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Bengaluru Thursday, 5 July, 2018 - 09:02

Climate change and global warming are poised to impact every aspect of our planet—the food that we grow, the air that we breathe, the forests and even the remote ice caps in the poles. Studies all over the world have pointed out that the changing climate is disastrous not only for humans, who are mainly responsible for it but also for the billions of other life forms—both on land and in water. One such collaborative study that included researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), has analysed how climate change could affect the habitats of the Nilgiri Tahr in the years to come.

The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is an endangered, hoofed mammal (ungulate) endemic to the Western Ghats. Once found in plenty in the montane grasslands and the Shola forests, they are now reduced to a meagre 3000 due to rampant hunting and loss of habitat. In fact, over the years, their habitat has been reduced to just one-tenth of their original range.

The current study, published in the journal Ecological Engineering, is the first to look at the effect of climate change on these elegant mammals. It predicts that most of the existing habitats of the Nilgiri Tahr in the Western Ghats will become unsuitable as global warming intensifies.

Why did the researchers choose to study the Nilgiri tahrs?

“Even though tahr populations in the Eravikulam National Park is well monitored and managed, the small populations (of size ranges between 8-30) in different parts in the southern Western Ghats did not receive attention. We realised that it is important to look at these small populations and the effects of climate change since they are more vulnerable to local extinction”, says R K Sony from ATREE who is also an author of the study.

The researchers conducted their study in ten Tahr habitats including the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Neyyar wildlife sanctuary and Silent Valley National Park, during 2010-2011. For the first time, the study used the ecological niche model—an ecological model that uses the relationship between a species and its habitat to identify potential species distribution. They predicted the species distribution of the Tahr in varying climate scenarios over the course of three timeframes—the 2030s (2021–2050), 2050s (2040–2069) and 2080s (2070–2099).

The future climate projections in the study were based on two scenarios. The first scenario represented an optimistic emission rate, with the peaking of emissions by 2040, while the second scenario represented a continuous rise in emissions all through the 21st century.

The results of the study showed a drastic loss of habitat in all future time scenarios. It predicted a maximum habitat loss of 61.2%, 61.4% and 63% for 2030, 2050 and 2080 respectively if the current rate of emissions did not reduce.

The projected loss in the habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr

The projected loss in the habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr

The researchers identify the rising temperature to be the main culprit causing the havoc.

“The loss of habitats is mostly driven by temperature variables. Even though the models suggests the importance of precipitation variables, but there are uncertainties associated with them; especially, the future rainfall projections may not be always accurate. A majority of the current climatically-suitable habitats of the Nilgiri Tahr are predicted to become unsuitable when global warming intensifies”, explains Sandeep Sen, a co-author of the study, also from ATREE.

The reduction in the habitats is of grave concern in conserving these mammals from the brink of extinction.

"In the absence of the data on the movements of these animals between the high-altitude forest grasslands separated by thick forest barriers, the possible impacts on the habitat suitability are increasing the chances of local extinction," says Dr. Jayahari KM, an author of the study.

Are we too late to then save these large mammals from the impending habitat loss? Not yet, say the authors, who point out that conservation and management of suitable habitats outside the existing ones will be helpful to curb the effect of climate change on the Tahr as well as its associated species.

The study unearths the possibilities of severe threat to the natural habitats of these species, which demands a comprehensive species management plan. The authors stress the need for detailed, habitat-based ecological observations and genetic studies to develop such management strategies.

Section: General, Science, Ecology, Deep-dive Source:
ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು Thursday, 5 July, 2018 - 07:50

ಖಗೋಳ ಜಗತ್ತು ಯಾವಾಗಲೂ ವಿಸ್ಮಯಕಾರಿ ಹಾಗೂ ಕುತೂಹಲಕಾರಿ. ಇದರೊಳಗಡಗಿರುವ ಅನೇಕ ರಹಸ್ಯಗಳು ಇಂದಿಗೂ ನಿಗೂಢ. ಇಂದು ಡಾರ್ಕ ಮ್ಯಾಟರ್ (ಕಪ್ಪು ದ್ರವ್ಯ), ಡಾರ್ಕ ಎನರ್ಜಿ (ಕಪ್ಪು ಶಕ್ತಿ) ಹಾಗೂ ಕಲ್ಪನೆಗೂ ನಿಲುಕದ, ಖಗೋಳವನ್ನು ಆವರಿಸಿರುವಂತಹ ಶಕ್ತಿ ಕಣಗಳು - ಇವೆಲ್ಲ ಇಂದಿಗೂ ಕೂಡ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರಶ್ನಾರ್ಹ ರಹಸ್ಯಗಳು. ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ರಾಮನ್ ರಿಸರ್ಚ ಇನ್‍ಸ್ಟಿಟ್ಯೂಟ್‍ನ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ರಷ್ಯಾ ದೇಶದ, ಮಾಸ್ಕೋದ ಲೆಬೆಡೆವ್ ಫಿಸಿಕಲ್ ಇನ್‍ಸ್ಟಿಟ್ಯೂಟ್‍ನ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳ ಜೊತೆಗೂಡಿ ಈ ರಹಸ್ಯಗಳ ಬುಟ್ಟಿಗೆ ಹೊಸದೊಂದು ವಿಸ್ಮಯಕಾರಿ ದ್ರವ್ಯವನ್ನು ತುಂಬಿದ್ದಾರೆ.

‘ಆಸ್ಟ್ರೋಫಿಸಿಕಲ್ ಜರ್ನಲ್ ಲೆಟರ್ಸ್’ ನಿಯತಕಾಲಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಕಟವಾಗಿರುವ ಸಂಶೋಧನಾ ಲೇಖನದಲ್ಲಿ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ಸ್ಲೋನ್ ಡಿಜಿಟಲ್ ಸ್ಕೈ ಸರ್ವೆಯ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡಂತಹ ರೋಹಿತದ ಮೂಲಕ ಈ ವಿಸ್ಮಯಕಾರಿ ದ್ರವ್ಯದ ಇರುವಿಕೆಯನ್ನು ಊಹಿಸಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ನಮ್ಮ ಆಕಾಶಗಂಗೆ ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದ ಪ್ರಭಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ದ್ರವ್ಯಾನಿಲ ಇರಬಹುದು ಎಂಬುದು ಗಮನಿಸಬೇಕಾದ ವಿಷಯ.

ಶಾಲಾ-ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾಡಿದ ಪ್ರಯೋಗ ನಮಗೆಲ್ಲ ನೆನಪಿರಬಹುದು. ಅಶ್ರಗ ಅಂದರೆ ಪ್ರಿಸ್ಮ್ ಅನ್ನು ಬಳಸಿ, ಅದರ ಮೂಲಕ ಬೆಳಕನ್ನು ಹಾಯಿಸಿದಾಗ, ಅದು ಏಳು ಬಣ್ಣಗಳಾಗಿ ಚದುರಿ ಗೋಚರ ಬೆಳಕಿನ ರೋಹಿತ ದೊರೆಯುತ್ತದೆ. ಈ ರೋಹಿತದ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ಖಗೋಳಶಾಸ್ತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಅನೇಕ ಸಂಗತಿಗಳನ್ನು ಕಂಡುಹಿಡಿಯಬಹುದು. ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಮೂಲ, ಆ ಮೂಲ ವಸ್ತುವಿನ ಗುಣ-ಲಕ್ಷಣ, ಬೆಳಕು ಸಾಗಿ ಬಂದ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮ ಹೀಗೆ ಅನೇಕ ವಿಷಯಗಳನ್ನು ರೋಹಿತದ ಮೂಲಕ ಕಂಡುಹಿಡಿಯಬಹುದು. ಬೆಳಕು ನಕ್ಷತ್ರ ಅಥವಾ ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದಿಂದ ಸಾಗಿ ತುಲನಾತ್ಮಕವಾಗಿ ತಂಪಾದ ಪ್ರದೇಶವನ್ನು ತಲುಪಿದಾಗ, ಆ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಅನಿಲದ ಕಣಗಳು ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಕೆಲವು ಪುನರಾವರ್ತನಗಳನ್ನು ಹೀರಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತವೆ. ಇದರ ಪರಿಣಾಮವಾಗಿ ರೋಹಿತದಲ್ಲಿ ರೇಖೆಗಳು ಮೂಡುವುದರಿಂದ, ರೇಖೆಗಳ ಸ್ಥಾನವನ್ನು ಪರೀಕ್ಷಿಸಿ ಆ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮದಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾವ ಅನಿಲವಿದೆಯಂದು ಪತ್ತೆಹಚ್ಚಬಹುದು. ಈ ತರಹದ ರೋಹಿತವನ್ನು ಶೋಷಕ ರೊಹಿತ ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಾರೆ.  ಇದರ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ನಕ್ಷತ್ರದ ಗುಣ-ಲಕ್ಷಣ, ಸಂಯೋಜನೆಯನ್ನೂ ಸಹ ಕಂಡುಹಿಡಿಯಬಹುದು.

2017 ರಲ್ಲಿ ಅಮೇರಿಕಾದ ಅರಿಜೋನಾದ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ಸುಮಾರು 700,000 ಹೆಚ್ಚು ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲಗಳನ್ನು ಅಭ್ಯಸಿಸಿ, 15 ವರ್ಷಕ್ಕೂ ಮಿಗಿಲಾದ ಅಧ್ಯಯನದ ಅಂಕಿ ಅಂಶಗಳನ್ನು ಕಲೆಹಾಕಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಈ ಅಧ್ಯಯನವು ಸ್ವಯಂಚಾಲಿತ ದೂರದರ್ಶಕದ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ನಡೆದಿದೆ ಎನ್ನುವುದು ಗಮನಾರ್ಹದ ಸಂಗತಿ. ಈ ಅಧ್ಯಯನದಲ್ಲಿ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳಿಗೆ 6565 ಆಮ್‍ಸ್ಟ್ರಾಂಗ್ (1 ಮೀಟರ್ = 10 ಬಿಲಿಯನ್ ಆಮ್‍ಸ್ಟ್ರಾಂಗ್) ತರಂಗದೂರದ ಸ್ಥಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ರೇಖೆಗಳು ಕಂಡು ಬಂದಿದ್ದು, ಬೇರೆ ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲಗಳಿಂದ ಹೊರಸೂಸಿದ ಬೆಳಕು ನಮ್ಮ ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದ ಅನಿಲಗಳ ಮೂಲಕ ಹಾದು ಹೋಗುವ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ರೋಹಿತವು ಲಭಿಸಿದೆ. ಈ ರೇಖೆಯ ಸ್ಥಾನದ ಮೇರೆಗೆ ಜಲಜನಕದ ಅಸ್ತಿತ್ವವನ್ನು ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದ ಪ್ರಭಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಗುರುತಿಸಬಹುದು. ಆದರೆ ರೇಖೆಯ ತೀವ್ರತೆ- ಅಗಾಧ ಪ್ರಮಾಣದ ಜಲಜನಕವನ್ನೂ, ಇದರಿಂದ ಉತ್ಪತ್ತಿಯಾಗಿರುವ ಹೊಸದೊಂದು ಕಂಡು-ಕೇಳರಿಯದ ವಿಶಿಷ್ಟ ದ್ರವ್ಯದ ಇರುವಿಕೆಯನ್ನು ಸೂಚಿಸುತ್ತಿದೆ. 

ಅಧ್ಯಯನದ ಮುಖ್ಯ ಸಂಶೊಧಕರಾಗಿರುವಂತಹ ಆರ್. ಆರ್. ಐ.  ನ ಪ್ರೊ. ಶಿವ ಸೇಥಿ ಹಾಗೂ ಇವರ ಸಹ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ಈ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶದ ಆಧಾರದ ಮೇಲೆ ಅಂತರತಾರಾ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮದ ಮಾದರಿಯನ್ನು ರೂಪಿಸುವ ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಕೈಹಾಕಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಅಂತರತಾರಾ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮದ (ಇಂಟರ್ ಗಲ್ಯಾಕ್ಟಿಕ್ ಮೀಡಿಯಂ - ISM) ಮಾದರಿಯು ನಕ್ಷತ್ರಗಳ ನಡುವೆ ಯಾವ ರೀತಿ ಈ ಜಲಜನಕದಿಂದ ಉತ್ಪತ್ತಿಯಾಗುವ ಹೊಸ ಅನಿಲ ಇರಬಹುದು ಹಾಗೂ ಇದು ಯಾವ ರೀತಿ ಉಳಿದ ದ್ರವ್ಯಗಳ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ವರ್ತಿಸುತ್ತದೆ ಎಂಬುದನ್ನು ವಿವರಿಸುತ್ತದೆ.

ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳ ಈ ಸಂಶೋಧನೆ ನಿಜಕ್ಕೂ ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯಕರವಾದುದು.

“ನಮಗೆ ಈ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶವನ್ನು ಮಾದರಿಯ ಮೂಲಕ ವಿವರಿಸುವುದು ಅಸಾಧ್ಯ ಎಂಬ ಸತ್ಯ ತಿಳಿಯಿತು. ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ಈಗಿರುವ ISMನ ಮಾಹಿತಿಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ರೋಹಿತದಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ತರಹದ ರೇಖೆ ಮೂಡುವುದು ಅಸಮಂಜಸ” ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಾರೆ ಪ್ರೊ. ಸೇಥಿಯವರು.

ಈ ತರಹದ ತೀವ್ರತೆಯುಳ್ಳ ರೇಖೆ ಮೂಡಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಕನಿಷ್ಟ ಪಕ್ಷ ಅತಿನೇರಳೆ ಕಿರಣದ ಪುನರಾವರ್ತನ (ಗೋಚರ ಬೆಳಕಿಗಿಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಪುನರಾವರ್ತನಗಳು)ಗಳ ಕಾಂತಿಯಾದರೂ ಆಕಾಶದಲ್ಲಿರಬೇಕಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ಅತಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಕಾಣಸಿಗಬಹುದಾದ, ಉಳಿದ ಧಾತುಗಳಾದ ಇಂಗಾಲ, ಆಮ್ಲಜನಕ, ಸಾರಜನಕದ ಇರುವಿಕೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆಯೂ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಆದರೆ ಗಣಿತೀಯವಾಗಿ ಈ ಅನಿಲಗಳ ಮೋಡವಿದ್ದದ್ದೇ ಆದರೆ ಅದು ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದ ಪ್ರಭಾವಲಯಕ್ಕಿಂತಲೂ ದೊಡ್ಡದಾಗಬೇಕಾಗುತ್ತದೆ, ಆದ್ದರಿಂದ ಇದರ ಸಾಧ್ಯತೆ ಕೂಡ ಕಡಿಮೆಯೆ.

“ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಖಗೋಳಶಾಸ್ತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಗಮನಿಸಿ, ಅಭ್ಯಸಿಸಿದ್ದನ್ನು ನಾವು (ಸೈದ್ಧಾಂತಿಕ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು) ವಿವರಿಸುತ್ತೇವೆ. ಆದರೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿನ ದೃಷ್ಟಾಂತ ಬೇರೆಯದೇ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಈ ದ್ರವ್ಯವನ್ನು ವಿವರಿಸಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗುತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ. ಗಮನಿಸಿದ್ದೇ ತಪ್ಪು ಎಂದು ಹೇಳುವುದು ಕೂಡ ಅಸಾಧ್ಯವೆ. ಏಕೆಂದರೆ ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಕಾಣುವಂತಹ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶಗಳನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪು ಎಂದು ಸಾಧಿಸುವುದು ಸುಲಭದ ಮಾತಲ್ಲ”, ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಾರೆ ಪ್ರೊ. ಸೇಥಿ.

ಸಂಶೋಧಕರ ವಾದವೇನೆಂದರೆ, ರೋಹಿತದಲ್ಲಿನ ರೇಖೆಗಳು ಸಂಕೀರ್ಣವಾದಂತಹ ಪಾಲಿಸೈಕ್ಲಿಕ್ ಆರೋಮೆಟಿಕ್ ಹೈಡ್ರೋಕಾರ್ಬನ್ (PAH) ಅಣುವಿನ ಕಾರಣದಿಂದ ಮೂಡಿವೆ. PAHಗಳು ಸಾವಯವ ರಾಸಾಯನಿಕಗಳಾಗಿದ್ದು, ಇಂಗಾಲ, ಜಲಜನಕದ ಧಾತುಗಳನ್ನು ಹೊಂದಿರುತ್ತದೆ. ಇಂಗಾಲದ ಧಾತುಗಳ ಉಂಗುರಾಕಾರದಲ್ಲಿ ಜೋಡಣೆಗೊಂಡಿರುತ್ತವೆ. ಪ್ರಯೋಗಾಲಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಸಿದ ಪ್ರಯೋಗಗಳ ಪ್ರಕಾರ PAHಗಳಾದ ಪೈರೀನ್ ಹಾಗೂ ನ್ಯಾಪ್ತಾಲೀನ್ ಅಣುಗಳು 6565 ಆಮ್‍ಸ್ಟ್ರಾಂಗ್ ತರಂಗದೂರದ ರೇಖೆಗಳನ್ನು ತೋರಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ ಮಾಹಿತಿಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ವಿಶಿಷ್ಟ ಅನಿಲದ ಗುರುತನ್ನು ಊಹಿಸಬಹುದಾದರೂ, ನಿಖರವಾಗಿ ಇದನ್ನು ಕಂಡುಹಿಡಿದು, ಸಾಧಿಸುವುದು ಮುಂದಿನ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗಬಹುದು.

PAHಗಳು ನಮ್ಮ ತಾರಾಮಂಡಲದ ಅನೇಕ ಕಡೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಪತ್ತೆಯಾಗಿವೆ. ಶನಿಗ್ರಹದ ಉಪಗ್ರಹವಾದ ಟೈಟನ್‍ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕೂಡ ಪತ್ತೆಯಾಗಿದೆ ಎನ್ನುವುದು ಕುತೂಹಲಕಾರಿ ಸಂಗತಿ. ಇವುಗಳು ಜೀವರಾಶಿಯ ಉತ್ಪತ್ತಿಗೆ ಮೂಲಕಾರಣಗಳು ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಲಾಗಿರುವುದರಿಂದ ಇವುಗಳ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಮಹತ್ವದ್ದಾಗಿದೆ.

“ಖಗೋಳಶಾಸ್ತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ನಾವು ಈ ತರಹದ ಅನೇಕ ಅದ್ಭುತಗಳನ್ನು ನೋಡಬಹುದು”, ಎಂದು ಹೇಳುತ್ತಾ ಪ್ರೊ. ಸೇಥಿ ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲೊಂದು ಕುತೂಹಲದ ಬೀಜವನ್ನು ಬಿತ್ತುತ್ತಾರೆ. “ಈ ವಿಶಿಷ್ಟ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶವು, ಅಧ್ಯಯನ ನಡೆಸಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಆಗಬಹುದಾದ ಮಾಪನ-ದೋಷಗಳ ಕಾರಣದಿಂದಲೂ ಬಂದಿರಬಹುದು ಎಂದು ಅಮೇರಿಕಾದ ಸಹ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳು ಸಲಹೆ ನೀಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ”, ಎನ್ನುವುದು ಅವರ ಎಚ್ಚರಿಕೆಯ ಮಾತು. “ಈ ಕ್ಷಣದಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಖರವಾಗಿ ಈ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶವನ್ನು ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟಪಡಿಸಲಾಗದು, ಆದರೆ ಕೆಲವೇ ದಿನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಕೂಡ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಸಿಗಲಿದೆ.”, ಎಂಬ ಭರವಸೆಯ ಆಶಾಕಿರಣದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಪ್ರೊ. ಸೇಥಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಮಾತಿಗೆ ಪೂರ್ಣವಿರಾಮ ನೀಡುತ್ತಾರೆ.

Section: General, Science, Deep-dive Source:
मुंबई Thursday, 5 July, 2018 - 07:40

भारतीय प्रौद्योगिकी संस्थान (IIT) मुंबई के शोधकर्ताओं ने धारणीय टेक्नोलॉजी का उपयोग करके बैडमिंटन प्रशिक्षण प्रणाली विकसित की है।

विश्व के चोटी के खिलाड़ी के. श्रीकांत को बैडमिंटन खेलते देखना एक विस्मयपूर्ण अनुभव है! अगर आप भी श्रीकांत की तरह रैली करने की इच्छा रखते है पर आपको बुनियादी शॉट अभ्यास करने में भी कठिनाई आती है तो भारतीय प्रौद्योगिकी संस्थान मुंबई में शिक्षा टेक्नोलॉजी के अंतर्विषयक कार्यक्रम के अंतर्गत किया गया एक अध्ययन आपके लिए हर्ष का विषय है। शोधकर्ताओं ने एक ऐसी प्रशिक्षण प्रणाली विकसित की है जिस से आप फिटबिट की तरह के धारणीय साधन लगाकर अपनी बाँहों की गतिविधि को रिकॉर्ड कर के समुचित फीडबैक पा  सकते हैं।

तेज़ी से खेले जाने वाले खेल बैडमिंटन में, वही खिलाड़ी सही समय पर सही शॉट खेल पायेगा जिसे खेल का असाधारण ज्ञान हो। एक शॉट को परिपूर्ण तरीके से खेलने के लिए ज़रूरी है कि खिलाड़ी सही मुद्रा सीखे और साथ में ये भी जाने, कि कब और कितनी ज़ोर से बाँह को घुमाया जाये।शायद अच्छे खिलाडियों को खेलते हुए ध्यान से देखकर और फिर उनकी नक़ल करके ऐसी कुशलता प्राप्त की जा सकती हैं। मगर ये इतना आसान नहीं है।कितना ज़ोर लगाना है और बाँह को कितना घुमाना है ये एक अमूर्त मनोभाव (abstract concept) है  जिसको समझना  और समझा पाना कठिन है।

लेकिन अगर, शॉट जिस तरह से मारा गया है और जैसा एक अच्छे खिलाड़ी का शॉट होना चाहिए था, इसका सही अंतर पता लग सके तो मदद मिल सकती है। यहाँ CoMBaT नामक प्रशिक्षण प्रणाली, जो कि भारतीय प्रौद्योगिकी संस्थान (IIT) मुंबई में विकसित की गयी है, उपयुक्त सिद्ध हो सकती है। अपने कोच के साथ इस प्रणाली का उपयोग करके आप अपने गतिक्रम और समय के अनुकूल, शॉट को बेहतर बनाना सीख सकते हैं।

CoMBaT में, थाल्मिक लैब्स द्वारा विकसित, कलाई पर बँधी एक पट्टी, जिसे म्यो पट्टी कह सकते हैं, का उपयोग किया जाता है। इसमें संवेदक लगे होते हैं जो खिलाड़ी की बाँहों की सीधी और घुमावदार गति और माँसपेशियों की हरकत को रिकॉर्ड करता है। ये साधन अभिलिखित आँकणों को ब्लूटूथ की सहायता से प्रशिक्षण सिस्टम को प्रेषित कर देता है जिससे बाँहों का घुमाव और शॉट में लगने वाली शक्ति की गणना की जाती है। प्रशिक्षण सिस्टम रियल टाइम में इन आँकणों की रूपरेखा को बाहरी डिस्प्ले पर दिखाता है। हर एक प्लाट में एक कुशल खिलाड़ी द्वारा खेले गए शॉट का रिफरेन्स पैटर्न भी दिखाया होता है जिससे हर खिलाड़ी अपने खेले गए शॉट की तुलना कर सकता है।

मगर बाहरी डिस्प्ले की ओर देखते हुए खेलना खिलाड़ी के लिए इतना सुविधाजनक नहीं है। इसलिए म्यो पट्टी में कम्पन से चलित मोटर लगे होते हैं जो कि शॉट की गुणवत्ता के आधार पर विशिष्ट पैटर्न उत्पन्न करते हैं जिससे खिलाड़ी को रियल टाइम फीडबैक मिल पाता  है। उदाहरण के लिए, खिलाड़ी के दो प्रकार के स्कोर, एक तो बाँह की फेंक और दूसरा उसका प्रयास से मिले आकड़ों के आधार पर अगर एक सीमारेखा से कम होंगे तो शॉट ‘उत्तम’ माना जायेगा। म्यो पट्टी कम्पन का एक छोटा पल्स भेजेगी जो बाहरी डिस्प्ले पर ‘हरे’ रंग से चित्रित होगा। यदि इनमे से एक स्कोर सीमा रेखा से ऊपर होगा तो शॉट ‘औसत’ माना जायेगा और खिलाड़ी को तीन छोटे कम्पनों का अनुभव होगा और विज़ुअल मार्कर ‘लाल’ रंग दिखायेगा। अगर दोनों स्कोर सीमारेखा से ऊपर हों तो शॉट ‘अनुपयुक्त’ माना जायेगा। म्यो पट्टी एक दीर्घ कम्पन भेजेगी और दोनों विज़ुअल मार्कर ‘लाल’ दिखायेंगे।

इस प्रणाली की रूपरेखा तैयार करते समय अनुसंधानकर्ताओं ने अपने अध्ययन में तीन नौसिखिये और एक मँजे हुए खिलाड़ी का उपयोग किया जिसमे प्रत्येक खिलाड़ी को पचास पचास शॉट खेलने को दिए गए। अध्ययनकर्ता कहते हैं, “हमने पाया कि म्यो पट्टी से मिले शॉट के फीडबैक से खिलाड़ी के अगले शॉट की तकनीक में सुधार था।” प्रणाली को आगे समझाते हुए वे कहते हैं, “शॉट सही था या नहीं, विज़ुअल प्लॉट से तुरंत फीडबैक मिल जाता है।”

अध्ययन से नौसिखियों को प्रशिक्षण के कुछ छुपे हुए पहलू भी नज़र आते हैं। विज़ुअल प्लाट से पता चला कि सही शॉट लगाने के लिए बाँह घुमाने से पहले माँसपेशियों पर ज़ोर लगाना चाहिए। ये बात मँजे हुए खिलाड़ी भली भाँति समझते हैं मगर स्क्रीन पर देख पाने से सीखने वालों को तसल्ली हो जाती हैं कि उनकी तकनीक सही है।

अनुसंधानकर्ता इस प्रशिक्षण प्रणाली को, प्लाट और क्रिया के सम्बन्ध का श्रेष्ठतर रूप से समावेश करके विस्तृत करना चाहते हैं। वे कुछ और सुधार भी लाना चाहते हैं। उदाहरणार्थ, वे कहते हैं,“ये प्रणाली, सामान्यतः की गयी गलतियों को ध्यान में रखकर, सुधार अमल में लाएगी। विज़ुवलाइज़ेशन के लिए वर्चुअल या स्टिक फिगर एनीमेशन को काम में लाने का भी विचार है।”

यह अनुसन्धान, भारतीय प्रौद्योगिक संस्थान बम्बई के नेक्स्ट एजुकेशन रिसर्च लैब, जहाँ लर्निंग एबिलिटीज के क्षेत्र में उभरती हुई तकनीकों पर शोध किया जाता है, के अंतर्गत किया गया। सीखने और सिखाने के लिए धारणीय साधनों के उपयोग की विधा में यह अध्ययन एक योगदान है।

“ऐसी प्रणाली किसी भी खेल के लिए उपयोग में लाई जा सकती है जिसमे बाँहों की हरकत और माँसपेशियों के बल का प्रयोग हो जैसे क्रिकेट और गोल्फ, या दूसरे कार्यक्षेत्र जैसे कुम्हार या बढ़ई का काम। फुटबॉल या एथलेटिक्स जैसे खेल, जिनमे पैरों की हरकत और माँसपेशियों का उपयोग होता हो, के लिए भी संशोधित की जा सकती है।”  कहते हुए अनुसंधानकर्ताओं ने इस प्रणाली के दूसरे उपयोगों के बारे में बताते हुए अपनी बात पूरी की। 

Section: General, Science, Technology, Deep-dive Source:
Kharagpur Wednesday, 4 July, 2018 - 15:40

Researchers at IIT-Kharagpur have published a study on prediction of Esophageal cancer using data locally collected by a Mumbai hospital and machine learning algorithm. Their results could help us do away with expensive and invasive tests while diagnosing cancers.

The concept of using computers to help in medical diagnosis isn’t exactly new, but homegrown research in the application of machine learning algorithms for cancer prediction - making a medical practitioner almost redundant at the screening phase - that is not common and is worthy of attention. The new study does just that.

Esophageal cancer affects the food-pipe and is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in India. Usual diagnostic methods include various kinds of imaging tests using x-rays (Barium swallow/CT scan), magnetic fields (MRI scan), endoscopy (a camera in a tube, passed down the throat), or even a biopsy (a small piece of tissue removed and examined).

The researchers wanted to eliminate these tests as a necessary step in the diagnostic process.They set out with the aim of predicting occurrences of esophageal cancer in suspect cases, with as low a ‘false negative rate’ as possible, using information available from the electronic medical records (EMR) of the patients. A false negative is where a cancer patient is not predicted to have the disease - these need to be minimized to restrict the number of cases that go unpredicted, and hence potentially untreated.

The data used includes demographic details (e.g. age, education, occupation), lifestyle choices (e.g. consumption of tobacco, alcohol) and the patient’s medical history. Four commonly used classification algorithms, Logistic Regression, Support Vector Machine, Random Forest, and Naive-Bayes classifier, were used for the prediction. These algorithms are methods for grouping members of a population (patients, in this case) in different classes (having cancer or not) utilizing some underlying features of the members (EMR data).

The study establishes that one can successfully predict cases of cancer with an overall accuracy of more than 90% while keeping the false negatives at almost zero. Patients can thus ascertain they don’t have esophageal cancer without going through the expensive and invasive tests, which in turn also eases the burden on the healthcare system.

Section: General, Science, Health, News Source:
Bengaluru Wednesday, 4 July, 2018 - 09:39

A walk in the rocky hills or on the city outskirts of Southern India is sure to reward you with a glimpse of a brightly coloured lizard basking in the sun. Also called the Peninsular Rock Agama (Psammophilus dorsalis), the attractive colours of the males—sometimes a deep red or a striking orange or even a pale patchy yellow—can change within seconds. They could also show you a piece of their push-ups or head bobs, all from their rocky perches. But, what lies behind their vibrant looks and choreographed moves? In a new study, Shreekant Deodhar and Kavita Isvaran from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, have tried to decode the meaning of the various behavioural signals exhibited by these drop-dead gorgeous male lizards.

“Agamas are relatively easy to observe and to tag and follow in the wild. They only live for about a year; hence we can follow them over large parts of their lives, and possibly even study several generations over a few years. But we’ve only recently begun to understand them”, says Shreekant Deodhar, the lead author of the study, talking about why they chose these attractive agamas.

The study was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and is funded by the IISc-DBT Partnership Programme, the Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

For the study, the researchers tagged and observed 41 male rock agamas over their lifetime in Rishi Valley, Andhra Pradesh. Although they are frequently sighted, scientists do not know much about their behaviour. As the first step of their study, the researchers had to understand the wide range of display behaviours of these agamas.

“We soon discovered that the males showed multiple behaviours, like doing push-ups and flashing an orange colour at the same time”, recollects Deodhar.

The researchers then probed to know what is behind these multiple signals, and who are these lizards signalling to. They found that the primary reason was finding their lady love!

“It is something like having a car and a big house, which can quickly “advertise” to others that you are wealthy and healthy”, jokes Deodhar.

They observed that the frequency of the signals in male agamas increased when there were females around.

“Multiple signals could indicate that the lizard is of greater quality—perhaps an effort to be ‘Mr. Right’”, he adds. 

There is more to these colours than just wooing females. The researchers found some evidence to show that if there were rival males in their vicinity, the agamas changed their hue to a pale yellow. However, if there was a close encounter with another male, these agamas donned their ‘fighting colours’— a combination of red and yellow.

The colours also help these lizards save their lives, the study found. In the presence of predators like monitor lizards or the Indian fox, the males quickly modulate their colours, turning pale, so to not attract their unwanted attention. Although more research is required in this area, it is possible that agamas display different behaviours to signal different things to different receivers, and also know when to lay low and not to get eaten!

The researchers then tried to understand if multiple signals helped the agamas acquire more mates and produce more babies—a measure of their ‘fitness’—by measuring each agama's ‘breeding tenure’. The breeding tenure is the duration for which the males sit on the rocks during the breeding season from May-September. The researchers also measured the number of females each male had access to per day. The longer the male stays on the rock, higher the number of females it has access to and is more likely to sire more offsprings. The researchers observed that the males that signalled more had longer tenures and therefore might have greater ‘fitness’.

One finding that surprised the researchers was that smaller lizards that were at the beginning of their breeding tenure were able to forge a territory with more females than the larger ones. The researchers believe that if smaller males, which are usually younger, can defend their territory from older males, then they could be of stronger and more fit.

This study is a part of an ongoing long-term project on the agamas, one of the very few of its kind from India. Using long-term monitoring of wild individuals, this particular study helps in understanding how fitness among males is influenced by their behaviour, providing a rare glimpse of how the pressures of natural and sexual selection play out in the natural world.

Here is a video footage of the multiple signalling observed in the male agamas.

[Video credits: Shreekant Deodhar]

Section: General, Science, Ecology, Deep-dive Source:
Bengaluru Tuesday, 3 July, 2018 - 16:02

Dr. Prathima Iengar, scientist from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru has been studying the different biological process that are affected by cancer. Her new study throws light on the genes and pathways that are most affected in cancer. 

Scientists worldwide are working hard to find a cure for cancer, however, in order to succeed, we better understand the disease first. The most important aspect of it is being able to find the key genes undergoing mutations and affecting processes in biological pathways, leading to cancer.

In the past 10 years, new cancer research strategies have developed, including extensive genome sequencing of cancer cells, and the information being available online for researchers. COSMIC (Catalogue of Somatic Mutations In Cancer), is one such online database which provides information about the somatically acquired mutations (mutations not inherited by children), found in different types of cancers. KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes), is another online database dealing with human biological pathways. Moving in this direction, utilising online genome databases, Dr. Prathima Iengar has put one step forward, by conducting a genome wide computational study, to see what all genes and biological pathways are mostly affected by mutations in cancer.

The study published in Journal Genomics, investigates the genes mutated in 15 types of cancers, sourced from COSMIC. Analysed together with 297 biological pathways, sourced from KEGG (where the biological pathways have been grouped based on similar functions). The author called a gene as ‘frequently mutated’ if it was found to be mutated in 10 cancer samples studied. Further, the pathways, where these frequently mutated genes are found, were considered to be affected in cancer. 

The results were represented using novel doughnut plots, which makes it easier to visualize the  extent to which a gene and a pathway is targeted in each cancer type. Study revealed that, the biological processes (‘organismal systems’ pathway group), which operate at whole organism level (e.g. nervous system), are the most targeted pathway in cancer. This is quite surprising, as the most studied and recognized pathway groups in cancer are signal transduction, cell-cycle and apoptosis, and DNA repair. Thus, through this study, it is quite evident now that ‘organismal systems’ is one of the important pathway group in cancer which needs further attention and research. The study further throws light on the processes affected in pathways of 7 different cancer types.

The study results offer clinical implications, where organismal systems pathway group can be studied in detail to find molecules as new drug targets and mutations for early cancer diagnosis through genetic screening.

Section: General, Science, Health, News Source:
Mumbai Tuesday, 3 July, 2018 - 08:51

Researchers suggest a method for comparing battery systems as power backup in India.

Power outages in India are widespread and regular due to a shortage of power generation. One way out of this problem is to have a microgrid—a small network of a localised group of power sources and consumers—powered by a renewable source like the solar and wind energy. As solar and wind power are less reliable owing to their dependence on the season, weather and the time of the day, microgrids require good batteries that provide a constant power supply by storing sufficient energy. With many battery technologies available, how would one choose the best? A new study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay suggests a way to compare batteries based on various factors such as cost, energy performance, and impact on the environment.

Today, a wide range of battery technologies, like lead–acid, lithium ion, nickel–metal hydride, nickel cadmium, sodium sulphur, and lithium sulphur, are available in the market. One criterion that decides a customer’s choice of the battery technology is the cost. Also, each of these technologies has distinct advantages. For example, lead-acid batteries are cheaper and widely used; lithium-ion batteries have a long life and enhanced safety; nickel–metal hydride batteries deliver high current; cadmium batteries can support a higher number of charge/discharge cycles and can operate in broad temperature ranges.

However, with improvements in technology, many batteries have advanced features at comparable prices. Hence, it makes sense to have an alternate approach. “Though cost is an important factor in comparing different technologies, as the country is moving towards renewables emphasising environment-friendly systems, such studies can be expected to play a major role”, say the researchers, talking about the implications of the study.

The researchers, led by Prof. Rangan Banerjee and Prof. Prakash Ghosh from IIT Bombay, have evaluated the performance of the six battery technologies mentioned above by conducting a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of a solar-powered grid backup system which is powered by solar energy and battery. Life-cycle assessment is a systematic way to estimate the environmental impact of any product, throughout its life, starting from its production to its destruction.

The study considers the energy requirements and carbon emissions for manufacturing, transportation and recycling of various components of the microgrid, powered by these batteries, for Indian conditions. This microgrid was designed to supply an urban housing complex of 30 households with 3 hours of load per day. 

“Existing technologies are studied in terms of direct and indirect energy inputs and generation, to assess the energy payback. Similar studies on the carbon footprint have also been conducted to compare different options. Such studies are important in the Indian context, and therefore, all estimations are concerning India”, comments Prof. Rangan Banerjee, one of the authors of the study. 

The researchers found that in all the six battery microgrid systems, the energy consumed for production, transport, and manufacturing of the components of the microgrid system was replaced by the energy output of the system within five years. Also called the energy payback time, it ranged from a minimum of 2.6 years for the lithium-ion battery to a maximum of 4.3 years for the sodium sulphur battery. The researchers also quantified the Net Energy Ratio (NER), a measure of the energy return from the system per year, and found that the lithium-ion battery had the highest NER of 6.6. This value implies that the energy output per year is 6.6 times the total energy required by the system averaged per year.

The study also calculated the carbon dioxide emission factor---the average carbon dioxide emitted during the production, transport, and manufacturing of the components of the microgrid system per year. It was found that sodium-sulphur battery had the highest emission factor and nickel-cadmium battery had the lowest. In addition to providing useful information for better battery choice, the researchers suggest that this study could also be used for improving the manufacturing and transport practices of both, the batteries and the microgrid systems. 

The researchers suggest a battery technology with energy payback time less than 2.5 years, NER more than 5, and emission factor less than 0.5 kg of CO2/kWh as an efficient choice for a microgrid battery system.

The primary aim of this research, according to the researchers, is providing tools for governments and private players to look beyond cost and opt for environment-friendly technologies for a sustainable future. They hope to extend the study for photovoltaic, wind and other renewable sources with diesel backup and hybrid storage technologies. 

Section: General, Science, Technology, Deep-dive Source:
Bengaluru Monday, 2 July, 2018 - 09:06

Delhi’s tussle with its deteriorating air quality is no secret. One episode that grabbed headlines was the ‘hazardous’ levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter with size less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) soon after the 2016 Diwali celebrations, where a staggering 50 lakh kgs of firecrackers were burnt. Increased levels of PM2.5 can trigger smog—a mixture of fog and smoke—that decreases visibility to near zero. During Diwali of 2016, the PM2.5 levels reached closer to 1000 µg m-3 in some areas, 40 times higher than the standard recommended by the World Health Organisation. To avoid a repeat of this ordeal, the Supreme Court banned the sales of firecrackers for the next year’s Diwali. But, nothing changed in reality! So, was it really the firecrackers that were to be blamed, or were there more reasons for the catastrophe?

In a new study, to be published in the journal Aerosol and Air Quality Research, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar, take a closer look at various factors that caused air pollution during Diwali of 2016. Although people debated over multiple ideas that could have led to the hazardous air quality, like vehicular emissions, firecrackers, and crop burning in neighbouring states, this study has scientifically pointed out the combination of factors that led to the catastrophe.

“Air pollution is an important issue of concern for many cities including New Delhi. It may be attributed to the growth of the city and the associated activities, or the pollutants from far away sources that get carried to the city by the moving air or environmental conditions unfavourable for dispersion of pollutants. New Delhi is unique in this respect as all factors mentioned above combine to have potential high pollution episodes over the city”, says Prof. Vinoj V from IIT Bhubaneswar, who is an author of the study, in an interview with Research Matters.

The city’s pollution problem particularly aggravates during the winters due to low wind speeds and temperature inversion—an atmospheric phenomenon where the temperature of the air near the ground surface is lower than that in the higher atmosphere. Hence, the released pollutants are trapped in the lower layers of the atmosphere and are not dispersed enough. Since Diwali often falls during the start of winter, it adds to the severe pollution that the city is already experiencing. 

The present study reveals that the burning of stubbles—cut stalks of cereal plants left after the grain is harvested— in regions around Delhi exacerbated the severe deterioration in the air quality during the 2016 Diwali. Since 2000, crop burning has been increasing at an alarming rate of 25%, which is affecting Delhi’s air quality far more than the bursting of firecrackers or the emissions from vehicles, according to the researchers.  

“Emissions during Diwali do deteriorate the air quality in the city. However, the question is by how much? We tried to look at the average pollution condition during Diwali and then compared the variability in pollution over the years.  Our analysis showed that the maximum change possible due Diwali emissions alone on PM2.5 were only 20 to 40%. However, the pollution levels were about 60 to 140% above the expected levels during 2016”, explains Prof. Vinoj on their findings.

Who exactly is the culprit then? It is the crop burning that happens in the states of Punjab and Haryana, located to the northwest of Delhi, say the authors.

“Since we have already considered the background levels due to Diwali, our analysis showed that those days with high pollution were related to the fires observed in the upwind direction (northwest of Delhi) around the same period. We conclude that the pollution levels almost doubled due to the transport of pollutants from the crop burning,” says Dr Vinoj.

The researchers analysed the air quality of the National Capital Region of Delhi from the year 2000 to 2016.  The work carried out was primarily based on satellite measurements and therefore the authors urge for more detailed local source distribution studies. 

The authors say that although addressing local pollution sources help, they will not be of much use unless we solve the more significant problem of crop/biomass burning. “This is also the reason why studies are showing that the odd-even rule in Delhi may not have worked”, points out Prof. Vinoj. If banning firecrackers and bringing down the number of vehicles are not solving Delhi’s predicament, what could? 

“The real success in improving Delhi’s air will require a coordinated effort on a regional scale including those at north-western upwind regions,” he signs off. 

Section: General, Science, Ecology, Health, Society, Deep-dive Source:
London, UK Friday, 29 June, 2018 - 15:37

In a new study to be published in the journal ‘Invertebrate Systematics’, researchers Dr. Jahnavi Joshi and Dr. Greg Edgecombe from the Natural History Museum, London, have set out to determine the species boundaries of an old-world tropical centipede from the genus ‘Ethmostigmus’, from Peninsular India.

The species in Ethmostigmus genus are closely related, having very similar physical characteristics. This makes it hard to identify individuals from this genus to a species level, based on observing these external features alone. Hence, depending on the taxa, scientists use integrative taxonomy which uses a combination of datasets such as external morphology, anatomy, geography, reproduction modes, ecology, morphometry and genetic sequences to determine and define species boundaries, or the features that distinguish one species from another.

Centipedes are a group of carnivorous arthropods having one pair of legs per body segment and can have a varying number of legs, ranging from 30 to 354. Although they are often treated as creatures of annoyance due to their painful bite, they happen to be economically useful as they play a vital role in pest control. They prefer wet and moist places and can often be found lurking below dead tree barks, rotting wood and rocks.

India is home to over a hundred species of centipedes belonging to 11 genera.  Members of the genus Ethmostigmus belong to Scolopendridae, a family of large centipedes. These giant centipedes have modified claws that curve around their head and can deliver venom into its prey. The venom is toxic enough to cause severe pain in humans which can last for several days.

The evolutionary history and relationships among the organisms in this family were comparatively studied from the DNA of 427 samples of centipedes. The comparison revealed that Ethmostigmus is a monophylyl group - a group of organisms that have all descended from a common ancestor. The authors in this study, use a combination of physical features, DNA sequences, and geographic distribution to classify the species in the genus Ethmostigmus and determine their species boundaries.

Four of the five species of Ethmostigmus known from Peninsular India, occur in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. The Eastern Ghats is home to just one species, which was last reported 130 years ago.

This study highlights the significance of using an integrative approach in the classification and nomenclature of species. Particularly in understudied areas with a high biological diversity and where variations in external features is narrow among closely related species.

Section: General, Science, Ecology, News Source:
Bengaluru Friday, 29 June, 2018 - 10:05

In a recent article published in the `Science’ magazine, titled ‘When the cure kills—CBD limits biodiversity research’, researchers have questioned the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a framework formulated to conserve biodiversity.

The CBD is an international legally-binding treaty signed by 168 countries and started into force on 29 December 1993. Its major goals include biodiversity conservation; the sustainable use of biodiversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources originating from plants, animals, or microbes. The last of these aims is further formalised in the Nagoya Protocol.

“The Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems—it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live”, says the website of CBD.

Although the intention seems to be benevolent, the authors of the current article argue that the CBD framework is defeating its intended purpose due to an excessive regulatory regime it has created. Supported by 172 co-signatories from 35 countries, the authors cite the policy as exclusionary since it limits biodiversity research, curtails international collaboration and restricts access to genetic resources.

The authors also point out that several member countries of CBD, especially those that are rich in biological resources, in the apprehension of commercial misuse of these resources, are enforcing legal restrictions on biodiversity research in the field for resident scientists as well as international collaborators.

“Biodiversity science in biodiversity-rich countries already suffers from neglect by the national science funding agencies. Overzealous regulators shackle it further to the detriment of society that, apart from nature, is the ultimate beneficiary of advances in our knowledge”, says Prof. Kamaljit S Bawa from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), who is an author of the present article and was recently conferred the prestigious Linnean Medal in Botany.

In most developing countries, conservation is seen purely as a protective measure where the focus is solely on protecting and preventing the loss of its resources. However, it is essential to know the identity of the organism that is being protected. There are an estimated 12 million species of eukaryotic organisms—those whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes—in the world. So far, we formally recognise fewer than 2 million of these. To effectively conserve a species, it is necessary to have a scientific understanding of its ecology, behaviour to threat, anthropogenic activities and any other disturbances it may face.

Since an estimated one in five species on the planet is in danger of extinction due to anthropogenic activities, and several of them are said to be going extinct even before they are being discovered, taxonomic studies that document biodiversity are paramount. And, this requires researchers to collaborate irrespective of territorial boundaries, have easy access to specimens without bureaucratic hurdles and an ecosystem that supports non-profit research-related activities. 

With the enforcement of CBD, the signatory countries now own the biodiversity that lies within their boundaries and can make use of the genetic resources appropriately. This provision has led to many countries stepping up legislative processes to tighten their control over genetic and biodiversity resources in their territory. As a consequence, obtaining permits for entry into protected areas and access to collect biological samples or specimens for non-commercial research has become increasingly difficult in many countries across South Asia, East Africa, and South America. This also includes countries like Brazil and India that have global biodiversity hotspots like the Amazon rainforests, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas.

Following the CBD’s obligations, India enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 and notified the Biological Diversity Rules in 2004 for the preservation of biological diversity. The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and the State Biodiversity Boards were established to implement provisions under these acts. The sections under the law not only put restrictions on commercial utilisation of biological resources but also on the non-commercial research-related activities.

In India, for instance, researchers are not allowed to collect or study biological specimens without the permission of NBA or the respective State Biodiversity Boards, as appropriate. Also, the results of research carried out here are not be transferred to foreigners or non-residential citizens without the prior approval of NBA. Since getting permits from the NBA is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, many ecologists in India opine that the regulation not only curbs the process of advancement in knowledge but also prevents international collaborations which are essential for the progress of research in any country.

The authors point out that national legislative measures, like the one above, inspired by the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol have made biodiversity exploration and research, particularly those which require access to protected areas and international collaboration, cumbersome and in some cases, impossible. Although the strict regulations predominantly arise from concerns around biopiracy and misuse of biological resources, they curtail research and scientific advances in taxonomy studies, which in turn, limit our understanding of species and their conservation, they argue.

If CBD is restricting research activities in the name of protection, then what is the alternative? The authors of the study propose multiple solutions to advance biodiversity research within the CBD framework. They suggest that at a policy level, not-for-profit research that is intended for the public domain should be differentiated from commercial research which leads to proprietary rights.

The authors also recommend following the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, to be a promising model. It is an international agreement that conforms to the CBD, which aims at ensuring food security through conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources.

“One possible course of action for the Conference of the Parties to the CBD might be to add an explicit treaty or annexe to promote and facilitate biodiversity research, conservation and international collaboration”, says Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, Senior Fellow at ATREE and a co-author of the article.

Such a treaty will address legal uncertainties in the governance of global research commons like type specimen held in various museums and herbariums across the world, he adds.

The authors are hopeful that against all the odds, the parties to CBD will address the existing gaps in the framework that will help biodiversity researchers and the biodiversity they endeavour to discover and protect. 

Section: General, Science, Ecology, Policy, Deep-dive, Featured Source: