on what Fijians are trying to do to stop this fruit fly situation. It was also very nice to really get to know a lot of the students who I can now call my friends.





July 13, 2013
by nickwaterman

Prokaryotes Blog Post

Phototrophic Prokaryotes are bacteria that collect their energy from light and photosynthesis (the alteration of the suns energy and carbon dioxide which can be used as energy and oxygen). Phototrophic Prokaryotes are microscopic but even with its miniature stature, they are capable of supporting a whole underwater ecosystem. They are commonly located in warm or shallow water where coral reefs will protect them. To conclude, these little bacteria are incredibly beneficial to all life in the ocean.



July 12, 2013
by nickwaterman

Comparative Anatomy Blog Post: Dolphin & Human

Today I shall be discussing the similarities and differences between the Dolphin and Human digestive and skeletal systems.

The dolphins digestive system has its similarities to the human digestive system but it also has some very substantial differences. The Dolphins digestion begins with the whole or largely dissected fish or squid enters the esophagus where it will later arrive in the stomach. The dolphins stomach is a lot more complicated then other meat- eating animals like a human because the dolphin has 3 muscular churning compartments unlike humans which only have 1 compartment. This process is called mechanical digestion and it consists of a mush like substance created by the first compartment called chyme which is squirted in to the next chamber. The second (most important) chamber is used for chemical digestion where the walls of the stomach spread chemicals like hydrochloric acid to reduce the PH balance and the amount of protein-digesting enzymes. Then the walls of the third chamber secrete fat digesting enzymes and the alkaline fluid that level out the stomaches acid levels. Then the partly digested food then travels to the duodenum which works as the start of the small intestine. Then the small intestine then takes care of any other chemical fluids and other substances and proteins. After, any undigested food or enzymes are transported through the large intestine, the rectum, and the anus. At the same time the kidney gets rid of any excess salts and liquids.

Besides some minor changes in the order of digestion, there are some very obvious similarities that progressed through the evolution of both these animals.

The spinal cord and ribs are the fundamental support in any mammal’s body. Throughout time the dolphins spine and ribs have adapted from rigid, strong, and supportive ribs that are present in humans to flexible, fragile buoyant cart ledge. This change in the bone structure has allowed the dolphins to dive deeper down and hunt where human’s bones would either break or fracture. This evolution is good for the dolphins but quite negative for humans. If humans where to have this style of ribs, there is a very good chance that this would not be the situation right now . If we where to have this bone type we would not be able to hunt for food and would have to rely on collecting food. The way that the ribs are laid out and how they flex affects the mammal’s spinal cord dramatically.

In the human spinal cord there are 26 vertebrae making up approximately half of your body, apposed to the dolphins 75. This large difference is due to the dolphins reduced interlocking of individual vertebrae and the development of large fibrous discs between them. The humans spinal cord is made to support the human standing up on its hind legs, where as the dolphins is made for powerful swimming and agility.

As anyone could see the dolphins evolution has been a big contributor to their survival and prosperity. Without the changes made, the dolphin may not be here today.




July 9, 2013
by nickwaterman

Monocot Comparison Blog

Spider plant:
This plant is an example of monocot flowering plant.
Flower parts in some type of 3 but have “extensions” that commonly expand over 3 inches and there are usually 6 of these on each individual head. The roots are mildly adventurous and i noticed that they wandered instead of following a clear path, i also noticed that the veins of the plants are parallel to one another providing another example of a monocot plant. No secondary growth what so ever as much as i was not very surprised about as it has no source of wood or bark being produced. Pollen is also located in a single pore although it could possibly be a furrow as well. These are all examples of a monocot plant and i found all of these on the “spiderplant”.


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