Tag Archives: theory building

The Default Theory

I have been thinking about this concept for quite a time. And I am convinced that advancing this idea as a theory can help explain the phenomenon that commonly beset human affairs, i.e., nothing happens, or nothing changes without deliberate and sustained effort to institute changes. I call this the Default Theory.

The Default Theory I have in mind applies to many cases of human endeavor. Although there is a theory by Timothy Levine called Truth-Default Theory or TDT, the theory I am advancing is entirely different from his description.

For example, I disseminated information among colleagues that there is an opportunity for innovation and development proposals to be potentially funded heavily by the Commission on Higher Education. The initiative is part of the government’s effort to minimize the adverse effects of the K-12 Transition Program.

A week was given to comply with the simple requirement of submitting a one or two-page concept paper to the funding agency. The concept paper preludes the preparation of a full-blown research proposal once the proposed concept is accepted.

I discussed the rationale, explained the mechanics and gave all the forms to be accomplished to the unit heads. I thought they would appreciate the effort and be motivated likewise to disseminate the information to the 400-500 faculty members of the university. I also explored possible topics as starting points that the group can follow through.

Even while disseminating the information and being hopeful that they will respond to the call, at the back of my mind, I somehow anticipate that nobody will submit or make the extra effort to present their proposals. By default, nothing gets done for some reason. Almost always, nothing gets done despite efforts to make a change.

And nobody did submit except me as I took extra effort to make a submission on or before the deadline. I am aware of the Default Theory. Things happen as they should if no additional effort is done to counter its effect. I have done this action several times, and I made changes and took a career turn. I counteract the default with deliberate, sustained effort to do something.

urban sprawl
Eutrophication of coastal areas occurs by default.

When applied to dealing with environmental issues or concerns which are my cup of tea, the Default Theory works likewise.

For example, for many years and after so many ideas, suggestions, propositions, projects, programs among others that arise to counter the effects of environmental degradation, the default prevails. That is, nothing gets accomplished that significantly and with lasting impact.

If you attend conferences or read scientific papers, the issue of environmental problems such as pollution, illegal trade, over-extraction, and similar problems faced decades back remain. The default is that nothing gets done, at least on a sustainable manner, even with much effort and expense. There may be successes, but history reveals that everything goes back to board one through time. Gains are not sustainable.

So where does this bring us?

It all starts with the recognition that this phenomenon exists. And deliberate, sustained effort to counter the “business as usual” must be made.

Marketing Research Conceptual Framework

What is marketing research? How do you come up with your conceptual framework on marketing research? This article defines the concept and provides a simplified example.

One of the readers of my article on how to develop a conceptual framework asked if I could provide an example conceptual framework on marketing research. I am quite interested in applying the principles of marketing research on my entrepreneurial venture such as in creating and running this website.

It so happened I came across a book on marketing research in BOOKSALE while looking for textbooks on statistics. The book is on sale, so I pulled out my wallet and shelled out a little investment for my hungry brain. The title of the book is a straightforward “Essentials of Marketing Research” by William Zikmund.

I set aside 15 minutes to read the book right after my jogging session. I did this thinking that my mind could actively absorb the contents of the highly academic book after pumping a lot of oxygen during vigorous exercise. In fact, Hillman (2008) noted the beneficial effect of aerobic exercise to cognition. Exercise not only improves physical health but also academic performance.

To come up with a conceptual framework for marketing research, I find it necessary to define marketing research first.

Marketing Research Defined

Zikmund (1999) defines marketing research as a systematic and objective process of generating information to aid in marketing decisions. This process includes specifying what information is required, designing the method for collecting information, managing and implementing the collection of data, analyzing the results, and communicating the findings and their implications.

The most important thing in this definition is that marketing research, as in any research venture, helps business owners or marketing managers make decisions. Marketing research sheds light on customer’s preferences, the long-range profitability of business operations, and other product-oriented concerns.

Successful companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM, among other well-known businesses must be employing excellent marketing research activities to keep their edge. Decisions related to their products and services are not haphazardly done. Managers decide with calculated risks.

Example Conceptual Framework on Marketing Research

One of the popular marketing research activities focuses on product quality and services. I illustrate product and service research with a personal experience below.

A few years back, I answered a simple questionnaire soliciting my feedback on the product and services of a pizza shop. The questionnaire sought my rating of pizza taste, service speed, and the courtesy of the server.

We can plot the paradigm of the study as follows:

marketing research example
The paradigm of the pizza study showing the independent and the dependent variables.

The paradigm above shows the conceptual framework of the study. It is an abstract representation of what the pizza manager or consultant has in mind. It shows the variables that the researcher shall examine to determine which of the three variables correlate most with customer satisfaction.

Why were the three independent variables namely pizza taste, service speed, and waiter courtesy selected? A review of the literature on customer satisfaction may have revealed that these variables are determinants of customer satisfaction. But in the particular location where the pizza restaurant operates, any of these variables may be more important than the other. A study found out that customer preferences vary geographically. This finding implies that clients in one place may prioritize courtesy over taste. In one location, customers may put a premium on service speed. In another location, customers may not mind much either the speed or courtesy but the taste.

So how will the marketing manager use the findings of the study in the given example? If for example, customers in the location I’m in prioritizes service speed, then the appropriate action should be to improve the speed of pizza delivery without compromising taste and courtesy.

This example illustrates the importance of marketing research in making decisions that can help businesses grow. Research findings guide marketing managers on what steps to take to improve their business operations.

Reference

Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(1), 58-65.

Zikmund, W. (1999). Essentials of marketing research. Dryden Press. 422 pp.

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (May 20, 2016). Marketing Research Conceptual Framework. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/05/20/marketing-research/

Theory Testing and Extension or Development: The Two Outcome Oriented Research Approaches

What is theory testing and extension or development? These two outcome oriented research approaches are discussed in detail below. Read on to appreciate the importance of these approaches.

Introduction

Almost in every undergraduate or post graduate research methodology class, the originality of the research outcome, or the anticipated knowledge contribution of a research work is emphasized. However, the extent of originality certainly depends on the student’s capacity, time devoted for the research, the level of study (i.e., Undergraduate, Post graduate or Doctoral), etc. Furthermore, the presence of a pertaining theoretical base is highly valued in academic research despite the level of the study mentioned above.

The presence of a pertaining theory leads to different outcomes, say, to test the existing theoretical base, to propose an extension or to develop new theoretical inferences. Usually in undergraduate level, students propose theoretical testing approaches whereas in post graduate level, say doctoral students propose theory extension or development oriented outcomes provided the level of study. Therefore, in this concise article, the value of theory testing and extension or development approaches are introduced.

Theory as a governing body of a research

The need of a theoretical base is not overstated in research. In fact, as I mentioned in the topic, it governs the research.

Generally, theory is defined as a set of interrelated concepts or propositions that explains situations or events by determining relations among variables. So, the presence of a theory act as a framework (usually known as theoretical framework in research) and researchers determine causal effects within the limits set.

Say for an example, Trait theories of leadership. The trait model discusses the characteristics of leaders, both successful and unsuccessful, also it discusses how to predict leader’s effectiveness. Usually researchers on leadership identify physiological, demographic, intellective, task-related, and social characteristics in assessing the leader’s effectiveness. Provided that, if a particular researcher who is interested in researching trait attributes in effective leadership is inevitably guided by the said traits above. Thus, it indicates the presence of a theoretical framework.

Furthermore, depending on the capacity and the objectives of research, a researcher can determine, say, the intellective characteristics as leadership traits. Thus he/she identifies intelligence, decisiveness, judgment, and knowledge as attributes of the intellective characteristics. All these attributes are supported by the theory and thus, on the other hand, governs the researcher.

At this point, will the researcher be able to produce a novel outcome (new knowledge) if the researcher tests the existing theory? That question is answered in the proceeding section. It is important to determine the presence of a theoretical body as the governing body of academic research.

Theory testing approach

This section starts with the question raised above. Will the researcher be able to produce a novel outcome (new knowledge) if the researcher tests the existing theory?

Frequently, testing of a theory in a different context, say in a geographical location (usually in a country), brings novel outcome only if that context has not been addressed with the desired theory. Such cases are known as context specific research. Context specific research attempts are relatively easy to pursue. Mostly, this approach is anticipated in undergraduate levels.

Continuing from the previous example, a researcher can determine intellective leadership traits to be tested in a different context with the attributes of intelligence, decisiveness, judgment, and knowledge. If a researcher tests these intellective leadership attributes which have not been addressed in the desired context, he/she may certainly be able to produce novel outcome out of the attributes of intelligence, decisiveness, judgment, and knowledge as per the context studied. However, this attempt does not create or extend the existing theoretical base. Rather, this confirms the theory in a different context and thus theory testing approach.

Theory extension approach

Theory extension approach is comparatively a hard attempt. As the term implies the objective of such an attempt is to extend the existing theoretical base by incorporating different theories imposing rationality.

Usually, doctoral students produce theoretical extensions as their knowledge accumulation since their scope and capacity are comparatively broad. In order to extend the existing theory, incorporating two or more subject domains with rationality are required. Say, strategic management and marketing are subject domains which can be incorporated with the objective of proposing theoretical extension.

Importantly, when a researcher is incorporating two or more subject domains, he/she should provide supportive evidences from the literature. For instance, the Resource Based View (RBV) theory in strategic management discusses the importance of rare, valuable, inimitable, non-substitutable resources for a company in acquiring competitive advantage in a firm.

Let’s assume that there are research evidences stated in the literature highlighting the need of scholarly inquiry of market orientation (a theory in marketing) referred to as how “the organizational culture that most effectively and efficiently creates the necessary behaviors for the creation of superior value for buyers and, thus, continuous superior performance for the business” (Narver & Slater, 1990). Thus, a research attempt can be brought forward incorporating the subject domains of marketing and strategic management to propose a theoretical extension.

In this example, researcher may assess how the competitive advantage (inference of RBV) be achieved provided the inference of market orientation. This example demonstrates how the theoretical extension is executed with the objective of producing new knowledge incorporating two subject domains. Very importantly, the incorporation of two or more subject domains should be followed by literature evidences.

Putting it very simple, there should be literature evidences stating that such an importation is required for scholarly inquiry. Perhaps, theoretical extension does not always require incorporation of two or more subject domains. Rather, it can assume two theories in one single domain as well. Finally, whatever the approach followed in producing new knowledge there should be literature to support it.

Summary

Research is an attempt to create or to update the knowledge base. Different approaches are available in this process. However, this knowledge accumulation process can either be theory testing or extension. Depending on the capacity, time consumed, among others, these two research approaches may be perceived as feasible.

Literally, theory testing refers to the knowledge accumulation process of an identified theory tested in a different context provided that the context has not been research using the desired theory. Whereas, theory development refers to the knowledge accumulation process incorporating two or more subject domains or two theoretical inferences in the same subject domain.

Work Cited

Narver, J. C. & Slater, S. F., 1990. The effect of a market orientation on business profitability. The Journal of Marketing, pp. 20-35.

2 Plus 1 Emerging Model of Professional Development for Teachers

This article introduces the two contrasting models of professional development for teachers which I used as one of the bases for the development of the customized professional development model in 2011.

At that time I searched for related literature, articles on models of professional development are difficult to come by. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But then my diligence paid off when I found an article containing the models of professional development (Smith et al., 2003).

I describe two of those models in the table below. These are Traditional Professional Development and Job-Embedded Professional Development Models. Based on the findings of my study and the first two models, I came up with my own. I refer to it as the Customized Professional Development Model which I contrast with the two models I read about.

Please see the first 3 columns for the comparison and contrast of the two models. Then take a look at column 4, which is about the enhanced professional development model.

The Different Models of Professional Development for Teachers

 Features Traditional Professional Development Job-Embedded Professional DevelopmentCustomized Professional Development Model (Alvior, 2011)
Primary GoalsIncrease individual teacher’s general knowledge, skills, and teaching competency. Introduce new instructional models or methodologies.Improve student learning and help teachers with the specific teaching problems they face.Increase teacher’s knowledge, skills and teaching competencies. Improve student learning.
Location (“site” is school or program)Mostly off-siteOn-siteOff-site, On-site,ICT-based
IntensitySingle session or seriesLong-term, ongoingSeries, long-term, on-going
Common format of this professional developmentWorkshops, seminars, conferencesStudy circles, research practitioners, inquiry projectsThe identified professional development activities in this study.
Content for this professional developmentRange of knowledge and skills teachers should know and be able to do (competencies, special issues, new approaches to teaching).Student thinking and learning (examining student work), teaching problems.Combinations, eclectic approach

The table shows the differences between the traditional and job-embedded models as to the following features: goals, location, intensity, format and contents. The model in column 4, actually combines the two contrasting models. The design of the latter model is for continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers. Further, I added information and communications technology or ICT for location in order to address the needs for the 21st century.

Another notable contribution in the study is the list of professional development activities which teachers may choose as their professional development activities.

To know more about the activities, please read, A Research on the Professional Development Model for Teachers.

So, the next time you hear “2n1”, would you think it is a coffee? No, it isn’t but a professional development model for teachers based on the two models I have described in this article.

Reference

 Smith, C., Hofer, J., Gillespie, M., Solomon, M., & Rowe, K. (2003). How teachers change: A study of professional development. Retrieved 19 June, 2010 from http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/research/brief25.pdf

© 2014 December 25 M. G. Alvior

EDECOLEPMENTALISM – A Personal Philosophy in Higher Education

This article briefly introduces Edecolepmentalism – a personal philosophy in higher education based on the interaction between education, economics and development.

Read more to find out how today’s knowledge-based economy steer the development of a nation, and even the whole world.

The Background

Year 2001. I was a part-time lecturer at the Department of English and Applied Linguistics at Dela Salle University, Manila and at the same time a CHED scholar for a master’s degree, Master of Arts in Teaching English Language when I met a colleague in the Economics Department. He was a newly hired faculty then but he’d been working as a bank manager for 20 years.

After a short introduction, we talked about the future of education and the money one can get if he/she invests in education business. He said, “There is money in education.” And that is his main reason for leaving his job in the banking business.

After 8 years, Dr. Elnora Loriega, my professor in Philosophy of Education at West Visayas State University required us to have our own educational philosophy. And I came up with my very own. I call it edecolepmentalism.

What is Edecolepmentalism?

“Edecolepmentalism” is my personal philosophy in higher education. It is derived from the words education, economics and development. Ed – is for education; eco- is for economics; and lepmentalism – is for development.

This philosophy is anchored on how the UNESCO defined and perceived education in general as “education – a key to get rid of poverty.” I philosophize that in higher education, we can develop a nation, and the world in general, through transnational education (blended or purely digital learning).

A well-developed country or world, as can be seen in its economy (knowledge-based economy), is a byproduct of a quality transnational education through blended or digital learning curriculum. This is the trend in the 21st century.

definition of edecolepmentalism
Conceptual framework of edecolepmentalism.

I already thought about edecolepmentalism before but I hesitated to submit it. I knew for a fact that my readings about curriculum development and the observations and immersions that I did were not enough to capture this phenomenon. So, the philosophy that I submitted to Dr. Loriega was not about it.

Illustration of Edecolepmentalism

It was towards the end of 2010-2011 when I learned that more business tycoons in the Philippines are investing huge amount of money in education following the university-industry model. In this model, the university provides the human capital or graduates that the industry needs such as the the E2E system (enrollment-to-employment) of the Systems Technological Institute or (STI) and the John B. Lacson Maritime University.

I believe that the best indicator of program effectiveness is when all the students who are enrolled in a course can finish it during the prescribed period of time and able to land a job after graduation. This kind of indicator is based on the principle of economics – the return on investment.

The bottom line is that students and their parents will choose a course or a program in which they can easily get their investments back. And the E2E system assures them that there are jobs waiting for their children after graduation.

In conclusion, this personal philosophy in higher education arose as a result of the knowledge I gained while taking up a doctorate degree in curriculum development and personal immersion in the business community.

© 2014 June 9 M. G. Alvior

Alvior’s Theory of Learning in Higher Education

How are educational theories arrived at? Dr. Alvior is generous enough to post her narrative on how she arrived at her theory of learning in higher education. She named it Alvior’s Theory of Learning in Higher Education.

This article is more than 2,000 words so you need to sit down for a while to read everything or read them by pages. – Editor-in-Chief

INTRODUCTION

Why and how do people learn in college? How does learning in that stage of educational ladder take place? What is the process involved in it?

These are the questions bothering me in order to come up with my personal theory of learning, the so-called Alvior’s Theory of Learning in Higher Education.

This personal theory was conceptualized in May 2008 due to the inspiration of Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Tish” Bautista. She was my professor in Linguistics at De La Salle University, Manila in 2000.

She was then in my hometown in Puerto Princesa City for a short vacation. I did not even know that she was in my place but a friend told me that Dr. Tish was looking for me.

Dr. Tish gave me a book as a gift. The book contains visions for Philippine Education in honor of Br. Andrew Gonzalez with a dedication,

“For Mary, may the book be of help to you on your way to becoming an educational leader and innovator. God bless. Sincerely, Tish Bautista.”

I had misty eyes after reading it. I should be in the language field, but God placed me into the field of education. It was not my dream but maybe God knows what is best for me or perhaps, it’s other people’s dream for me. Whatever it was, I took the challenge and my personal theory was based on the contents of that book — reaching our dreams.

THE THEORY

How I Arrived at My Formula on Learning in Higher Education

I believe dream is the “in” thing now. Remember “Star Struck”? It has a dream, believe, survive line.

Why dream?

Every time I ask my friends, “Why were you able to have this and that? or “Why were you able to do that?” Their answers are the same — because of our dreams.

Moreover, I read a book, “The Correct Formula of Success” by Henry R. Vargas. He developed a formula for success as follows:

Vargas Formula of Success = H + D + P + A/G

which means Hope plus Dream plus Plan plus Action divided by Goal.

I patterned my formula of Learning in Higher Education from Vargas’ formula. We learn because of our dream. I call it the Alvior’s Theory of Higher Learning or ATHL.

Dreams make us what we want to become.

Why do we enroll in a particular course in college? It is our dream or probably the dream of our parents, our friends, or people who have touched our lives that we finish a college course. And their dreams for us become ours. Dreams make us what we want to become.

The Formula

The Alvior’s Theory of Higher Learning (ATHL) can be summed up as follows:

ATHL = D + P + A(M)/C

where D represents Dream, P means Plan, A refers to Action, M to Motivation, and C stands for Capacity.

Lingoconomics – an Emerging Theory in Language Acquisition

This article explains an emerging theory in language acquisition. It is called Lingoconomics. Find out how this theory explains the rise in English language acquisition phenomenon in Asian countries.

Have you asked yourselves why many Filipinos would like to become proficient in English in order to work abroad? And why would many Koreans and Chinese study English in the Philippines? What are their reasons?

Lingoconomics is an emerging theory that attempts to describe and explain the recent phenomenon in language learning in Asian countries, particularly in the Philippines, Korea, and China.

I conceptualized this theory in November 2007, when my professor in the Psychology of Learning required us to come up with a personal theory. Since this is a major requirement in our doctorate program, my classmates and I talked about why people learn and study English.

I argued that nowadays, people want to learn English because they want to work or do business abroad. So, it has something to do with the economy – a kind of motivation to learn. I would admit that I was fascinated by the surge of Koreans and Chinese who would like to study English in the Philippines.

As I immersed with them, I found that their main reason is the relatively cheap but quality education we offer in the Philippines. Based on this observation, I used money as a determining factor in learning English. Thus, the word “lingoconomics” came into being. I coined the word from “language” and “economics.”

Lingoconomics was patterned from Lewin’s field theory. I incorporated the theories in language acquisition particularly the theories of acculturation (the process of becoming adapted to a new culture) and accommodation (the process on how intergroup uses of language reflect basic social and psychological attitudes in interethnic communication). But I would like to clarify that the “culture” being used in both theories refers to the culture of the native speakers of English. In my personal theory, the culture of the proficient non-native speakers of English like us, Filipinos, is used.

The Lingoconomics theory goes like this,

BELL = HM + SSG + A + SE/LCQE

In order to learn basic English (Basic English Language Learning or BELL), one must have a high motivation (HM) to learn plus have a strong support group (SSG) plus the adaptability (A) of acquiring the culture of the proficient non-native speakers of English (CPnNS) plus self efficacy (SE) divided by the low-cost quality education (LCQE).

I believe that the Koreans and the Chinese can learn English in their own country or even in America, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

But why do they prefer to study in the Philippines?

It’s because MONEY, or the low cost of learning English, plays a major role in learning. This is the reason why I included LCQE in my theory because for me, low cost quality education could be a variable in learning English.

Students only need a language environment where they can practice their English. Once they learned the language, they will go to other countries like the Middle East in order to work or do business there. The money that they invest for their education and the money they earn from work or business is their motivation in acquiring the language, hence the emergence of the “Alvior’s Lingoconomics Theory.

© 2014 May 24 M. G. Alvior

Can You Measure Love?

Can statistics hope to measure love as a concept? Here is an attempt to measure an abstract concept that appears to elude empirical analysis.

While teaching statistics and dealing with the different types of measurement scales, discussions on what can be measured and what cannot always crop up. One of those classic examples on non-measurable variables mentioned even in references are abstract concepts such as love.

But will love really not lend itself to measurement? Just for discussion purposes, I present the different degrees of love and offer a conceptual framework to represent this contention.

Conceptual Framework for the Different Levels of Love

If we look closely at how love is being described in our readings, experiences, and people’s perspectives, there actually are different levels of love. It can be measured in a way, but not really as exact as a ratio or interval scale but an ordinal one at that.

Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love can be a very basic need to ensure human survival such as physical love, transcending to emotional and moving up the ladder to the highest form of spiritual love described in literature and wisdom of the ages. I represent the love concept as a measurable variable in the figure below.

love concept
Conceptual framework of the degree of love.

Kinds and Degree of Human Love

Everybody or most of the people get the opportunity to experience any or all the possibilities of love as represented in the figure presented above. Here is a description of the concepts included in the conceptual framework.

1. Puppy love

This is the kind of love used to describe that surge of emotions felt by a young person having a “crush” to the opposite sex. This usually happens during childhood or adolescent years characterized by a fleeting affection. This feeling is short-term thus is termed simple infatuation.

2. Eros

Still taking off from Maslow’s level of hierarchy of needs, eros lies at the level of the physical plane. According to psychoanalytic theory, its main purpose is self-preservation, pleasure and procreation as a group.

3. Instinctual Love or Love by Instinct

Instinctual love refers to motherly or defensive care for the young. Although animals show this instinct, the tender loving care of mothers to their children is classified as a kind of love that not only relates to defense but affectionate nurture of children. Just like eros, this is still a part of ensuring species survival.

4. Platonic

According to dictionary.com, platonic love is an intimate companionship or relationship, especially between two persons of the opposite sex, characterized by the absence of sexual involvement. It transcends the boundaries of the physical plane; still emotional, but approaching the spiritual plane.

5. Phili

Love for fellow men as brothers or sisters lies more in the spiritual, rather than emotional realm. Feeling compassion for other people who are in need means giving up one’s own physical comfort and reaching out to give a helping hand.

6. Agape

No other love is greater than what Christ demonstrated. It is used to describe the love of Christ to humankind. As John 15:13 put it, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

The kinds of love described here are not mutually exclusive; meaning, whatever level of love a person is in, it could progress or shift. This just means that love has no boundaries and that no words can really, truly explain it. But of course, no one could hope to match the greatest love of all.

© 2013 October 25 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

The Relationship Between Bribery and the Environment

Bribery can lead to environmental degradation. What are the evidences? Are there solutions to this age-old corrupt practice? This article explores these issues.

The recent spate of corruption highlighting a businesswoman allegedly bribing government officials to channel billions in taxpayers money to fly-by-night or bogus non-government organizations prompted me to write this article. Since my concern is largely on the environmental implications of events like this, I reviewed literature on how corruption, specifically bribery, relates to the environment.

Bribery and the Environment

Considering that governance becomes the prime focus of analysis when corruption issues arise, this discussion will examine undesirable practices, specifically offering of incentives to public officials in view of exempting them from the rule of law or pocketing taxpayers money for their own selfish purposes. Bribery occurs at different levels of government, that is, from the highest administrative or lawmaking bodies to operational levels charged with law enforcement responsibilities.

A brief review of reports on the relationship between bribery at different levels of government and the environment yielded the following summaries and conclusions:

1. Bribery of law enforcers leads to low compliance among violators thus pressure to natural resources.

Sundström’s study[1] in South Africa revealed that law enforcers’ acceptance of bribes from small-scale fishers who commit illegal fishing such as poaching decrease their trustworthiness. As a result, fishers tended to exploit their natural marine resources more than what it can sustain. Overfishing upsets the balance of the marine food chain such that the population of target fishes decline and sizes of fish caught by fishermen get smaller through time.

2. Ineffective regulatory systems results to pollution.

Environmental inspections as a regulatory system serve to deter non-compliance with rules and regulations set forth for approval of environmentally critical projects. Once those tasked to do such inspections receive money in exchange for favorable reports on the project’s environmental performance despite exceeding permissible emission levels, pollution results. The effects of pollution may be immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic) depending on the nature of the pollutant.

For example, if a mining project does not have adequate leachate treatment facilities as a result of non-compliance to required mitigating measures, high concentrations of heavy metals will be discharged into waterways. This will disrupt the normal biological processes in aquatic ecosystems where various organisms including man derive sustenance.

3. Environmentally harmful policies are formulated such that disasters occur.

When unscrupulous individuals bribe lawmakers to craft policies towards their favor, environmentally harmful policies result. For example, if the government allows logging in highly elevated or watershed areas, lack of trees to cushion the impact of heavy rains result to flooding of low-lying villages. This will mean loss of lives and property aside from loss of important ecological goods and services.

4. Unfair allocation of environmental resources lead to further environmental degradation.

If high-ranking officials accept bribes to allow large commercial fishing companies to fish in municipal waters, unfair allocation of marine resources occur. As small fishers do not have the means to compete with the efficient, mechanized fishing equipment of large-scale fishers, they will resort to illegal means that further degrade the environment. One of them is the use of dynamite in fishing wherein large areas of productive reef are destroyed. The attitude that prevails is “Well take them (the fish), before they (the large-scale fishers) do.”thief

What has been done so far to curb bribery?

Acceptance of bribes shows the vulnerability of those tasked to govern and enforce the rules and regulations of a country. Many solutions have been suggested, recommended and enforced including reforms to improve transparency and accountability, legislation to reduce flaws in existing laws, reducing the discretionary powers of public officials, greater awareness among the people, involving citizens in government affairs, and so on and so forth.[2] However, despite these measures, corruption persists in many countries.

The Economic Solution

Based on the resource allocation point of view, the practice of bribery continues because it offers those involved to get more than enough resources to satisfy their wants. The one giving the bribe and the one receiving the bribe both benefit from their transaction but third parties suffer. The negative environmental impacts then are externalities of these transactions. There is a need, therefore, to integrate the externality of environmental degradation as a result of bribery.

In view of developing a research concept using the economic solution of internalizing externalities, economic valuation may be used as an approach to determine if there is a relationship between the amount of bribe and the cost of environmental degradation. Thus, the following questions may be asked:

  • Is there a relationship between the amount of bribe and the corresponding cost of environmental degradation?
  • How much environmental degradation occurs for a certain amount of bribe?

For the benefits gained by both the briber and the bribed (my own terms for brevity), monetary incentives to disadvantaged parties can offset the negative effects of environmental degradation. The point is, the guilty parties should be made to pay for the consequences of their actions. Penalties should be proportionate to achieve environmental justice.

Environmental justice is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This means fair allocation of natural resources to everyone should be pursued in a democratic society.

Reference

1. Sundström, A. (2013). Corruption in the commons: Why bribery hampers enforcement of environmental regulations in South African fisheries. International Journal of the Commons, 7(2). Retrieved from http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/download/370/360

2. Winbourne, S. (2002). Corruption and the environment. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACT876.pdf

© 2013 September 12 P. A. Regoniel