We continue our ‘meet the team’ series this week with an interview with Nicolas Bailly from BioFresh partner organisation, WorldFish Centre. Nicolas is an ichthyologist (that’s someone who studies fish for those of you not versed in the world of fish). He is the project manager of FishBase and scientific advisor to SeaLifeBase.
1 What is the focus of your work for BioFresh, and why?
My work in BioFresh is to help to bring more data on freshwater biodiversity available for free on the web. It is at the same time:
- a scientific work to think about data, information and knowledge representations in computers based on the most recent advances on the subject;
- a technical work of data processing;
- and also a networking effort to convince colleagues and institutions outside BioFresh to publish their data in the BioFresh Portal.
2 How is your work relevant to policy makers, conservationists and/or the general public?
Political decision should be based on sound facts and data. The role of the scientist is to present alternatives based on these data to decisionmakers and the rest of the society. In a way, with respect to policy making, scientists are scenarists: they propose various scenarios deduced from various hypotheses on environmental conditions and human society behaviour. It remains the responsibility of the society through its decision- and policy-makers to choose one of these scenarios. I work at the very beginning of this chain, providing sound data for other colleagues to build the scenarios.
3 Why is the BioFresh project important?
Other domains have organized themselves, like within marine environment research community, to advocate for the sustainability of the related biodiversity. There is no such recognition that freshwaters host an important part of the overall biodiversity. It may not be as colourful as coral reefs, not as iconic as pandas or whales, but it is as much as fascinating. And we have our are iconic species too: sturgeons, arapaima, beaver, otter, freshwater dolphins, crocodiles; and they can be colourful! Killifish, cichlids, discus… BioFresh must make aquarium lovers realize that freshwater biodiversity goes beyond a glass tank. Just like zoos have shifted their main concerns from demonstration to conservation.