Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV) “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
PLANS FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE:
Obtain my PhD as soon as possible then go back to UPLB and become a Full Professor... :) UPLB is my home.
Be a volunteer to help people... :)
POSSIBLE RESEARCH THEME:
I am interested in Mathematical Biology (Biomathematics), which lies at the intersection of mathematics, computational science and theoretical biology. The research theme that I am proposing revolves around the mathematical study of the ecology of domesticated eusocial pollinators, especially on plant-pollinator interaction.
Motivation: Eusocial insects, such as bees, are very important to the world’s food supply. There are a number of farmers who use domesticated eusocial insects as pollinators of crops. Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Japan and United States are some of the countries that utilize the use of eusocial insects. The UPLB Bee Program, a research center for the study of bees in the Philippines, is now promoting the use of native stingless bee species to pollinate mangoes. In Japan, bees are used to pollinate high-value crops, such as apples and strawberries. However, the population of eusocial pollinators is affected by the dynamic environment (e.g. climate, topography of foraging area and existence of competitors) and introduction of exogenous elements (e.g. pesticides and exotic species).
Specific Research Theme: I plan to study the interaction of the factors that influence the ecology of domesticated eusocial pollinators using system dynamics approach, incorporating the different stochastic and fuzzy factors affecting the process of pollination. The factors that I will consider include the population dynamics of the species, elements affecting the species’ collective behavior, landscape of the foraging area, the characteristics of the surrounding plants, interaction with other species, and presence of harmful elements. My research will focus on the construction and analysis of simple mathematical models that represent the complex interactions among the factors and plant-pollinator relationship.
The constructed mathematical models will be used in the formulation of optimal strategies for pollination management. I am further interested in determining the ideal mix of different pollinator species, the optimal location of colony hives, and the minimum number of colonies required to attain a desired level of crop yield.
Possible Impact of the Research: My study will help in the formulation of optimal strategies in utilizing eusocial species for pollinating high-value crops and for sustaining biodiversity of plants. The use of natural pollinators such as insects in agriculture is cost-efficient and effective, and can help address issues in food security.
POSSIBLE STUDY PROGRAM AND RESEARCH GOALS:
Mathematical Biology is one of the emerging interdisciplinary fields of the century. It has proven to be useful and essential for understanding the behavior and control of dynamic biological interactions. In my doctoral study, my research shall include construction and analysis of appropriate mathematical models that represent biological theories. I intend to use simple quantitative models to understand the complex spatio-temporal interactions among the dynamic factors affecting the agricultural ecosystems that utilize domesticated eusocial pollinators (e.g. Apis and Trigona species). My research shall employ a system dynamics approach to study plant-pollinator interaction, incorporating stochasticity in the environment and fuzziness in the management of the colonies.
Previous studies have tried to model the ecology of pollinators but not at a systems-level, consisting of the dynamic factors that I list below. The goal of my research is to formulate theoretical-mathematical models integrating the following factors:
· population dynamics of the eusocial species (taking into account the carrying capacity and possibility of acquiring disease);
· elements affecting the collective behavior of the species (e.g. colony decision-making activities and communication processes);
· changing topography of the habitat (e.g. steepness of the terrain, climate, and water resources);
· the characteristics (e.g. size, seasonality and network) of the neighboring plants;
· positive and negative interactions with other species (e.g. symbiosis, competition and predation); and
· presence of anthropogenic disturbances (e.g. existence of harmful pesticides).
The result of my model analysis will contribute to the construction of strategies for optimizing the use of eusocial pollinators in increasing yield of agricultural crops. I further plan to determine the following aspects needed to attain a desired level of crop yield:
· the ideal mix of different pollinator species;
· the optimal location of colony hives (including the schedule of relocation); and
· the minimum number of colonies.
The following are the stages of my research:
Phase 1: My initial study shall involve the examination of how each of the factors affects the population of the eusocial species and the plant-pollinator interaction.
Phase 2: I will extend the study in Phase 1 by considering the collective effect of the factors to the population of the eusocial species and to the the plant-pollinator interaction.
Phase 3: I will use the results in Phase 2 in formulating possible strategies to maximize the use of the eusocial species as pollinators.
With the use of data from experiments and information from existing literatures, I expect to employ deterministic and probabilistic techniques in Operations Research (e.g. mathematical programming); Monte Carlo simulation and agent-based modeling; as well as differential and difference equations.
One of the measures of the success of my research is having papers published in leading international journals, such as Journal of Theoretical Biology, PLoS ONE, Journal of Mathematical Biology, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, Scientific Reports, PNAS, Ecological Modeling, Ecological Research, Theoretical Population Biology, Theoretical Ecology, Apidologie and Mathematical Biosciences. After publishing a paper, it is my long-term goal to propose my research to the farmers and beekeepers to help them in pollination management.
There are only few instructors and researchers of Mathematical Biology in the Philippines. I aspire to be trained by prolific experts in Mathematical Biology and then return to the Philippines to promote the discipline to both mathematicians and biologists. After the doctoral program, I hope to maintain linkages with my host university for further research collaboration. It is my aim to build a network of researchers in Mathematical Biology from the Philippines, Asia and the world.
The face of poverty: