Tag Archives: case study

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise and Farmer Adaptations

How are research topics arrived at? One of the ways on how to identify a phenomenon worthy of research investigation is to go out on field and ask questions.

This article discusses how research topics in environmental science can be generated through interaction with community members as clients of the research outputs. Specifically, it examined the issue of sea level rise as a pressing issue threatening the rice production capacity of a community living next to Malampaya Sound, a marine biodiversity rich body of water located northeast of Palawan Island. It was once dubbed the ‘fish bowl’ of the Philippines.

The trip yesterday to Abongan, a farming community in the municipality of Taytay located 167 kilometers northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Figure 1), was a fruitful one. I discovered an environmental issue that could be a good research topic to explore. The rice farmers in that community experience the negative effects of sea level rise – a manifestation of climate change. This issue arose as our research team conducted a focus group discussion with agriculture stakeholders.

sea level rise
A map showing the location of sea level rise affected farmlands in Abongan (Map source: Wikimapia.org).

Salt water inundated and changed a portion of the farmlands into mangrove stands. The phenomenon started way back in 1994, according to the barangay chairman of Abongan.

Reminded of the environmental economics perspective on evaluating environmental issues, a question popped in my mind: “How much in terms of money is the value lost by farmers each year because of the advancing sea waters?”

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise

To objectively examine the issue discussed earlier, let us enumerate and assume the value of the different variables at play in this phenomenon:

  1. Area of farmland affected by sea level rise: 200 hectares
  2. Number of cavans of unhusked rice grains (palay) produced per hectare: 100
  3. Percentage of rice (bigas) produced in a cavan of palay: 25% or 1/4
  4. Price per kilogram of rice: PhP42 or $0.92
  5. Kilograms of rice per cavan: 50
  6. Number of croppings per year: 2
  7. Percentage of return from farm investment: 50%

The net loss of income on annual basis, therefore, can be computed by converting the net income from rice produced per hectare to the number of hectares affected. This is obtained by multiplying the number of kilos of rice produced per hectare to current price. This is equal to 25 cavans or 1,250 kilograms times PhP42 ($0.92); that gives a total of PhP52,500 ($1,150) per hectare.

If 200 hectares are affected by sea level rise each year, the total value of rice yield per hectare will be PhP10,500,000 ($48,300) per cropping season. Since there are two cropping seasons per year, total annual loss in income will be double this amount.

The annual loss in income of farms in Abongan, therefore, will be PhP21,000,000 or $96,600. Since the percentage of return from investment is roughly 50%, the annual loss in net income is half this final value which is the same value obtained for one cropping season, i.e., PhP10,500,000 ($48,300).

The value given above assumes that the area of affected farmland is the same. But farmers observed that saltwater goes further inland each year. This causes anxiety among farm owners especially those whose land lie next to rivers.

Adaptation of Rice Farmers to Sea Level Rise

Currently, some of the farmers build dikes to prevent saltwater from flowing into their farms. There’s also a plan to increase the flow of freshwater from the watershed to their farms.

Further reflecting on the issue, three questions came to my mind:

  1. What species of mangroves successfully settled in the upper reaches of the river next to farms?
  2. What are the other adaptations measures did farmers make to mitigate the advancing waters aside from dikes and increased freshwater flow?
  3. What is the salinity of river water next to farms?

Now, can you appreciate the value of having to go out in the field and identify environmental issues that hound communities? In the process of finding answers to questions, the outcome of your study will be helpful inputs that will empower communities.

Figuring out your research topic in the four corners of the classroom will offer you less ideas to pursue. Get up and explore the world.

©2015 January 11 P. A. Regoniel

A Case Analysis on Nell’s Language Acquisition

This article is a case analysis on how a language can be acquired and what language theories can explain it.

Nell’s case is quite peculiar as the movie depicted it. She had developed her own impenetrable language. Some of the words listed and interpreted by Paula Olson, a hot-shot city psychologist are the following:

spee – speakga-inja – guardian angel
af or afa – afterfelises – happy
kay – crybin – been
fearly – afraidafi – don’t
reckontata – (if she was scared)
chikabeetee in a wind – tree in a wind

From Nell’s utterances that Ms. Olson gathered and interpreted, she concluded that she spoke English.

Since this article aims to zero in on language acquisition, let me discuss some contradicting theories and experiments in order to explain language acquisition. I will explain how Nell spoke such language, and later speak English as the way native speakers do.

The Language Acquisition Theories

Yule (1996) described two experiments to find out how language originates. Here is the first experiment conducted in Egypt.

An Egyptian pharaoh named Psammetichus conducted an experiment with two newborn infants around 600BC. The infants had a mute shepherd as their only human companion for two years. The goats’ bleat or wavering cry was the only thing they heard. After a while, the children were reported to have spontaneously uttered some words, not an Egyptian, but something Phrygian (Indo-European language). It’s the word “bekos” meaning bread. But if one will drop the ‘kos’- ending, it could approximate the sound of the goats’ “beeeh”.

Meanwhile, James IV of Scotland conducted the same experiment in AD1500. The children were reported to have started speaking Hebrew; but when they lived without access to human speech in their early years, they grew up with no language at all.

Interpretation of the Language Experiments

Using the lessons derived from the first experiment, I could explain why Nell had such kind of language. She imitated the words uttered by her mother who was then suffering from stroke. When the mother died, she became alone, wild and unsocialized. Nevertheless, what really amazed me is – why Nell learned to speak English at the end of the movie. Although I heard only the sentence “remember that,” I already assumed that she learned it well.

According to the article, “How Did You Learn to Speak Your Native Language?” I got from the net, there is a critical period (2-7 years) wherein children can master a language. If this is true, any child not hearing language during this period not only will not learn to speak but also will not be able to learn to speak. Two evidences intensify this claim.

The first bit of evidence comes from Victor, the so-called Wild Boy of Aveyron. Victor is the name given to a boy found roaming the woods of Aveyron in southern France toward the end of September 1799. He behaved like a wild animal and gave all indications that wild animals had raised him: eating off the floor, making canine noises, disliking baths and clothes. He also could not speak. Doctor Jean Marc Itard, who had developed a reputation for teaching the deaf to speak, took him in. After years of work, however, Itard failed to teach Victor to more than a few lexemes or words that have meaning.

A similar event unfolded in Los Angeles in 1961 when a 13-year-old girl was discovered who had been isolated in a baby crib most of her life and never spoken to. She was physically immature, had difficulty walking and could not speak. Psychologists at UCLA spent years trying to teach ‘Genie’, as they called her to protect her identity, to speak. While Genie did get to the point that she could communicate, her speech never advanced beyond the point where the language explosion in normal children begins. In other words, she could use words to the same extent as chimpanzees but could not manipulate grammar, as indicated in the prefixes, suffixes and ‘function’ words she used. At middle age, she stopped talking altogether and was soon committed to a mental institution.

(continued on page 2)

Research Focus: Police Involvement in Kidnapping and Extortion

Can you imagine that police officers themselves were the ones kidnapping or committing extortion to the very citizens they are meant to protect? This article examines the issue and poses questions for research purposes. You might want to help shape enforcement policy by doing research along the questions identified.

A kidnapping and extortion incident broke in the headlines a few days ago in the Philippines. Allegedly, a businessman was held at gunpoint by an organized team of gun-toting individuals.

Someone passing through the scene thought of taking a picture and uploaded the picture in the internet—with success, because it took the attention of the netizens, and most importantly, honest police officers who swore to uphold the law.

Why use the term “honest?” That’s because those gun-toting individuals trapping a vehicle using three privately-owned cars in the picture were police officers themselves! The system of CCTV cameras somehow made out the plate numbers.

What ever happened to the police officers who should be the ones protecting the citizens? And to think that the police officers get their support from the citizens through taxes.

A large part of my salary goes to tax. Indirectly, I am paying these police officers for their services. For what?

It is a sad fact  that police officers were involved in that embarrassing situation at broad daylight. How could such thing happen? At least that’s how everyone is treating the whole thing—the police officers are the ones at fault.

This kidnapping incident is actually not the first time that happened in the country. There were similar events that happened in the past. The difference is that those were not so celebrated because nobody documented the operation.

Exploratory Research Questions

I have not yet heard substantial responses from those involved. Is it also possible that they were just victims of a frame up? Who took the picture? Should that person be likewise investigated? Is there a possibility that both sides are actually involved in something nasty or illegal?

Several other questions popped in my mind:

  • Why did the police officers behave the way they did?
  • Are they not aware and mindful that the citizens are their primary clientèle as they are paid by the government?
  • Are their superiors aware of their actions and are also involved? Up to what rank is involved in the illegal activity?
  • Did their training in the police academy fail to inculcate the proper values?
  • Did the educational system fail in general?
  • Did the parents inculcate the right values to their children?

In reference to the last question, Freud advanced that the first five years of a person’s life are crucial to the development of the adult personality (McLeod 2008). Whoever mentored or taught these police officers when they were still young children have influenced their minds and behavior. How were they raised?

Suggested Research Questions to Clarify the Issue

For those taking higher degrees in criminology, answers to the following questions may be sought based on the case described above:

  1. What is the level of commitment of police officers to their duties?
  2. How high is the morale of the officers and the rank-and-file?
  3. Is there a relationship between police officers’ officers’ profile and their propensity to commit crime? Which factor is most influential?
  4. Is there a relationship between the management style of superiors and the behavior of their subordinates?
  5. Is the recruitment system for police officers stringent enough to weed off undesirable individuals from the police force?

Answers to these questions will somehow help institute appropriate government policies to prevent, minimize, reduce or eliminate commission of crimes like this in the future. Research is a powerful tool that well-meaning managers of human resources should consider. Palliative, non-working, hit-and-miss policies or approach that serve to “cure” instead of prevent is more costly.

Reference

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Psychosexual Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

© 2014 September 13 P. A. Regoniel

Mango Pulp Weevil: A Pest Control Problem in Palawan Island

This article describes the mango pulp weevil (MPW), Sternochetus frigidus, introduced to Palawan province and discovered in 1987.  The weevil still lingers as a pest control problem that prevents local mango farmers from exporting their agricultural produce in other places. Find out how the MPW looks like and where it grows. A video is included to show how this pest behaves when disturbed and how fast it can move.

Research still has to find a long-term remedy to the problem of mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infestation in the province of Palawan in the Philippines where the world-renowned underground river is found.  Pest control approaches by farmers have so far been unable to eradicate the pest at source which finds the edible fleshy part of the mango as its favorite breeding place. Hence, the name mango pulp weevil or MPW.

The weevil damages a part of the mango pulp thus reduce the quality of the fruit. For more than two decades, mango growers were unable to export their agricultural produce because the mango pulp weevil will threaten the mango industry in other places.

A post-harvest pest control approach done so far to control the mango pulp weevil include irradiation as quarantine treatment (Padilla 2012). This approach appears to be more economical compared to other post-harvest pest control treatments such as the application of heat and fumigation. Local farmers also apply hit-and-miss approaches to control the weevil at source.

Morphology of the Mango Pulp Weevil

How do these pests look like? Below are pictures of the mango pulp weevil.

mango pulp weevil
Mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infesting mangoes in Palawan Island.

These are two of the four MPWs I have found yesterday upon slicing several fruits from our homegrown mango trees. I can feel that they have a hard texture as I turn them around for the right angles to take photos. The insect is quite small (6mm x 4mm) but switching my Panasonic Lumix LX5 to macro mode enabled me to take extreme close up shots at a distance of less than one centimeter.

Overall, MPWs have dominant brown color at the underside and an orange dorsal region mottled with dark, charcoal black bands across the pitted wings. Also, the wings have rough tiny keratinous projections that probably aid them in burrowing through the soft pulp upon maturity. The long snout has two antenna with rounded tips.

Behavior of the Mango Pulp Weevil

The two samples in the pictures shown previously were found in just one mango fruit, occupying about two centimeters of the pulp next to the seed. Initially, I thought there was only one but upon closer look, another weevil with neatly folded legs sprang to life after a minute or two.

Below is a video of how fast these pests could walk about. If given the chance, they will fly within a few minutes and enter into a state of suspended animation or diapause. Weevils do not fly great distances but usually stay close to the parent tree until the next fruiting season (Gove et al. 2007).

Consumers in Palawan can still eat at least half of the mangoes because only one side of the fruit is affected. An alternative way of consuming infested fruits is to flesh out the mango pulp and dry it (dried mangoes). The affected area is normally about 3 cm in diameter.

Preventive Measures to Control the Pest

I have not been so keen before on the presence of the mango pulp weevil in the three mango trees we have in our yard. My friend, a City Agriculturist, remarked that I should do something about the mango fruits that fall when ripe as this will infect other healthy mango trees.

Based on her remark and on the readings I made in writing this article, I recommend that the following measures should be made by consumers or mango owners.

  1. Harvest mango fruits as soon as these are mature.
  2. Remove all fallen fruits and destroy pests in infested fruit. Damaged fruits should be buried at least half a meter below the ground to prevent the weevil from completing its life cycle (Catindig and Heong 2005).
  3. Kill the pest right away when found in mango consumed.
  4. Report to authorities illegal shipments of mango from infested sources.
  5. Undertake indigenous ways to control weevil infestation such as natural fumigation or bagging using newspapers or similar material.

For researchers, studying local farmers’ practices in controlling mango pulp weevil infestation can help minimize costs associated with pest control specifically the use of synthetic pesticides. Comparing the efficacy of such practices will help identify low-cost techniques or approaches that will reduce, if not eradicate the mango pulp weevil problem.

Natural pest control measures such as breeding ants that feed on the mango weevil (Renkang and Christian 2007) may also be explored. Are there ants species in Palawan that can qualify as weevil predators? This ecosystem approach, particularly looking at the food web interactions, may be the more viable pest control option.

Is Banning Mango Export the Answer?

While banning the exportation of mango fruits from Palawan will prevent pest outbreak in other places, this caused a great loss to mango farmers in the province. Other efficient ways to control the pest must be considered or its economic impact be examined further.

Moreover, despite the infestation, it seems that only a small percentage of the mango fruits are affected. Without pesticide use, out of 300 mangoes that we have harvested at home, we found only less than 10 fruits with MPW in it. That’s only three percent.

An economic analysis may be done to look at the actual damage caused by this pest. Banning fruit exportation may not really be the answer. Rather, an effective quarantine measure should be applied.

References

Catindig, J. L. A. and K. L. Heong, 2005. Description of mango pulp weevil. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.niaes.affrc.go.jp/techdoc/apasd/Sternochetus%20frigidus%20-B.html

Gove, T.; Joubert; J. P.; and M. S. de Beer; 2007. Literature review on mango seed weevil Sternochetus mangiferae (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). SA Mango Growers’ Association Research Journal 27, 21-28.

Padilla, L. D. E., 2012. Saving the Phl Super Mango export industry from pulp weevil infestation through irradiation. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/365-2012-1st-quarter/2055-janmar2012-phl-super-mango-export-industry

RenKang, P. and K.  Christian, 2007. The effect of the weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on the mango seed weevil, Sternochetus mangiferae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), in mango orchards in the Northern Territory of Australia. International Journal of Pest Management, 53(1):15-24.

© 2014 May 27 P. A. Regoniel

Heart Rate Analysis: Example of t-test Using MS Excel Analysis ToolPak

This article discusses a heart rate t-test analysis using MS Excel Analysis ToolPak add-in. This is based on real data obtained in a personally applied aerobics training program.

Do you know that there is a powerful statistical software residing in the common spreadsheet software that you use everyday or most of the time? If you have installed Microsoft Excel in your computer, chances are, you have not activated a very useful add-in: the Data Analysis ToolPak.

See how MS Excel’s data analysis function was used in analyzing real data on the effect of aerobics on the author’s heart rate.

Statistical Analysis Function of MS Excel

Many students, and even teachers or professors, are not aware that there is a powerful statistical software at their disposal in their everyday interaction with Microsoft Excel. In order to make use of this nifty tool that the not-so-discerning fail to discover, you will need to install it as an Add-in to your existing MS Excel installation. Make sure you have placed your original MS Office DVD in your DVD drive when you do the next steps.

You can activate the Data Analysis ToolPak by following the procedure below (this could vary between versions of MS Excel; this one’s for MS Office 2007):

  1. Open MS Excel,
  2. Click on the Office Button (that round thing at the uppermost left of the spreadsheet),
  3. Look for the Excel Options menu at the bottom right of the box and click it,
  4. Choose Add-ins at the left menu,
  5. Click on the line Analysis ToolPak,
  6. Choose Excel Add-in in the Manage field below left, then hit Go, and
  7. Check the Analysis ToolPak box then click Ok.

You should now see the Data Analysis function at the extreme right of your Data menu in your spreadsheet. You are now ready to use it.

Using the Data Analysis ToolPak to Analyze Heart Rate Data

The aim of this statistical analysis is to test whether there’s really a significant difference in my heart rate eight months ago and last week. This is because in my earlier post titled How to Slow Down Your Heart Rate Through Aerobics, I mentioned that my heart rate is getting slower through time because of aerobics training. But I used the graphical method to plot a trend line. I did not test whether there is a significant difference in my heart rate or not, from the time I started measuring my heart rate compared to the last six weeks’ data.

Now, I would like to answer the question is: “Is there a significant difference in heart rate eight months ago and last six week’s record?”

Student’s t-test will be used to analyze 18 readings taken eight months ago and the last six weeks as data for comparison. I measured my heart rate upon waking up (that ensures I am rested) during each of my three-times a week aerobics sessions.

Why 18? According to Dr. Cooper, the training effect accorded by aerobics could be achieved within six weeks, so I thought my heart rate within six weeks should not change significantly. So that’s six weeks times three equals 18 readings.

Eight months would be a sufficient time to effect a change in my heart rate since I started aerobic running eight months ago. And the trend line in the graph I previously presented shows that my heart rate slows down through time.

These are the assumptions of this t-test analysis and the reason for choosing the sample size.

The Importance of an F-test

Before applying the t-test, the first test you should do to avoid a spurious or false conclusion is to test whether the two groups of data have a different variance. Does one group of data vary more than the other? If they do, then you should not use the t-test. Nonparametric methods such as Mann-Whitney U test should be used instead.

How do you make sure that this may not be the case, that is, that one group of data varies more than the other? The common test to use is an F-test. If no significant difference is detected, then you can go ahead with the t-test.

Here’s an output of the F-test using the Analysis ToolPak of MS Excel:

F test
Fig. 1. F-test analysis using the Analysis ToolPak.

Notice that the p-value for the test is 0.36 [from P(F<=f) one-tail]. This means that one group of data does not vary more than the other.

How do you know that the difference in variance in the two groups of data using the F-test analysis is not significant? Just look at the p-value of the data analysis output and see whether it is equal to or below 0.05. If it is 0.06 or higher, then the difference in variance is not significant and t-test could now be used.

This result signals me to go on with the t-test analysis. Notice that the mean heart rate during the last six weeks (i.e., 50.28) is lower than that obtained six months ago (i.e. 53.78). Is this really significant?

Result of the t-test

I had run a consistent 30-points per week last August and September 2013 but now I accumulate at least a 50-point week for the last six weeks. This means that I almost doubled my capacity to run. And I should have a significantly lower heart rate than before. In fact, I felt that I can run more than my usual 4 miles and I did run more than 6 miles once a week for the last six weeks.

Below is the output of the t-test analysis using the Analysis ToolPak of MS Excel:

t test
Fig. 2. t-test analysis using Analysis ToolPak.

The data shows that there is a significant difference between my heart rate eight months ago and the last three weeks. Why? That’s because the p-value is lower than 0.05 [i.e., P(T<=t) two-tail = 0.0073]. There’s a remote possibility that there is no difference in heart rate 8 months ago and the last six weeks.

I ignored the other p-value because it is one-tail. I just tested whether there is a significant difference or not. But because the p-value in one-tail is also significant, I can confidently say that indeed I have obtained sufficient evidence that aerobics training had slowed down my heart rate, from 54 to 50. Four beats in eight months? That’s amazing. I wonder what will be the lowest heart rate I could achieve with constant training.

This analysis is only true for my case as I used my set of data; but it is possible that the same results could be obtained for a greater number of people.

© 2014 April 28 P. A. Regoniel

How to Slow Down Your Heart Rate Through Aerobics

Do you have a fast heart rate, i.e., more than 80 beats per minute? Chances are, you are either stressed or not getting enough exercise. Find out how aerobics can slow down your heart rate.

I have this nagging question in mind since I decided to undertake an aerobics program using Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book on aerobics. This is about one’s heart rate getting slower when regularly exercising. Did my heart rate actually slow down because aerobics exercise has become an integral part of my weekly routine?

On page 101 of Dr. Cooper’s book aptly titled “aerobics,” he mentioned that the heart is such a magnificent engine that, when given less work, will work faster and less efficiently. When you make more demands on it through aerobics, it will become more efficient. That means that for a deconditioned man who does not exercise at all, his resting rate is about 80 or more while a conditioned man who exercises regularly, will have a resting heart rate of about 60 beats per minute or less. In 24 hours at rest, a deconditioned man’s heart will have to beat more than a conditioned man. He went on to explain things about the heart and how it becomes stronger and more efficient with training.

While browsing information along this topic, I found out that top athletes have heart rates of less than 30. Miguel Indurain, a top cyclist has a heart rate of 28.

Does Aerobics Slow Down Heart Rate?

I love to do a simple research to test this information although I am aware that there were already studies done to answer this question. I would like to answer the question using myself as the subject of the study and to see my progress. This is my case.

I will deliberately skip the review of literature and go directly to the objective of this experiment. My research question is:

Does aerobics slow down the heart rate through time?

My Method

I decided that I will use the graphical approach to find out if my heart rate indeed is slowing down through time. This is what researchers call a time series analysis. Will the heart rate trend be going down?

I recorded my heart rate each time I check my blood pressure upon waking up in the morning using an OMRON REM-1 wrist blood pressure monitor. So, I have added information that I will include in this article – my blood pressure.

I started recording the BP information and heart rate last August 8, 2013 up to this time. I do this routine before my 6 o’clock am run so it’s basically my resting heart rate after 6-8 hours of sleep. There were no significant changes in my lifestyle (i.e., no changes in diet, medication, workload, among other things) since I embarked on the aerobics program.

I plotted data gathered for eight months although I have done aerobics since January 2013. But then I failed to record heart rate or BP data until August 2013.

Results

I found out interesting information after plotting the data in Excel. This is easily done by plotting the date and corresponding BP values and heart rate in one row. I clicked on the Insert menu then hit the Line graph and selected the cells for date, diastolic, systolic, and heart rate values.

Indeed, my heart rate decreased through time as indicated by the heart rate trend line. However, I noticed that the trend for blood pressure goes towards the opposite direction. Both the systolic and diastolic pressure follow an upward trend (Figure 1).

graph of the heart rate and blood pressure
Fig. 1. Graph of my blood pressure and heart rate from August 19, 2013 to April 19, 2014.

What does this result suggest? This may mean that as the heart grows stronger (low heart beat), the pressure it exerts on the blood vessels also increases. On the other hand, this suggests that my blood vessels become less elastic through time.

This finding requires further reading – a review of literature focused on the relationship between the heart rate of a healthy person and his blood pressure. Is this trend the same for all people who engaged in aerobics and experienced the training effect?

Training effect is the body’s adaptation to a training program manifested by improvement in functional capacity and strength. In my case, this simply means that I am able to run a 6 kilometer stretch of road without stopping to rest. When I started the aerobics program last January 2013, I can barely finish a mile and my legs ached.

Well, whatever the increasing blood pressure means, what is important is that I found out that aerobics does decrease the heart rate through time. On March 4, 2014, I recorded my lowest heart rate ever: 44.  And I confirmed this by manually counting my pulse in one minute. And I also discovered that I can lower it at will by breathing deeply.

Where does this training bring me? An athlete friend invited me to join a 10K run last February 23, 2014. He noticed that I jog regularly and assured me that I will be able to finish the distance. I explained that I have been jogging just to address a health issue and is not that confident to test my performance. On second thought, I said why not?

I realized I can make the distance and gained confidence that I could be a marathoner. In fact, I’ve already joined and finished two 10-kilometer runs clocking 1:05 and 1:00, respectively. And I aim to finish the upcoming 10K run next month in less than an hour. This was made possible through serious self-training and with determination.

Do you have high blood pressure? Or easily feel tired after a few exertions? Try aerobics and take control of your health.

Just a note of caution: before engaging in strenuous exercise, have a medical check up to rule out any heart problem.

© 2014 April 19 P. A. Regoniel

How Slow Can a Heartbeat Get?

Is it possible to have such a slow heart beat than what is usually accepted as the norm? A literature search combined with personal observation can be empowering tools to educate oneself. Indeed, heart rate deviants, called outliers in statistics, exist.

It really pays to educate yourself to keep yourself abreast with what has been discovered so far and help you make decisions. Knowledge is something that we need not only learn in school but by self-study and passionate interest in discovering more than what is made available to you.

I mention these things as I recall the conversations I have had with my doctor when I consulted him the other day. I noticed I had a very low blood pressure and a slow heartbeat at that. As of the latest monitoring using an electronic wrist blood pressure monitor by Omron, my BP went down to just 116/60 at night before retiring to sleep. It seems normal, but my heartbeat was only 47!

I’m a bit disturbed because my doctor noted the other day that normal heartbeats should be 60 or higher; but, according to him, these are the heartbeats of the Marines. Is it possible that I could have such a very slow heartbeat? Should this be a cause for worry?

The doctor’s comments became a concern at the outset. But then, I remembered that Dr. Cooper, a medical doctor who pioneered the aerobics point system, wrote in his book that athletes could have slower than normal heart beats. I flipped to page 103 of his aerobics book, and read that he did note that conditioned athletes can have a resting rate of 32 beats per minute. Further, he checked a marathoner who is in his 60s and recorded a heart rate of 36.[1]  I browsed the internet and learned that Michael Indurain, a five-time winner of Tour de France, had a resting rate of 28 beats per minute. Furthermore, Guinness World Record holder Michael Brady had a heart rate of 27 (!).heart

I am no athlete of these caliber, but knowing these facts and having my record to consult allayed fears of possible abnormality in my condition. It may be a welcome development as I regularly exercise every other day to keep in shape; running a 4 mile distance in 44 minutes or less. If I would translate that to Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s point system, that’s equal to 11 points. And I need to meet at least 30 points per week. I run three times a week, so that’s a total of 33 points per week.

Doing this exercise routine consistently for 36 weeks, my achievement is at par with my earlier running performance way back in the early 1990s. My previous notes, written 20 years ago, indicated that I did have a very low heartbeat on record. My heartbeat on October 20, 1993 was 48 beats per minute. And I did not use an electronic means but counted it using a regular watch and feeling my pulse. So there’s nothing queer about my heart rate at all.

So this is the conclusion of this account on heart rate: that equipping yourself with information from both literature and observation can help you adopt a better view of things. Don’t rely on just a single source of information. Knowledge through a little research and own self-observation recorded on paper can be empowering.

Ones heartbeat can be slower than the expected standard. And…, I have a personal experience to back it up; because I appeared to be one of the deviants, a seeming outlier. Am I a super athlete undiscovered? 🙂

1. Cooper, K. H. (1968). Aerobics. New York: Bantam Books, Inc.

© 2013 October 4 P. A. Regoniel

Politics of Resource Allocation: The Case of the Pork Barrel Funds

What is resource allocation? How is it practiced? What are suggested solutions to ensure fair distribution of wealth? Here’s an analysis of a recent case.

Resource allocation has always been a contentious issue in many countries. That is primarily because the allocation of a country’s wealth depends heavily on politicking, lobbying, or manipulating funds to serve self-interests among those involved.[1,2] This is a controversial process termed as the politics of resource allocation.

The intention of an efficient allocation of resources should have been needs-based, i.e., putting funds where they are greatly needed such as to help uplift chronically poor citizens or address emergencies caused by both anthropogenic or man-made disasters or natural calamities.

The recent issue on a celebrated, well-crafted scam that funneled public funds to questionable non-government organizations in the Philippines highlights inefficiency and inequitability in resource allocation by those involved. For years, the resource allocation framework has allowed bribery to take place, partly because there are loopholes or flaws in its implementation. For this reason, the problem should be addressed as a systemic case, not personality-based, as the issue is being pursued at this time. One person cannot do all those illegal maneuvers without cohorts to make it happen. As the common idiomatic expression says, “It takes two to tango.”

Neeraj Negi, an evaluation officer of the World Bank, explains that funds are allocated based on a resource allocation framework, the creation of which depends on the composition and influence of the members. A lot of lobbying occurs during the process of building the framework, but in the end, the fund provider takes the upper hand. The resulting resource allocation framework may or may not truly respond to the intended purpose.[3]

Existing Resource Allocation Framework

A system governs allocation of scarce resources to constituents. This is referred to as the resource allocation framework. It guides the distribution of a country’s wealth in view of uplifting the living conditions especially of the poor sectors of society who lack opportunities to improve their lot.

Since there are problems arising from the current allocation framework in the Philippines, it should be faulty. Why is the resource allocation framework faulty?

To make clear this issue and to view things systematically, let me represent the current resource allocation framework in the country using the following diagram created using XMind.

allocation of pork barrel funds
Representation of the pork barrel fund allocation.

This representation of the resource allocation scheme for non-government organizations alone, though simple, reflects the reality as reports, observations, and public knowledge show. The left side represents the informal arrangements made by dishonest politicians while the right side of the framework represent those who stay true to their sworn duties as public officials.

If the funds were used for infrastructure, contractors and suppliers usually give 40 to 50% ‘discounts’ for their services or products either as traditionally practiced or as a result of coercion. The evidences of these undesirable practices are easily seen:

  • roads that get narrower than planned or get potholes in less than a year,
  • bridges that easily collapse upon the slightest gush of flood waters,
  • low quality educational materials,
  • inadequate health services,
  • politicians or government administrators who become instant multi-millionaires despite a humble background,
  • no improvement in the lives of marginalized communities despite funds ‘allocated for their benefit’,
  • and many more.

What are suggested solutions to the resource allocation problem?

It took whistleblowers to expose such inappropriate management of funds as their predecessors did in the past. Why do events like these recur? That’s because the allocation system stays the same. The popular solution from well-meaning sectors of society is to scrap the pork barrel funds. But is this the real solution?

It is likely possible that resource allocation will remain laden with corruption even if these funds change hands; such as giving concerned government agencies a hand on fund management once allocated for lawmakers’ discretionary use. The solution appears to be the exercise of transparency in all dealings and an agreed upon resource allocation framework that truly addresses the needs of the people.

As for the corrupt politicians, the citizens must be discerning enough to vote those who are capable of giving rein to their carnal desires and selfish interests. Thanks to a democratic society; there is always hope in sight. Despite its failings, there is always room for improvement.

References

1. Shoham, J. (2001). Taking the politics out of resource allocation: the Kenya experience. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://fex.ennonline.net/14/taking

2. Palawaniswamy, N. and N. Krishnan (2008). Local politics, political institutions, and public resource allocation. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from  http://www.ifpri.org/publication/local-politics-political-institutions-and-public-resource-allocation

3. Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. (2008). Neeraj Negi: The Politics of Resource Allocation: Lessons from the GEF Experience. Retrieved from http://www.cornell.edu/video/neeraj-negi-the-politics-of-resource-allocation

© 2013 September 27 P. A. Regoniel

Things You Don’t Know About the Black Wasp

Reading this article will help you understand why we should treat the black wasp with respect and appreciation. Black wasps play an important ecological role.

Chances are, when a black wasp enters your home and buzzes its way around, you will try to swat it with anything you can lay your hands on. They are known for their painful sting. In fact, a worker at home once unwittingly disturbed a black wasp’s nest attached to a mango leaf. She sustained three to five stings on her face and had to be hospitalized.

However, after reading this personal discovery about the black wasp’s nest, your behavior towards it will change. Black wasps have important ecological role.

The Mud Nest and Its Contents

Yesterday, when I glanced at the sill of the small screened bathroom window, I noticed a solitary black wasp circling around its nest of mud. I watched it while it makes its way inside the small opening on top of the nest. A few moments later, it flew away.

inside black wasp nest
Fig. 1. The mud nest of black wasp and its contents.

Anticipating that the mud nest will grow in time, I decided to remove it but not after finding out what’s inside that small mound. I carefully removed the nest, starting from the bottom and placed it on a folder to take a picture of its contents.

I was surprised to see that the small mound was full of living creatures. See Figure 1 at right.

There are at least three species of living organisms in the picture. From the left, are two black wasp larvae (the smaller one is yellow-green and the bigger one, light chocolate-brown), a pale red colored caterpillar of an unknown species, and three orange-spotted caterpillars of another species. There’s another one not included in this picture because its life juice was sucked out by the black wasp’s larva; but that one is visible in the video below.

Relationship Between Organisms in the Mud Nest

How do these organism’s interact inside that cramped space of mud? Initially, I thought all of them were developing larvae of the black wasp. But then a question came up in my mind, “how can the larva survive without food in that closed chamber of mud?” Then it dawned to me that the longer ones are actually caterpillars that serve as food for the two plump black wasp larvae.

Also, several months ago, I swatted a wasp and off fell a caterpillar from it. That gave me the idea that the black wasp brought these caterpillars into the mud chamber after laying its egg which then hatches into a larvae. The larva attaches itself to the paralyzed caterpillar and then sucks it dry. That’s a simple hypothesis, and I verified this by bringing the bigger larva close to the caterpillars and see if indeed it will attempt to feed on the caterpillar. The video below shows how it behaved.

[youtube=https://whttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNyKBF84FHQ&rel=0]

The video verified my observation that the wasp larva feeds on the caterpillar until it has enough food ingested for the pupa stage. The proportion seems to be that for each larva in a chamber, two caterpillars were allocated by the mother wasp.

The Black Wasp’s Egg

I peered inside the hole of the unbroken chamber. It is difficult to take a picture through the small hole, so I cut it in half to show a cross-section. Inside is a small egg attached by an almost invisible thread onto the roof of the chamber, hanging there and moving to and fro as I positioned it for a close up picture (see Figure 2). In other descriptions of wasp species, the eggs are laid after food is made available. This species lays the egg first, then finds food in time for the newly hatched larva.

black wasp egg
Fig. 2. The black wasp egg inside a chamber made of mud.

Notice that there is only one egg inside the 1.5 mm thick chamber and there are no other holes anywhere inside it. The top part has a 5 mm opening, enough to squeeze in a caterpillar of specific size, and of course, the black wasp. This means that the wasp chooses a prey with a circumferential size small enough to fit through the hole. This indicates species specificity, meaning, the black wasp is choosy of its prey.

Once the food is deposited, the wasp covers the hole and builds another one to repeat the process until the nest becomes large enough to form a colony. The developing larva inside is safe from ant attack.

Implications of the Findings

This personal encounter draws out many questions that researchers in the biology of the black wasp can explore further:

  1. Which butterfly species do the caterpillar that serve as prey of the black wasp belong? Are they considered pests to farms (since caterpillars are voracious leaf eaters)?
  2. How long will it take for the black wasp’s egg to hatch?
  3. How does the pupa of the black wasp look like?
  4. How long does each stage of the life cycle take?
  5. Why is the black wasp’s egg suspended in the chamber instead of on the floor?
  6. What specific material is the mud nest made up of and how are the materials glued together?

Many more questions can be asked from the observation. These questions arose as gaps in knowledge because the information provided is a one-shot deal. It is akin to a case study. These are exploratory questions based on a single case.

From these questions, the following hypotheses may be tested:

  • The black wasp’s feeding habit can help regulate pest population in farms.
  • The black wasp suspends its egg to give it just the right temperature to allow hatching inside the chamber.
  • The black wasp uses wet mud to build the nest.
  • The life cycle of the black wasp coincides with the life cycle of the prey.

A review of literature will now be more meaningful as you learn things and compare what you have found. In so doing, you can design and carry out a more systematic and rigorous research.

It’s fun discovering and learning things through actual encounter. Using a little wit to deduce relationships between things can help you appreciate how intricate and wonderful life is in this world.

Are all these arrangements a matter of accident or evolution? There must be an Intelligent Being who is responsible for all these wonders.

© 2013 September 17 P. A. Regoniel

Indigenous People’s Adaptation to Climate Change

Climate change spared not indigenous people’s lives as these stories reveal. Read on to find out how they tried to adapt to the brunt of climate change.

Shift in Weather Condition Affects Upland Agriculture

The indigenous people of Palawan Island like the Palaw’ans observed that there was a sudden shift in weather condition that influenced their planting season in the rain dependent uplands. Normally, they would start planting their slash-and-burn farms when the ground is moist enough to support growing seeds.

The Palaw’ans and other indigenous ethnic groups like the Tagbanua test the soil’s moisture by plunging the sharpened, hollow-end of a bamboo (Schizostachyum lumampao) pole into the ground. When the ground is dry, the soil will fall off from the hollow opening but when it is moist, the soil would stick inside the hollow end. Sudden, earlier than usual downpour would show the latter soil condition and the tribe would start planting their crops. But then they saw their efforts gone to waste when several months later, heavy rains pound the almost ripe grains of rice. They could not predict the whims of the weather.

The sudden changes in weather also led to the pest outbreaks like rat infestations in farmlands. Aside from this, changes in weather can trigger the spread of plant diseases, severely parched crops thus less crop production, and displacement of farmers from their land.

How do the indigenous people adapt to these changes? The two adaptation strategies discussed below was described by Reden, a colleague who was once working with indigenous people in the remote hinterlands of southern Palawan as part of the university’s extension activities.

Adaptation 1. The Old Man and His Handicraft

The old man, an elder of Palaw’an tribe, lives alone in his hut in an isolated part of Culasian in the southern part of Palawan in western Philippines. He subsists on what little yield he can get from a small parcel of land planted with cassava and kaingin (slash-and-burn farm) rice. While awaiting the fruits of his labor, he weaves handicrafts for a living.

This way of life went on for many years until, out of nowhere, a multitude of rats attacked his crops including those of his fellow Palaw’ans. This is the first time that this phenomenon occurred. Everyone suffered because they are living at subsistence level. Subsistence level means they only plant what they need and had nothing in store to feed themselves until next harvest.

One morning, a young tribesman happened to pass by the old man’s house. The young man uttered the usual greetings, but the old man did not respond. Probably he’s asleep, the tribesman thought. He went on his usual way to the mountains to gather whatever edible fruits he can find.

Late in the afternoon when the young man passed the same path again, he saw the old man in the same position he was in the morning. He sensed something was wrong. Curious, the young man came close to the old man sitting on the chair. And he discovered the old man was dead, still holding his handmade craft.

A few days ago, a neighbor said the old man complained of a lack of food just like everyone else who had nothing to harvest that season. To keep his hunger away, he resorted to working on his handicrafts to sell in the nearby village. But his effort proved futile because he died while trying to ebb the tide of hunger. He is no longer fit and strong as the younger members of his tribe to survive days without food.

Adaptation 2. Gleaning the Gleaned Farm

The old man’s adaptation strategy did not work but some of his fellow Palaw’ans survived through other means. One of these strategies is farm gleaning.

I discovered this adaptation strategy accidentally while walking a dirt road on the way back to the city located more than 200 km away. Looking for subjects to photograph in the rural setting, I noticed a family huddled close together next to a pile of rice straw. I took a shot to document the scene (see picture below).

gleaning

Initially, I thought the family owns the farm and were winnowing grains from their harvest. But when I asked Reden about it, he said those are indigenous people scavenging what was left of the lowlander’s harvest.

This is a pitiful sight because this scavenging activity reflects how poor these people are. Gleaning from what has already been gleaned is difficult.*

Discussion

The problem of global climate change lingers and affects all marginalized people especially those who rely on what nature provides.  Those engaged in subsistence farming or hand-to-mouth existence such as the Palaw’ans described in this article are most vulnerable. The severe effects on the food source of the Palaw’ans show how a shift in weather condition can have significant impacts to resource-dependent communities.

A subsistence way of life can have positive benefits to the environment because subsistence living means the least possible extraction of natural resources. This enables the forests and coastal regions to regenerate from minor disturbances inflicted by resource users.

The subsistence way of life, however, seems to be an inefficient response to the effects of climate change. There is a need for the indigenous people to modify their way of life to successfully cope up with the growing threats of global climate change. They need to produce more than what they actually need. This means a greater are of land for planting or more resource extraction activities.

Meanwhile, the scavenging activities show that the Palaw’ans are a resilient people able to survive the challenges of the times. For a minority group with low population, this adaptation would be sufficient to soften the impact of climate change.

These stories show that climate change can change the way of life of resource dependent people. It threatens the very survival of people who for generations lived compatibly with nature.

————

*I missed the rare opportunity to ask a few questions about what the Palaw’ans are doing while on the field. Their self-narrated story would have made this account more interesting. But this is a good lead for research on how indigenous people adapt to the effects of climate change.

I resolved to probe more during my next visit to the place as part of my job as the university extension director at that time but then my work assignment changed and I forgot all about it. This is a lesson that should always be borne in mind by a researcher and an old one at that: “Strike when the iron is hot.” The same opportunity may not come again so exert extra effort each time something interesting like this comes up.

© 2013 September 9 P. A. Regoniel