In 2012, I was awarded the following grant from the National Science Foundation in collaboration with Dr. Kate Jackson of Whitman College and several other American and Congolese collaborators:
NSF Biodiversity: Discovery & Analysis Program, $366,846. Collaborative Research: Biotic Inventory of the Amphibians, Reptiles and Associated Parasites of the Central African Lowland Forests. PI. DEB-1145459.
As part of the Broader Impacts of the grant, I will be producing a blog about my experiences as a herpetologist in Democratic Republic of the Congo, where multiple expeditions are planned for the summers of 2013-15 and winter 2015. You can read the blog from summer 2013 HERE. The blog from summer 2014 is HERE. The blog for summer 2015 is HERE.
Below is a laymen's summary of the grant.
The goal of this project is to understand the taxonomy and evolutionary history of the most poorly known animal groups (amphibians, reptiles and their endoparasites) in one of the most poorly known regions in the world (lowlands of Central Africa). Forests in the Congo Basin are renown for their immense biodiversity, but are increasingly threatened by deforestation, global climate change and chytrid fungus infections in multiple genera of frogs (linked to global amphibian declines), underscoring the urgency and importance of this project’s research. DNA analyses of samples collected during surveys will be used to identify and describe new species, and reconstruct their evolutionary history. UTEP graduate students will work in teams to participate in cybertaxonomy and rapid-identification projects by analyzing photographs of specimens with associated georeference data in real time as expeditions are occurring via dedicated websites. Project leaders will use solar-powered chargers and computers to write blogs (complete with photographs) from the field as expeditions are in progress as a way to engage students, colleagues and the general public in the research. It is anticipated that this project will significantly elevate the global importance of the Congo Basin’s biodiversity, and support ongoing, in-country efforts to expand national parks.
Below is an excel file with locality data for specimens collected under the auspices of this grant. Some of these specimens are identified with 100% certainty, and others are still being analyzed with morphological and molecular data to ascertain their identification. I will update these results as they become available.
2013-15 DR Congo Expedition Specimens