Angel Alcala: Discoveries & Contribution to Biology

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Angel Alcala is an ecologist who has contributed to the fields of conservation biology, marine ecology, and terrestrial ecology, among others. Read this lesson to learn more about his many contributions to the environmental sciences.


Angel Alcala is a scientist from the Philippines who has spent over 30 years studying the natural world. He was born in 1929 and grew up in a coastal village in the Philippines. Angel's father worked as a fish farmer, so Dr. Alcala was introduced to fish at a young age. This was when his interest and passion for environmental science, especially marine biology, began.

As part of his long career, Dr. Alcala studied at Silliman University in the Philippines and Stanford University in the USA. After his graduate studies, he returned to the Philippines and even worked as president of Silliman University. He currently serves as a Trustee and Professor Emeritus at Silliman University.

Additionally, Angel Alcala has worked in many different capacities in the Philippines. He was the secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources from 1992 to 1999, and he served as the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education from 1995 to 1999. In 2014, Dr. Alcala was named a National Scientist, which is the highest honor bestowed upon a scientist by the president of the Philippines. Finally, he has served as an adviser on a number of marine and aquatic projects, including projects supported by the United Nations, the World Bank General Environmental Facility, and the Marine Science Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Angel Alcala is a world-renowned scientist for his work in the environmental sciences
Angel Alcala

Scientific Discoveries and Contributions

Angel Alcala has written and published more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and books. He was the first Filipino scientist to take an in-depth interest in researching the native reptiles and amphibians of the Philippines, and he was responsible for the identification of at least 50 new reptile and amphibian species!

Though this may seem like a thorough career all by itself, Dr. Alcala may be best known for his research related to the rehabilitation of coral reefs. In 1977, he created the first artificial reef, and this reef became a model for many other fisheries development programs around the world.

The artificial reef program enabled him to investigate what became known as 'The 25% Solution', which has affected generations of fish populations since its inception. Briefly, Dr. Alcala proposed that protecting and preserving 25% of the total fish habitat would enable the fish population to sustain itself over the long term. In other words, by protecting 25% of the habitat, the remaining 75% would provide an ample fish supply. This is known as the spillover effect. This finding was critical in a country like the Philippines, whose population heavily depends on fisheries for their food and their livelihoods.

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