Black woodpeckers at their nests

This 3 March 2019 video is about black woodpeckers at their nests in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.


Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, my sixteen nominees!

Real Neat Blog Award

Late in 2014, I made this new award: the Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I will try to do something about that.

It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging; but my computer drawing had become rusty.

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are: (feel free not to act upon them if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards; etc.):

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

My seven questions are:

1. Which film did you see, but wish in retrospect you had not bothered to see?

2. Which book haven’t you read yet, but would like to read?

3. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?

4. To which country where you have not been yet would you like to go?

5. Who is your least favourite politician?

6. If you could go back in history, to which person would you like to talk?

7. If WordPress would stop, would you continue to blog elsewhere?

My nominees are:

1. La poesía, eso decían

2. sjraja

3. sx8286

4. 3rdofthe3rd

5. Parkashpencia poetry


7. Lizard Planet

8. Charlie Corisepa

9. History of royal India

10. equinox

11. Renard’s World

12. Notes

13. TheWaldenWord

14. Love appreciated

15. Toby’s sporting views

16. My life my pleasure

Japanese eels, new research

This 2015 video is called The Mystery of the Eel – Documentary Film.

From Kobe University in Japan:

Endangered eel located using DNA from one liter of water

March 1, 2019

Researchers have shed light on the distribution of Japanese eel by analyzing environmental DNA (eDNA) from small samples of river water. This could enable faster and more effective surveys of Japanese eel populations, and help to conserve this endangered species. The finding was published on February 27 in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

Eels are migratory fish that spawn in the ocean and grow up along the coast and in rivers. There are 16 known species in the world, distributed in 150 countries. The Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) is found across East Asia. Since ancient times it has been an important part of Japanese life: as a food source, a subject of traditional poems and art, and sometimes even as a target of worship. However, eel catches have fallen drastically since the 1970s, and in 2014 it was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Most river surveys of Japanese eel use electrofishing. However, this method requires a lot of time and resources, and for widely distributed species it may not collect enough data. Surveys are usually carried out in the daytime, while the nocturnal eels hide among vegetation and dirt.

Rapidly-advancing eDNA technology can monitor aquatic lifeforms through extraction and analysis of DNA present in water, without capturing the organisms themselves. In this study, the team investigated whether eDNA analysis could be used to show the distribution of Japanese eel. They collected 1-liter samples from 125 locations upstream and downstream in 10 rivers in Japan, and analyzed the eDNA from these samples using a Real-Time PCR system. At the same time they carried out an electrofishing survey in the same locations, and compared this with the eDNA analysis results.

Japanese eel eDNA was found in 91.8% of the locations where eel had been confirmed using electrofishing (56 of 61 locations), and eDNA was also detected in an additional 35 areas (mainly upstream) where eel individuals were not found. This shows that eDNA analysis is more sensitive than conventional surveys for detecting the presence of Japanese eel in rivers. Electrofishing data for eel numbers and biomass also positively correlated with eDNA concentrations, showing that eDNA could help us estimate the abundance and biomass of Japanese eel.

In this study, electrofishing required three or more people for each river and took at least three days. Collecting water samples for eDNA analysis only needed two people, took half a day at the most, and data processing was finished by one person in one and a half days. When carrying out a large-scale distribution survey the eDNA analysis method is better in terms of human and time resources.

This method could potentially survey populations on an even wider scale. It is non-lethal, making it ideal for monitoring endangered species. The team is currently using eDNA analysis to monitor eels in Japan and overseas: it can be used as an international unified method for widely-distributed species. This could be a great help in the conservation and sustainable use of eel species worldwide.

The eDNA analysis method is also effective in dealing with the invasion of foreign eel species. For 20 years there have been reports of foreign eels (European eels and American eels) being released into Japanese waterways. These species look the same as Japanese eel, making them hard to detect. They are also long-lived so they may impact the ecosystem over long periods of time. By carrying out a wide-ranging investigation using eDNA analysis, we can swiftly identify foreign eel species and their distribution.

This study was carried out by Research Associate Hikaru Itakura (Kobe University Graduate School of Science), Assistant Professor Ryoshiro Wakiya (Chuo University), Assistant Professor Satoshi Yamamoto (Kyoto University), Associate Professor Kenzo Kaifu (Chuo University), Associate Professor Takuya Sato and Associate Professor Toshifumi Minamoto (both from Kobe University).

Itakura comments: “Concentration of eDNA in rivers is influenced by physical properties such as water depth and the speed of the current. Next we must increase the accuracy of eDNA analysis by clarifying the impact of these physical properties on eDNA concentration.”

Koalas studied with drones in Australia

This 2015 Associated Press video says about itself:

An Australian university is using heat seeking drones to monitor the population of koalas and to aid their conservation. (March 14)

From the Queensland University of Technology in Australia:

Koala-spotting drones proves a flying success

March 1, 2019

QUT researchers have developed an innovative method for detecting koala populations using drones and infrared imaging that is more reliable and less invasive than traditional animal population monitoring techniques.

In the study, published in Nature journal Scientific Reports, the researchers detail the technique that involves an algorithm for locating the koalas using drones that can detect heat signatures.

The technique has great potential to improve management of koala populations and other threatened species as well as being used to detect invasive species.

Dr Grant Hamilton, from QUT’s School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences, co-authored the study with PhD student Evangeline Corcoran and Dr Simon Denman from QUT, and John Hanger and Bree Wilson from Endeavour Veterinary Ecology.

Dr Hamilton said the researchers were able to correlate the detection of koalas from the air using ground surveys of tracked radio-collared koalas in Petrie, Queensland.

The system uses infrared imaging to detect the heat signals of the koala despite the canopy coverage of the eucalyptus trees.

“Nobody else has really managed to get good results anywhere in the world in a habitat this complex and in these kinds of numbers,” Dr Hamilton said.

Other animal population detection systems by drones have been used in fairly simple scenarios such as looking for seals on a beach or animals on the savannah.

“A seal on a beach is a very different thing to a koala in a tree,” Dr Hamilton said.

“The complexity is part of the science here which is really exciting.

“This is not just somebody counting animals with a drone, we’ve managed to do it in a very complex environment.”

To maximise the effectiveness of the technique, the researchers carried out their aerial sweeps of the area at early morning during colder months, when difference between the body heat of the koalas and the background was likely to be greatest.

The drone covered an area in a “lawnmower” pattern, going up and down over a specific area.

After the flight, the data was put through an algorithm that was designed to identify the heat signatures of the koalas compared to other animals in the area.

Because the researchers were able to confirm the location of the koalas detected by the drones with the location of the koalas determined by their GPS tags, the researchers were able to rate the accuracy of the system.

“On average, an expert koala spotter is going to get about 70 per cent of koalas in a particular area,” Dr Hamilton said. “We, on average, get around 86 per cent. That’s a substantial increase in accuracy that we need to help protect threatened species.

“What we previously found was the accuracy was about the same as expert observers.

“Now we actually know that it’s better.”

Another advantage of animal detection by drone is that it is quicker, and cheaper, than covering the same area with human spotters.

“We cover in a couple of hours what it would take a human all day to do,” Dr Hamilton said.

But Dr Hamilton said the high accuracy rate of the drone detection did not mean other means of determining koala population, such as by human spotters or dogs, were no longer necessary.

“There’s no point talking about it that way, because there are places that people can’t go and there are places that drones cant’ go,” he said.

“There are advantages and downsides to each one of these techniques, and we need to figure out the best way to put them all together.

“What we do know now is that this is a really powerful tool within the tool box.

“Thinking about any one of these approaches as a silver bullet tends to make people complacent — they think the problem has been solved, so let’s move on. Koalas are facing extinction in large areas, and so are many other species and there is no silver bullet.

“This is a powerful technique in the right circumstances.”

Following the success of the study, Dr Hamilton said the researchers were looking to expand the area where they had studied koala populations, and would use the drone system in other parts of Brisbane, south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.

And the target would also be expanded, with the algorithm being adapted so the technology could be used to detect invasive species such as deer.