Doctoral student Lindsay Campbell is in Peru, attending the Latinamerican meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, where she will present a talk on landscape influences on rodent communities in the western Amazon. She will also attend a working meeting of a project team for this work with landscape ecology of rodent-borne diseases in the Amazon, which is funded by the Inter-American Institute.
Town Peterson is spending 5 weeks at the Wildlife Institute of India, where he is teaching on disease transmission risk mapping and biodiversity informatics. The WII is in Dehrahun, located at the foot of the Himalayas, so the environment is beautiful. Good colleagues working on very diverse questions.
Doctoral student Abdallah M. Samy has just published a paper entitled Mapping the Potential Risk of Mycetoma Infection in Sudan and South Sudan Using Ecological Niche Modeling in the prestigious open access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Mycetoma is a fungal pathogen that infects and cripples far too many people worldwide. This paper represents one of the very few attempts to produce risk maps for this disease, which remains mostly unknown, in terms of geographic distribution, modes of infection, and many other crucial details. Abdallah assembled 4-country, 3-continent team to carry off these analyses, and the paper appears poised to lead to a number of follow-up analyses, the ultimate goal of which is a global risk map for the disease. The paper can be accessed at http://goo.gl/nxwtcl.
KU Biodiversity Institute postdoctoral researcher Carlos Yañez-Arenas recently published a paper entitled "Predicting Species' Abundances from Occurrence Data: Effects of Sample Size and Bias" in the prestigious journal Ecological Modelling. Carlos' work was developed in collaboration with four co-authors, including KU BI alumnus Enrique Martínez-Meyer, now a professor in the Instituto de Biología of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City. The paper provides important new detail into methods under development for understanding geographic abundance patterns of species.
This week, Town Peterson's Biodiversity Informatics Training Curriculum project holds its first online course, which will focus on Public Health Applications of Biodiversity Informatics. The course is being carried out on Google+, and can be followed via its "event" page: https://plus.google.com/events/ctcg214mb5hmje4fjhi5s00nm5k. The course covers conceptual and practical aspects of biodiversity informatics as it can inform disease risk mapping, a crucial priority in public health initiatives worldwide. KU participants include Lindsay Campbell, Abdallah Samy, and Kate Ingenloff, as well as KU BI alumnus Yoshi Nakazawa.
Pete Hosner, EEB doctoral candidate and Ornithology student mentored by Rob Moyle, received notification that his NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal has been recommended for funding. The grant, entitled TESTING THE PLEISTOCENE AGGREGATE ISLAND COMPLEX (PAIC) MODEL OF DIVERSIFICATION IN CO-DISTRIBUTED AVIAN LINEAGES, has been recommended for funding for $14,866 over 24 months. The project will use multilocus DNA sequence data to discover whether there is a link between climate and sea level changes and diversification in eight "polytypic" bird species endemic to the Philippines.
In December 2010, KU Biodiversity Institute graduate student Mike Andersen, and curator of birds, Rob Moyle, completed a three-week expedition to Fiji. This effort marked Ornithology’s third expedition to Fiji, work that began in November 2009.
They collected specimens of 23 species from two locations: the isolated Nakauvadra Range in the extreme northeastern part of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu; and the southern island of Kadavu. The Kadavu specimens were the world’s first from this island with associated genetic tissue samples, and the collection included three endemic bird species: Whistling Dove (Ptilinopus layardi), Kadavu Honeyeater (Xanthotis provocator), and Kadavu Fantail (Rhipidura personata), plus numerous morphologically unique island forms such as Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) and Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris).
The Nakauvadra Range is the third locality on Viti Levu where Biodiversity Institute researchers have worked, making it possible to analyze genetic differentiation among avian populations across this oceanic island. Andersen and Moyle are developing the Fiji project in close collaboration with students and researchers in the Institute of Applied Science at the University of the South Pacific. The collections-based research effort forms the foundation for Andersen’s dissertation research on the origins and diversification of the Fijian avifauna, as well as future dissertation projects by Fijian students at the University of the South Pacific.
Kadavu Honeyeater (Xanthotis provocator) is endemic to Kadavu Island, Fiji, and is the only member of its genus found in Fiji.
Male Whistling Dove (Ptilinopus layardi) is one of four endemic bird species on Kadavu Island, Fiji.
Graduate student Peter Hosner and collection manager Mark Robbins received notification this week that they have been awarded a National Geographic Society Research and Exploration Grant to continue Ornithology's work in the Andes of central Peru. The grant will fund a field expedition to survey and elevational transect through high elevation grasslands, elfin forests, cloud forests, and rainforests in the vicinity of Rumichaca, Ayacucho. Ayacucho is biologically one of the most poorly known departments in Peru. The Andes hold tremendous avian diversity, including birds with exotic names such as Mountain-Toucans, Flower-piercers, Thistle-tails, and Sun-angels. Steep forests of the Andes are often dark, wet, and cloaked with clouds.
Fieldwork and lab work are at the heart of what we do at the Biodiversity Institute.
Mark Robbins, ornithology collection manager, bridges fieldwork (collecting specimens, recording data, investigating habitats) and lab work (DNA analysis, taxonomic classification, morphological comparisons). All specimens caught in the field spend time in the lab; all of the analyses and data obtained in the lab help to answer research questions about the life in the field.
Robbins' research questions pertain to the migration patterns of small birds called marsh and sedge wrens. To do his work, he collects specimens from the field in Northwestern Missouri and elsewhere. He is one of many Biodiversity Institute scientists who spend time in both the field and the lab - collecting and then analyzing data. To learn more about Robbins' work, investigate the gallery below or learn about his research methods.