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The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition

The 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition is the largest expedition undertaken by the Academy. It will be the first expedition to make a comprehensive survey of both terrestrial and marine diversity. Between April 26 and June 10, 2011, Academy botanists, entomologists and marine biologists, will explore shallow-water reefs, the deep sea, and terrestrial and freshwater areas for new life and document the biodiversity of this island nation. Educational outreach will be conducted on location and back at the Academy.

Shallow-water Team


Led by Dr. Terry Gosliner, the shallow water team will dive at sites within marine protected areas and sites that are not protected to document species diversity and richness. They will investigate the variety of zooxanthellae (microscopic algae) in a variety of organisms. Zooxanthellae lend their color to host corals. A lack of zooxanthellae, or coral bleaching, is a sign of a stressed reef. Additionally, they will be searching for a new genus of pygmy pipehorse and a new species of eel.

  • Fishes: Dr. Healy Hamilton, Dave Catania, Dr. Kent Carpenter, Dr. Demian Willete, and Don Dumale
  • Mollusks: Dr. Terry Gosliner and Dr. Brian Simison
  • Coelenterates: Dr. Gary Williams, Dr. Wilfredo Y. Licuanan, Clarissa Reboton, and Katrina Luzon
  • Echinoderms: Dr. Rich Mooi and Jay Gorospe
  • Crustacea: Dr. Bob Van Syoc and Marivene Manuel Santos
  • Annelids: Chrissy Piotrowski
  • Zooxanthellae: Dr. Terry Gosliner, Dr. Gary Williams, Dr. Brian Simison, and Dr. Michele Weber
  • Nudibranchs: Elizaldy Maboloc, Inggat Laya Calisagana, Rafael Dumalan, and Vanessa Knutson
  • Invertebrates: Peter Cadapan, Val Borja, and November Romena
  • Sponges: Joseph Comendador

Deep-water Team

deep water organism

Led by Dr. Rich Mooi, the deep water team will spend nine days aboard the MV DA-BFAR trawling and trapping in protected and unprotected waters to understand the species diversity and richness. They will survey benthic habitats to 2000 m in depth. The deep water is less known than the shallow waters and scientists are excited for the new discoveries.

  • Fishes: Dave Catania, Dr. Tomio Iwamoto, Dr. John McCosker, Vincent Hilomen, and Don Dumale
  • Coelenterates: Dr. Gary Williams
  • Mollusks: Dr. Terry Gosliner
  • Echinoderms: Dr. Rich Mooi, Ludivina Labe, and Zenaida Salazar
  • Crustacea: Dr. Bob Van Syoc and Marivene Manuel Santos
  • Annelids: Chrissy Piotrowski
  • Other: Dr. Rachel Gotanco, Evelyn Mendoza, and Ms. Aissa

Terrestrial Team


Led by Dr. Peter Fritsch, the terrestrial team will explore numerous montane forests and freshwater lakes. This is the first significant study in the Philippines by our Botany team. Academy terrestrial research in the Philippines dates back to 1908 with the department of Herpetology.

  • Angiosperms: Dr. Peter Fritsch, Dr. Frank Almeda, Dr. Darin Penneys, and Dr. Edwino Fernando
  • Bryophytes: Dr. Jim Shevock and Dr. Benito Tan
  • Arachnids: Dr. Charles Griswold, Hannah Wood, Dr. Natalia Chousou Polydouri, and Vanessa Knutson
  • Reptiles and amphibians: Dr. Rafe Brown, Cameron Siler, David McLeod, and Dr. Arvin Diesmos
  • Fish: Dave Catania and Dr. Demian Willete

Education and Media Outreach Team


Led by Dr. Meg Burke, the education and outreach team will document this trip and share discoveries, explorations, and results. The impact of this expedition will extend well past the dates of the expedition.

Dr. Meg Burke, Roberta Brett, Stephanie Stone, David McGuire, and Tim Horn

The Steinhart Aquarium Team

Led by Bart Shepherd, the Steinhart Aquarium team will survey and document the dive sites that served as the inspiration for the aquarium's 212,000 gallon Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. Steinhart biologists will responsibly collect coral, cephalopods and other invertebrates for captive propagation, research and display at our Golden Gate Park facility. We are the only public aquarium permitted to collect stony corals in the Philippines. This work builds upon previous trips and allows us to exchange cultured Philippine stony corals with other institutions. Diving Safety Officer Elliot Jessup is on site to assist both the Steinhart Aquarium and the Shallow Water Team.

Bart Shepherd, Matt Wandell, Rich Ross and Elliot Jessup

This expedition takes place in the Philippines, a mega-diverse country with over 7,100 islands. Climate change, increased fishing pressure, increased urbanization, and increased logging are some of the factors contributing to this area being a threatened hotspot.

Shallow Water

Mabini map

Within Balayan Bay are the municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy, better known as Anilao. Anilao is well known among scuba divers for its rich biodiversity and abundant marine life. In fact, the living Philippine Coral Reef in the museum is modeled after the reefs in this area. The shallow waters are known to be the “center of the center” of global diversity for sea slugs and shallow-water fishes. There are more species of soft corals at just one dive site in the expedition area than there are in all of the Caribbean. The team will be visiting 30 different dive sites during their time here. A sampling of the sites is available in the Google Earth map.

View map in Google Earth

Deep Water


Departing from Batangas, on the island of Luzon, the team will embark on a 9 day exploration of the deep waters. Traveling through the Verde Island Passage, South China Sea and Mindoro Strait, the scientists will be dropping traps and trawling as deep as 2000m. Because the diversity of marine life is less known compared to the shallow waters, we are very excited to discover what exists in the deep.

The expedition will compare diversity richness in marine protected areas and in waters without protection.

View map in Google Earth

Terrestrial and Fresh Water


Due to it’s geological past, the Philippines is actually a composite of several terrestrial centers of species diversity, each supporting unique assemblages of plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, many of which remain undocumented. The team will explore 6 different sites, including a volcano and crater lake. The freshwater lake was once part of the sea. Many of the species within it, once lived in saltwater, including a sea snake. As time passed and the lake became isolated, some species adapted to freshwater (sea snake and sardine).

View map in Google Earth

Document Biodiversity

coral reef

In order to protect, we need to understand what exists. Scientists will document species diversity (how many species exist), ecosystem diversity (number, type and structure of species in a particular area) and genetic diversity (total gene characteristics). It’s critical to get these data as a baseline for future needs.

Discover New Taxa


Scientists estimate that more than 70% of the species on this planet have yet to be discovered. In fact, our scientists have been diving in the Philippines since 1992 and continue to discover new species on every trip.

Inform Conservation Priorities


Our research can assist in helping the Philippine government and private/public entities make sustainable development and conservation-related decisions. For example, our data can be used to define the impact of allowing agriculture in natural areas (species replacement, water needs, and more).

Develop New Plant & Animal Husbandry


A Steinhart Aquarium team will join the scientists in the field. Our biologists have permits to collect live species for our Philippine Coral Reef. These unique species will be on display for visitors and some may be used for captive breeding research. Our live corals started as fragments (or clippings) of live coral, less than 10 cm long. We grew them behind the scenes and added them to our exhibit. We and our Filipino colleagues are able to support aquarium trade needs with minimal impact. Look for new additions to the Coral Reef and Rainforest exhibits.

Disseminate Results

child at aquarium

This expedition will include an enormous level of education and outreach. While in the Philippines, we will hold local community education forums, teacher professional development workshops and have a capstone symposium for the entire expedition. At the Academy we will have: a live webcast from the field (at NightLife on May 19); special activities at the Science in Action exhibit, in the Project Lab and at the Naturalist Center; in addition to all of our educational elements (lesson plans, classroom kits, and trainings). Education materials will be shared with Filipino colleagues.

Hearst Expedition Blog

Jet Lag: Timing is as important (or more so) than medications
June 1, 2011

Jet Lag

Jet lag is a problem affecting the majority of people traveling rapidly or non-stop through multiple time zones. The more time zones traversed, the more likely one is to experience jet lag and the longer it takes to recover. East-West and West-East travel cause symptoms much more than North-South and South North travel because the problem is related to time zones more than distance flown.

My experience is that the conventional “1 day of recovery per time zone traveled (over two time zones),” is pretty good. Unfortunately, many people have back-logged professional obligations and are missed by family who want and need attention. At this time of year, there are graduations and grandparents’ days at schools. Consequently, in addition to spouses and kids, there are important guests from out of town to host and entertain. Jet lag can be minimized with some good planning, a little luck and, sometimes, with supplements such as melatonin, zolpidem (aka Ambien). Other medications such as modafinil (aka Provigil) are in the late stages of clinical trials and show promise for treating jet lag. Unlike melatonin and zolpidem, modafinil is used to aid in alertness rather than as an agent to improve the timing and quality of sleep. BTW–I have no financial interest or relationships with the manufacturers of these drugs!

There is no one recipe to combat jet-lag and people taking medications for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. During air travel, a diabetic person should take his or her daily dose of insulin and eat according to local time (departure schedule). For a diabetic person traveling east-bound over multiple time zones, the day is effectively shortened. On arrival, the person should eat and administer insulin according to local time, but reduce the insulin dose by 1/3.  For travel west-bound, the day will lengthen and a second dose of insulin may administered with guidance from a glucose monitoring device.

Airlines such as Philippine Airlines (PAL) do a good job scheduling their flights from San Francisco to Manila and Manila to San Francisco. From Manila, flights generally leave at night and arrive at night, in San Francisco. My flight from Manila left at 10:30 PM and arrived in San Francisco at 10:30 PM.The evening meal was served almost immediately and I was able to sleep for virtually the entire first half of the flight.

Briefly, my strategy for combating jet lag on my return from the Philippines was a follows:

1. On the day of departure, I spent as much time outside as I could

2. I packed a meal so that I could eat as soon as I got on the plane and go straight to sleep. PAL uses the same strategy, so I had an entrée before my entrée.

3. I slept for six straight hours (thank you, zolpidem) on the plane and then stayed awake for the remaining flight time and until I got home (about 9 hours awake time).

4. Went to sleep as soon as I got home and woke up about 0630 and felt pretty darn good the next day—again, maximizing exposure to sunlight even coated with SPF 100+.

5. The main point is to try to get on the schedule of your destination as soon as possible. If it is not possible, then it is quite reasonable to consider pharmacological interventions.

6. Everyone is different. When I tried melatonin to help with circadian disturbances during medical school I slept beautifully, but with horrendous nightmares (e.g. I couldn’t save my drowning parrot and, another time, dreamed I was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge on a windy day and the side rails had been removed. A lesser nightmare was a visit from an angry Pope John Paul asserting that I was making crank calls to the Vatican.I felt guilty even though I didn’t do it…and I’m Jewish).

Pharmacological Interventions:

Melatonin:Melatonin is a popular food supplement that is among the best studied interventions for circadian disturbances, including jet lag. It is not regulated the way most drugs are, since the FDA considers it to be a food supplement. Thus, formulations may vary in content, consistency, absorption and quality. I have to admit, I have not been a fan of melatonin, but need to reconsider my early prejudice now that more systematic and methodologically sound studies are being carried out. To date, the results of clinical trials are all over the place. In part, this is because flight attendants are often used as subjects and they have very complex, disordered sleep patterns. I do find it interesting that the doses used, typically 0.5mg to 5mg, result in serum concentrations orders of magnitude higher than those produced by anyone’s body.There are no data to suggest combining melatonin with prescribed medications such as zolpidem improves either one’s effects. Well described side-effects include hangovers or lethargy the next day, nightmares, confusion, headaches, but the percentages of people exhibiting these adverse reactions—while well-described– is also not well quantified…People taking blood thinners such as warfarin and those with seizure disorders should be very cautious about using melatonin.

Zolpidem (e.g. Ambien) and other sedative-hypnotic agents like lorazepam, temazepam and alprazolam (e.g. Ativan, Restoril and Xanax, respectively):

Disruption of sleep is a major factor in the unpleasantness and general morbidity associated with jet lag. A lot attention has been given to the use of sedative-hypnotics for the induction and maintenance of sleep. Each of the medications listed above has a different half-life and utility depending on the types of disordered sleep encountered by different people. Briefly, zolpidem has a short half-life, but works quickly (~30 minutes) and it often used to help initiate sleep. If getting to sleep is harder than maintaining it, a medication such as zolpidem or alprazolam might be most effective in ameliorating symptoms of sleep disruption. A longer acting medication such as temazepam should be considered for those with more difficulty maintaining sleep.

Adverse Effects

As with all medications the intended, salutary, effects need to be balanced with the risks. For example, alprazolam interacts with a lot of other medications, such as warfarin.

In addition, ALL benzodiazepines (generally your drugs with the suffixes, “-pam” and “lam”, but including Librium) are verboten in pregnancy, “Class D” (Dangerous). Women of child-bearing age who have any chance of being pregnant should not take these drugs. Benzodiazepines act on the same basic receptors as alcohol and cause the same general types of birth defects as seen with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).Nevertheless, if an isolated dose or doses are taken prior to the discovery of pregnancy, it is not cause for panic. Like alcohol, the dose and chronicity make the poison—just stop and talk to your physician about any further evaluation or testing that might be warranted.As with pregnancy, all benzodiazepines are considered Dangerous in lactation. Nursing mothers should not take these medications.

Adverse effects from benzodiazepines include those described during pregnancy and also include amnesia, grogginess, interactions with other medications and severe withdrawal syndromes and addiction, such that people occasionally die from withdrawal seizures. The potential for abuse of these medications is fairly high. If you have had problems with substance abuse/addiction, including with alcohol, these medications should probably be studiously avoided for elective use.That being said, the short-term benefits of having a good night of sleep cannot be underestimated—in the absence of addiction issues and the use of medications with adverse interactions with these drugs.

Zolpidem (Ambien) is considered to be fairly safe in pregnancy (“Class B”…presumed safe based on animal studies) and is generally accepted to be safe during lactation for the children of nursing mothers. I generally favor this specific medication for lactating or pregnant/potentially pregnant women.Relatively common side effects include amnesia (e.g. not remembering any of the words played in last night’s unfinished Scrabble game), confusion, nausea and erratic behavior. If you made out with the passenger next to you and don’t remember it having happened when he/she asked for your number (erratic + amnesia)…this is not the medication for you. The former happened to me and the latter to a friend. That is the absolute truth.

Pharmacological interventions you can expect to see approved by the FDA in the near future:

Modafinil (e.g. Provigil). This is an interesting drug approved for use in narcolepsy and in shift-work sleep disorder. It is generally taken 1 hour prior to starting a shift. Jet lag and shift-work sleep disorders have a lot in common with respect to disrupted sleep and overall circadian disturbance.Most recently, Phase III clinical trials have been completed and published with seemingly good results.

Interestingly, sildenafil citrate (aka “Viagra”) has been shown to enhance adaptation to changing light schedules…in hamsters.In this study, out of Argentina, a dose of 3.5 mg/kg (or about 245 mg for a 70 kg male) was injected into the hamsters to achieve this effect.  I didn’t read the study all that carefully but didn’t see any comments other than those about circadian re-entrainment and I was left to ponder, “Were they breeding like rabbits?” Viagra for humans with erectile dysfunction is generally given in increments of 25, 50 and 100mg and I imagine that at hamster doses it would cause significant nasal congestion and a blistering headache. I think this one is a long way away from approval for use in jet lag.


Don’t get prescriptions that are likely to last any longer than you actually need (a five or six day supply)

Don’t drive when tired or having taken any of these medications in the past 6 hours

Don’t mix with alcohol

Don’t accept medications from friends…we recently saw the case of a patient who was given doses of his friend’s “sleeping pills,” that turned out to be methadone and a fatal overdose, at that. Plan ahead and get a proper prescription.

If you are taking medications for which blood levels are measured (e.g. warfarin, lithium, carbamezapine, digoxin) then there is a good chance they interact with alprazolam and other medications or foods in an unsafe way.Others that commonly interact with food or drugs include anti-cholesterol drugs in the –statin class (grapefruit juice inhibits the enzyme that breaks down the drug with potentially fatal consequences) and MAOI and mixed-MAOI inhibitors.

Avoiding caffeine and alcohol: Generally not recommended, yet no systematic study of these “self-medications” has ever been undertaken. I don’t recommend them, but more than that would be confusing fact with opinion.

This is so far from a complete list of admonitions that you really need to talk to your doctor.

Be Positive!

1. You will not be more tired than usual for the rest of your life.

2. Thoughtful planning of sleep and wake times during travel can shorten the duration of symptoms from jet lag.

3. Being happy to be home and seeing your family, friends and colleagues is probably the best remedy.

I won’t remember having written this, tomorrow, but feel free to correspond. I welcome any comments, suggestions and useful criticisms. I will do my best to respond promptly. SAFE TRAVELS!

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Typhoon Victims


The Academy has a long history of conducting scientific research and community outreach in the Philippines, and we are deeply saddened by the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has wrought. If you would like to join us in supporting those affected by the storm, please consider making a donation to one of the following organizations:

Google Oceans


The Academy’s Invertebrate Zoology and Geology department is exploring ways to leverage Google Oceans. The placemarks on this map are different dive sites highlighting species of corals, sea slugs, fish and other animals.

Aquatic Diversity of the Philippines

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