UP scientist’s novel tech empowers rural fisherfolk

Published: November 9, 2023

By: Timothy James M. Dimacali

Innovative data-driven technologies are empowering Filipino coastal communities by enabling them to make better informed decisions on when and how to utilize marine resources. 


An advocate of sustainable fishing practices, Dr. Aletta Concepcion T. Yñiguez of the UP Diliman College of Science’s Marine Science Institute (UPD-CS MSI) has been working closely with small-scale fishers and government agencies to help rural fisherfolk with technologies developed by UP scientists.

Dr. Yñiguez holds a SensPak tube, developed in collaboration with the National Institute of Physics, off the coast of Bolinao in June 2021. Once lowered in the water, such devices can help scientists and fisherfolk monitor the health of the marine environment almost in real time. (Photo credit: UPD-CS MSI DOST HABHazard Program)

Yñiguez collaborated closely with an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the UP Diliman College of Science’s National Institute of Physics (NIP), led by Dr. Giovanni Tapang,  to create compact sensor arrays that fit neatly into an ordinary PVC tube. Dubbed SensPak, the devices can monitor environmental conditions and send this valuable data in real time to scientists, fisherfolk, and decision makers for assessment and action.


She and her fellow MSI researchers also created ARAICoBeH (A Rapid Assessment Instrument for Coastal Benthic Habitats), an inexpensive tool for taking underwater photos of endangered areas such as coral reefs without needing to dive. She also spearheaded HABHub (Harmful Algal Bloom Hub), an online platform that facilitates the detection and reporting of algal blooms, which could threaten both the lives and livelihoods of affected fisherfolk. 


HABHub utilizes robust early-warning systems that allow for more proactive mitigation and enhanced understanding of HAB phenomena. HABHub also makes use of the Automated Water Quality Monitoring System (AWQMS) developed by the MSI’s Dr. Cesar Villanoy, Dr. Charina Amedo-Repollo, and Rachel Francisco, which continually looks at the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and amount of chlorophyll in the water.


These and other innovations and insights from Dr. Yñiguez were the focus of a recent iStories webinar, hosted by the UPD-CS. 


“To ensure the sustainable utilization and management of ocean resources, it is critical that observational, monitoring and decision-support tools are in place to provide concrete, science-based information and management. But the technologies, tools and capacity for these are sorely lacking,” Dr. Yñiguez said at the event. 


“Our present efforts help bridge this gap through interdisciplinary collaborations to develop cost-effective sensors that automate ocean observation, building ocean data repositories and models for understanding, forecasting and decision-support,” she added.


For her work, Dr. Yñiguez was bestowed The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) award in 2022. Given by the TOWNS Foundation, Inc., the prestigious award honors Filipinas 21 to 45 years old who have contributed greatly to Philippine society in their chosen fields.


iStories is a series of monthly innovation-themed talks, storytelling, and activities featuring local and international scientists. The initiative aims to ignite the creativity and inventiveness of young scientists not just from UPD-CS but also from other institutes inside and outside of UP.


For inquiries about iStories, please message adride_staff@science.upd.edu.ph 


For interview requests and other media concerns, please contact media@science.upd.edu.ph