Science team members named for Banggai Rescue Project

by | May 17, 2012 | Advanced Aquarist | 0 comments

Science team members named for Banggai Rescue Project

Members of the science team that will assess the current state of the banggai cardinalfish in its native habitat. Photo CORAL Magazine.

We have eagerly awaited the announcement of the members of the science team that will head to Indonesia in June to establish the current state of the native banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni. Finally that wait is over!

Last evening, CORAL editor James Lawrence announced the eight member team that will make the journey. This international team is based at both the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, Florida, and Bali, Indonesia and comprises multiple disciplines covering marine fish science, marine aquaculture, and aquatic veterinarians with specialties in virology.

These scientists will work in conjunction with Banggai Rescue personnel in assessing and documenting the current state of the banggai cardinalfish with the ultimate goal of learning whether or not this fish species can leave the endangered species list.

Below are the biographies of each of the team members as supplied by CORAL:

Craig A. Watson, M.Aq., director and research coordinator for the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, known as UF/TAL, will head up planning for the team’s expedition and research into health and captive breeding issues and methods. Craig has a master’s degree in aquaculture from Auburn University, and is the author of a number of papers on aquaculture and fish health issues.

Matthew L. Wittenrich, Ph.D., a larval fish physiologist also at UF/TAL, will be looking at the potential to encourage mariculture of the species by native peoples in the Banggai Islands, as well as setting up an experimental Banggai Cardinal breeding facility in Florida. Matt is currently working with the Rising Tide Conservation Initiative raising marine ornamental fishes from eggs collected by public aquaria members of the American Zoological Association.

Roy Yanong, V.M.D., is an aquatic animal veterinarian and a long-time tropical fish enthusiast working with UF/TAL. He has been studying the “mystery disease” responsible for killing many wild-caught Banggai Cardinals soon after their purchase by aquarium retailers, breeders, and hobbyists. He will attempt to trace the source of a virus in the supply chain between the islands and import facilities in Los Angeles. He and Matt hope to acquire a quantity of healthy broodstock while on the expedition. Roy received his veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Eric Cassiano, M.Sc. is a marine biologist with an interest in marine ornamental fish larvaculture. He will be working with captive reproduction and large-scale techniques.

Tom Waltzek, VMD, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral researcher and aquatic veterinary virologist. Tom
has worked extensively with iridoviral diseases, including the virus suspected to be responsible for fatal disease in wild-caught Banggai cardinalfish. He and Roy Yanong will be working closely together on tracking the origin of the lethal iridovirus.

Indonesian Marine Science Experts

Gayatri Reksodihardjo-Lilley
is a marine conservation and fisheries expert and founder of LINI, the Indonesian Nature Foundation. She will coordinate the Banggai rescue work in Indonesia with the field team, and provide an ongoing link for the project with Indonesian scientists and fisheries personnel on the ground, and in the waters of the Banggai Islands.

Yunaldi Yahya, M.Sc. is one of the very few experienced Indonesian fisheries scientists specializing in reef monitoring, fish identification, and reef survey methodologies. Yunaldi has spent much time in the Banggai Islands, mapping BCF distribution and densities.

Ketut Mahardika Ph.D., is a fish pathologist, working with The Gondol Research Institute for Mariculture. He will be working with the Banggai field team, taking samples for analysis in the laboratorium in Gondol.


As you may recall, a Kickstarter campaign was initiated back in March by Reef to Rainforest Media (the publishing company that produces CORAL Magazine) to help fund the publication of a book about the banggai cardinalfish. Their goal was to raise $25,000 for funding a Ret and Karen Talbot to join the above science team to document the expedition, to setup a US-based breeding area, and to help defray publication costs of the book about this project. When the campaign ended on April 8, it was successfully funded by 153 backers contributing a combined total of $33,006 toward the project.

As always, we will keep you apprised of the project as it progresses.


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