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HIGH school students in the championship round of the 2nd National Biotech Quiz Contest

At a science communication workshop in Malaysia, I learned what could happen when discoveries are not quickly owned by a nation.

In May 2011, Malaysian photographer Guek Hock Ping was hiking in Selangor when he chanced upon a fly with transparent wings and black markings.  He posted photos of the fly on Flickr, wanting to know what the species was.

Because Malaysian scientists did not immediately respond, media declined to report the find.  An American (entomologist Shaun Winterton) and a Briton (taxonomist Stephen Brook), declared the fly to be a totally new species.

Hock Ping, Winterton and Brook wrote a paper together on the amazing find that was published in the online journal ZooKeys.  But the fly was named not by Hock Ping but by Winterton, who called it Semachrysa jade after his daughter.

Usually, the honor of naming a new discovery falls on the, well, discoverer. Winterton did indeed establish that the fly was a new species and no one could dispute this. But Hock Ping made the original discovery.

I believe that the fairest thing would have been for them to name the fly jointly.

If only Malaysian scientists had been quicker on the draw, or if Malaysian media ran the photo anyway then the new species could have been named by or for a Malaysian.

The Philippines is as rich in biodiversity as Malaysia and, inevitably, similar discoveries have been, and will be, made.  But how can our country take credit for any scientific find if our media relegate science stories to the back page and our scientists remain in ivory towers?

Visit Guek Hock Ping’s blog at orionmystery.blogspot.com/2011/11/lacewing-and-mantidfly.html.

Robredo e-book

The late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo won the hearts of millions with his simple and pragmatic leadership.  The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office has come up with an electronic memorial book, edited by Secretary Ramon Carandang, in Robredo’s honor.

“This book honors a dedicated public servant, in the hope that his life and career will serve as an inspiration and challenge to the Jesse M. Robredos of the future,” writes Carandang.  “Just as the death of Ninoy Aquino inspired Jesse to enter public life, we hope that Jesse’s story, and the manner in which the nation came together to pay tribute to him, will inspire future generations to pursue what has memorably come to be known as tsinelas leadership.”

Half of the e-book is about the funeral rites and eulogies for Robredo.  The most illuminating portion comes at the start of the book—Robredo’s biography by Lorna Kalaw-Tirol when the then Naga mayor won the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Read the “Jesse M. Robredo Memorial Book” at  http://pcdspo.gov.ph/downloads/2012/11/Jesse-Robredo-Memorial-Book-FA-spread.pdf.

Dengue trap

In the works is a dengue website to alert health practitioners, educators and parents about dengue outbreaks.  The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development  uses data from Ovicidal-Larvicidal (OL) Traps installed in schools to reflect the density of the Aedes egypti mosquito—carrier of the disease—population.

“The OL trap is simple, affordable and efficient,” says Luisa Lumioan of S and T Media Service.   “An OL trap kit consists of a black container, a lawanit paddle where mosquitoes lay their eggs and a pack of pellets  to make a solution that kills the eggs and larvae.”

OL trap kits are available at Mercury Drugstore.  For further details, contact Department of Science and Technology’s National Capital Region Director Tess Fortuna at 8373162, 8372071 loc 2017, or tessfortuna@dost.gov.ph.

Biotech week

To celebrate Biotechnology Week, the Philippine Academy of Microbiology (PAM), with the Biotechnology Program Implementation Unit of the Department of Agriculture, spearheaded the 4th National Biotechnology Education Conference for Teachers and the 2nd National Biotechnology Quiz Contest for High School, with PAM’s Cynthia Hedreyda as conference and quiz contest chair.

A total of 103 college and high school teachers, 34 high school faculty coaches and 68 high school contestants from different schools all over the country attended the events.

PAM members served as conference and contest facilitators, aided by members of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Biological Society (Symbiosis).

Teachers were exposed to classroom activities to better teach molecular biotechnology protocols such as DNA extraction from bananas, molecular cloning, polymerase chain reaction and plant transformation.

In the biotech contest, students from the UP Rural High School in Laguna won first place, followed by the teams from the Philippine Science High School Bicol Region and Philippine Science High School Central Mindanao.

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

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Tags: biotech week , column , dengue trap , discoveries , Learning , queena n. lee-chua , robredo e-book

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