When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.
Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium. It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.
The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.
I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.
Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.
This area — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.
Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.
Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.
And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing. On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:
Here are photos of some of the new marine species found during the expedition…
These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!
And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.
So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?
From the Academy website:
To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.
By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.
Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.
I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty. But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.
It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.
Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing. Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip. Yes, I’m hopeful!
This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.
Have you heard of these new discoveries?
Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?
This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast. To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.
Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.
Article about the plastic bag ban in California (California is the first U.S. State to ban single use plastic bags)
Link to California Academy of Sciences