Nicole's Bio in Fiji

July 31, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Mechanisms of Speciation

Speciation is the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution. The Fijian banded iguana and the Fijian crested iguana likely started out as the same species but different environmental circumstances had them evolve to be two seperate species.

The Fijian Banded Iguana is considered a national treasure by the government of Fiji. It is found on the more southern Fijian islands and is an arboreal species. Male banded iguanas have blue or white stripes on a bright green base while females are more uniformly green with occasional faint banding or spotting. Both sexes have yellow underbellies and yellow rimmed nostrils. Like other iguanas they are able to change colour to blend in with their surroundings. They can grow up to 60 cm long (about half of this would be tail). This species of iguana is omnivorous, eating leaves, flowers and insects.

The Fijian crested Iguana is a critically endangered species of iguana and is found on the north-western islands of Fiji.  It was once known to be on 14 of the Fijian islands but is currently only found on 3. The crested Iguana is a brilliant green colour with 3 white stripes that are sometimes edged with black. These iguanas can grow up to 75 cm long. They have distinctive crests lining the length of their backs. Each spine on the crest can grow up to 1.5 cm long. They have long, strong claws which makes them very good at climbing. The Fijian crested iguana is herbivorous eating leaves, shoots, flowers and roots.

Although very similar, these two species of iguanas have several traits that have evolved differently through ecological isolation and natural selection over millions of years. Although it is unknown how the two species got to be on different islands, it is most likely that they both started on the same one and the island slowly seperated into two different ones. This would explain the different traits they have that are specialized for the environment on the seperate islands. One of these different traits is the defense mechanism. In the crested iguana, the defense mechanism is to change colour to camoflauge itself from predators, much like a chameleon. This would have developed as a result of having visual hunting predators. The banded iguana does not change colour. Its defense mechanism is to go up into the trees and hide. This defense would be very effective if the predators present were primarily ground dwelling, as feral goats and mongoose are. In terms of how natural selection ties in, in both scenarios the iguanas with the most valuable traits survive and live longer than the iguanas that do not have those traits. This means the iguanas that live longer reproduce the next generation, and the next generation will have those favorable traits. An interesting point to add, is the fact that the Fijian crested iguana is critically endangered. This may have something to do with the defense mechanism it adapted versus the defense mechanism the banded iguana adapted. The process of going up into the trees would be more effective in preventing being eaten by a goat than just trying to blend into the background would.

Another trait of the banded iguana is the ability to eat insects. After the probable island split, there may have been less vegetation, and therefore less source of food. The ability to eat insects would have evolved slowly out of necessity. The iguanas that could eat insects would live longer and reproduce, passing this gene onto the next generation. This is another example of natural selection.


July 29, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Ecosystem Restoration

The world is a massive place. There are millions of species everywhere, coexisting in ecosystems. Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given area. There are three types of biodiversity; species diversity, ecosystem diversity and genetic diversity. Species diversity is the variety of living things in areas such as rainforests, reefs, deserts and tundra. Species diversity is the type of biodiversity that is most commonly referred to as just biodiversity. Ecosystem diversity is the complexity and diversity of a place on the level of and in terms of ecosystems. Genetic diversity refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic make up of a species. It is through genetic diversity that populations are able to adapt to changing environments. With a greater genetic diversity, it is more likely that an allele is possessed that is suited for that specific environment. Biodiversity as a whole is important because it increases ecosystem productivity. When there is a lot of diversity of species in an ecosystem, the ecosystem is stronger and more able to handle changes than if there was low biodiversity. For example, if an ecosystem has grass, rabbits and hawks if the rabbits suddenly catch a disease and all die, the grass population grows uncontrollably because it lost its main predator and the hawk population slowly dies off because it loses its main source of food. This is why that diversity is important, for an ecosystem to sustain itself there needs to be variety and not just one population entirely dependant on one other.

 Coral restoration on the Coral Coast in Fiji is an ecosystem restoration project. The project assists the recovery of an ecosystem that has been destroyed, degraded or damaged. The primary aim of this project is to improve a degraded  reef ecosystem in terms of structure and function. Other attributes considered are; biodiversity, complexity, species biomass and productivity. Coral bleaching is one example of the way coral reefs can be degraded. Coral contains an algae known as zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae provides nutrients and oxygen to their host, allowing it to direct energy towards growth and constructing its calcium carbonate skeleton. Bleaching causes coral to lose their zooxanthellae and turn white. This is also the loss of food and nutrients for the coral, causing them to die. The actual bleaching is caused by high ocean temperatures and direct sunlight. The method they are using to restore this ecosystem is replanting of the coral, trying to stimulate the growth and regrowth of healthy corals.

The actual project itself has a solid platform. They are using eco-tourism to spread awareness and to do the actual planting. This is a good way to market because at the same time of educating people, they are making money to further this program. A problem I have with this project is that the people in charge are not educating more locally. Yes, giving knowledge to tourists can be powerful and beneficial but they are not consistently there. If the people in charge would advertise and educate on a more home base scale as well as globally, I think they could maximize the potential this project has to restore coral reefs.

The short term effects of this project are fairly obvious. The insertion of healthy coral into bleached areas, creating a more visually appealing and zooxanthellae rich reef. The new coral attracts all sorts of marine life, building up the ecosystem. The long term effects would be an expanded healthy coral reef. The healthy planted coral would hopefully grow and take root, and reproduce to make the reef as vibrant and as diverse an ecosystem as it once was.

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)

July 28, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Antibiotic Resistance

 Antibiotic resistance is the increased tolerance of micro organisms, usually a bacterial species, to antibiotics.  Also called antimicrobial resistance, it is quickly becoming a global problem, resulting in prolonged illness, greater risk of death and higher health care costs.  

Antibiotic resistance is thought to have developed as a cause of several factors. Cattle that are fed antibiotics have greatly contributed to the development of antibiotic resistance. As people eat meat, they gradually build up a tolerance to the antibiotics in the meat. This means the person also has a resistance to antibiotics that would help heal them from whatever may be ailing them. Another cause of antibiotic resistance is the improper use and overuse of drugs. In the some countries, a prescription is not needed for over the counter drugs. This means that anyone could take these antibiotics and not really need them. This is much like the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics. Often it is not actually needed, and is just prescribed so the patient feels as if something is being done.

 Natural selection is the method through which resistance spreads. As soon as a few cells become antibiotic resistant, they are the ones that reproduce the next generation, because as the saying goes, the strongest survive. The tolerance to antibiotics would be considered a favourable trait and therefore it would be the trait that would be selected for the next generation to have.

 Preventing antibiotic resistance is a collaboration between health care providers and patients. Healthcare providers need to be aware of the growing problem and prescribe antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. Patients need to take antibiotics properly and use the whole prescription, rather than saving some for the next illness. Education of the general public and making everyone aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. Many people do not even know of this problem and the scary reality is that one day the drugs we depend on for everything from ear infections to life threatening blood infections may not work.

 In developing countries antibiotic resistance is an interesting problem. In terms of Fiji, the remote islands and villages would have a much less likely chance of developing antibiotic resistance than say, the capitol city. This is because the exposure to antibiotics would be much less than in cities. Reasons for multidrug-resistant organisms in developing countries are numerous, but the inadequate access to effective drugs, the unregulated manufacture and dispensation of antimicrobials, and the lack of money available to pay for appropriate, high-quality medications are some of the major poverty-driven factors contributing to antimicrobial resistance.,r:3,s:0,i:86,r:0,s:0,i:84

July 18, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Lactase Evolution

Lactose intolerance is a very common condition. It is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Humans are born with the ability to produce an enzyme called lactase. Lactase is needed to digest lactose, as it cannot be absorbed directly into the bloodstream along the gastro- intestinal tract. As humans mature, their production of lactase is dramatically decreased by about 90%in non dairy consuming populations. This is because all mammals except humans do not drink milk in adulthood.

The way lactose intolerance has come to be is through natural selection. Natural selection is the process by which a species adapts to their environment. It is based on three main principles. In this case, the principle is, “individuals who survive can go onto produce offspring”. As lactose and dairy became available and needed for survival, the gene that regulates the shutting off of lactase production mutated so that humans were able to continue to digest lactose. In some populations this can happen depending on the presence of cows. If an area has absolutely no dairy producing animal, the people will not have been exposed to lactose and therefore will have not developed the mutated gene. It works the other way as well; if cows are present, it is very likely that natural selection will have worked to pass down the adaptation onto the offspring.

In India, cows have been present for a long time. Historically and currently cattle is considered sacred. As a result of this fact, the Indian people have been consuming the milk from cows for a very long time. This is opposite to the Fijian population, where cows are relatively new. This means that the Fjian people have not been exposed to drinking milk in adulthood and haven’t yet developed the ability to produce lactase in adulthood.

These pictures show a cow in India and a graph of the percentages of lactose intolerance globally.….0…1c.1.21.img.BHUdK1ijWzs#biv=i%7C7%3Bd%7CeMqtDMReED8ApM%3A….0…1c.1.21.img.qSPuNr6EhkI&q=lactose%20intolerance#biv=i%7C3%3Bd%7ChJHynObfu6EqcM%3A



July 17, 2013
by nicoledoran5


Today, we visited the Koronivia Research Station. It was a very interesting day, with lots of information about Fiji’s agriculture and farming situations. Although Fiji’s main industry is tourism, farming is still a very important aspect in Fiji’s economy and overall way of life. The Taro plant is a huge part of this farming industry.

The Taro plant is one of the main food exports of Fiji. It is exported internationally to the US, and Japan, but mainly to Australia and New Zealand. Annually, over $20 million is exported with an increase of about $500 000 every year. The country of Samoa used to be the main competitor of Fiji in exporting Taro but after a bad infestation of Taro Leaf Blight in Samoa, Fiji became the main exporter of Taro in the world. Within Fiji, 80% of Taro is exported from an island called Taveuni. Farmers in Taveuni are now millionaires, because it is such a big market. In Fiji, there is the presence of the Dalo beetle. There are very strict quarantine laws to prevent the spread of the beetle to Taveuni because it is such a major component in the entire food industry. The Taro plant is a huge part of the Fijian way of life and culture. It a traditional dish and each part of the plant can be used and eaten. Overall the Koronivia station was very interesting, and it was a great day.

These pictures are of Taveuni and of the Taro plant.….0…1c.1.21.img.tP4UBjbqHMk&q=taveuni#biv=i%7C22%3Bd%7C7CsN7kaloS0HTM%3A



July 14, 2013
by nicoledoran5


Everything can be divided into two types of cells; prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Although both are cells, they do have several major differences. Eukaryotic cells contain membrane bound organelles (such as the mitochondria), while prokaryotic cells do not. Another major difference between the two types of cells is the presence of the nucleus in eukaryotic cells. Although the prokaryotic cell does not have a nucleus, it still contains DNA, just in a single loop, rather than in the form of chromosomes. Some of the similarities between the cells include; the presence of DNA in both, and they both have ribosomes.

Cyanobacteria is an example of a prokaryote. Cyanobacteria is found in reefs and are known for their extensive and highly visible bloom. It is found in marine environments and is quite common. Cyanobacteria obtains its energy using photosynthesis. It converts sunlight into chemical energy that it uses to function. Cyanobacteria is one of the largest and most important bacteria groups while also being a prokaryote that interacts with eukaryotes in a multitude of environments.

These pictures show the differences in eukaryotes and prokaryotes, a microscopic view of Cyanobacteria and Cyanobacteria in a reef.




July 13, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Plant Study


Lantana Camara

Kingdom= plantae

Phylum= magnoliophyta

Class= magnoliopsida

 Order= lamiales

Family= Verbenaceae

Genus= Lantana

Species= Lantana Camara

Lantana Camara is a dicot plant native to American tropics. It has been introduced to many other parts of the world and is now considered an invasive species in most of them. Lantana is used for many medicinal purposes. These include, but are not limited to; treating cuts, insect bites, clotting blood. For usage it must be crushed and the juices squeezed on area as shown in picture above. The factors affecting the growth of the plant include environmental impact, animals and predators. Due to the fact that it is an invasive species in many areas, it does not have many predators therefore it is able to spread very quickly. It also cannot be controlled through environmental measures such as fire because it is resistant to fire and grows quickly in brunt areas.

Water transportation 

Water transports in plants several ways. One way is high to low pressure. As water evaporates from the top of the plant from the sun, the pressure on the top of the plant is significantly reduced. This causes the pressure on the bottom of the plant to be high and allowing water to force its way up the plant to low pressure areas.

Another way water transports is osmosis. Due to the fact the roots have a much higher nutrient composition than the soil, the plants try to balance the two by taking in water. The plants roots consistently draws water into the plant through osmosis contributing to water transportation.  

Xylem and Pholem is the way water transports throughout the plant. These wide tubes allow water to move from the roots by grabbing the water and transporting it to the leaves. These tubes are also responsible for transporting sugar and nutrients throughout the plant.

Plants also lose water. Plants have pores under their leaves were water evaporates out of the plant and cools it in hot weather. 


Structure of the leaf

The blade is the broad, flat part of the leaf, the main part. Leaf blades differ in types of edges such as smooth, toothed and lobed. The Petiole is the stem like part of the leaf that joins the blade to the stem. There are little veins that stem off from the midrib to help transport water throughout the leaf and also support the leaf. Stipules, which only grow on some plants, are 2 small flaps that grow at the base of the petiole. In many cases, stipules drop off after the blade has developed. Leaf structure vary from plant, but in general carry the same characteristic.

Reproduction of the plant

Flowers are very important in the reproduction of plants. The flower of a plant attract insects that carry the pollen for pollination. The stamen (male part) produces pollen which is sperm and is often in the same flower as the pistil (female parts). The pistil produces the egg cells which are housed in the flowers ovaries. Often, they stamen is blown and the pollen goes down the stigma and then fertilizes the eggs.


July 10, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Comparative Anatomy

The gross anatomy of iguanas and dolphins have both similarities and differences. Some of the similarities include the obvious; the circulatory system with the heart, the blood stream etc. and the nervous system, while the most obvious difference is the respiratory system.

In iguanas, the respiratory system is pretty typical for a land animal. Air is breathed through the mouth, through the trachea, into the lungs, which expand, and eventually into the blood stream though alveoli. The only difference between other land animals is that the iguana does not have a diaphragm muscle to expand the lungs, it relies on the rib muscles.

This is vastly different from the respiratory system of the dolphin which uses a blowhole to inhale air. They have evolved so that very little of their body has to leave the water when they are getting air. In the actual lungs, another difference is the amount of alveoli. The dolphin has many more alveoli than the iguana, making it easier for the oxygen to be distributed during dives. Another way the dolphin has adapted or evolved to their current state is that the ribs can collapse under the pressure of a deep dive without damage.

The similarities between the two respiratory systems are really quite obvious. The respiratory system works to get oxygen to all different parts of the body, the method of breathing air, the amount of alveoli and the ribs may be different, but ultimately the same end is reached.



July 7, 2013
by nicoledoran5

Monocot or Dicot

A dicot is a flowering plant with several key characteristics to differentiate it from a monocot. In the case of this flower, these characteristics include the flower parts, the leaf veins and the height of the plant. In dicots, the flower parts (the petals) are in multiples of four or five; in a monocot they are in multiples of three. In this plant there are five petals, making it a dicot. The leaf veins in the leaves in this flower are reticulated, instead of parallel, which also makes it a dicot. As for the last characteristic, the plant height, dicots are usually off the ground. They have much more height than monocots do, as monocots are usually grass flowers, or at grass height. Using these three indicators, I was able to determine that this flower is a dicot.


Some of the other differences between monocots and dictos include; the embryo, the pollen, the roots and secondary growth. The embryo in a monocot has a single cotyledon, while the embryo in a dicot has 2 cotyledon. The pollen in a monocot is with a single furrow or pore, while the pollen in a dicot is with 3 furrows or pores. The roots in a monocot plant are advenitious, while the roots develop from a radicle in a dicot. Lastly, in a monocot secondary growth is absent while it is often present in a dicot.

Although there are mostly differences between monocots and dicots, they do share some characterisitics. They are both angiosperms, meaning they are both flowering and seed bearing. Both are tracheophytes, they both have xylem, phloem and vascular bundles. And finally, in the anatomy, they both have roots, stems and leaves.

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