Tag: Craig Leisher Nature Conservancy

Book Week: ‘Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty’

Nature Conservancy senior social scientist Craig Leisher reviews “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo.

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The Horseshoe Crab: World’s Most Successful Animal

Move over, cockroaches. Blogger Craig Leisher argues that it’s the horseshoe crab that’s the ultimate survivor. But can this ancient species survive a new list of human-induced threats?

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No Surprise: Protected Areas Work

Ferraro, P. et al. 2013. More strictly protected areas are not necessarily more protective: evidence from Bolivia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 025011 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025011.

Do protected areas that are more strictly protected (IUCN category I-IV) have less deforestation than less strictly protected areas (IUCN category V-VI)?

The short answer is yes but not always.

This might sound like another we-just-proved-the-world-is-round analysis, but this recent study is authored by some of the more rigorous thinkers in conservation. It sets a new standard for accuracy and precision in estimating avoided deforestation from protected area status.

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How to Measure Human Well-Being in a Conservation Project

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Discovery: New Cave Fish Species Sees “Light of Day”

Deep inside a remote cave in northern Vietnam, Craig Leisher aimed his headlamp at the water. Several small, strange-looking fish flashed by. He readied his butterfly net and quickly tried to scoop one up but missed. He tried again.

Leisher eventually caught four species of fish. Further analysis revealed that two species were already known to science, one was a new species and one was a mystery.

The new species, Schistura mobbsi, has no eyes, no pigmentation and a limited ability to sense motion. It is a type of loach — a river-dwelling genus that includes both subterranean and above-ground species.

Leisher and ichthyologist Maurice Kottelat recently published the discovery in Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwaters … 10 years after the fact.

Why did it take 10 years for Schistura mobbsi to make its public appearance in the scientific literature?

Let’s re-wind.

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Nearsightedness and Nature-Deficit Disorder

Why are 80% of kids in Singapore nearsighted? Perhaps it’s a nature-deficit disorder. 

Singapore has one of the highest rates of nearsightedness or myopia in the world, and parts of China and Taiwan are not far behind.

Most people assume it’s just genetics. 

And there’s certainly a lot of evidence suggesting a genetic link. In Australia, for example, if both parents have myopia, a child is eight times as likely to have it as well, and if both parents have severe myopia (at least -6 diopter), a child is 22 times as likely (Ip et al. 2007).

People of Chinese origins are particularly prone to myopia (Pan et al. 2012).

But here’s the Singapore twist. The city-state is a melting pot of Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnicities. Yet Singapore has a far higher myopia prevalence rate than India or Malaysia and a slightly higher rate than China.

Genetics almost certainly plays a role in myopia, but families generally share not only genes but also environments.

While our genetic DNA in “pen” and cannot be changed, some of our genes are written in “pencil” and can be rewritten by environmental factors.

Worldwide, there’s an urban-rural divide in myopia rates. In Nepal, for example, urban children age 15 have a 27% prevalence rate while it is less than 3% for rural children the same age (Pan et al. 2012).

So what’s different for many urban kids? 

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