Insect Communities

Back from Cameroon

Last weekend Jan, Yannick and Rob have come back from another expedition to Mount Cameroon. This time we focused on sampling of the lower half of its altitudinal gradient, covering all the flowering plant species in the communities. This brought more than double the amount of videos recorded in the upper elevations during the previous expedition. Turning the videos into datasets is our biggest challenge before our next (and last) expedition for this project in the rainy season.

Our team in the PlanteCam camp, Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens


Vincent’s stay in Vienna

Thanks to a mobility grant of the Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Vincent has spent the 4 last weeks at the University of Vienna, Austria. During the stay, he has started a collaboration with Prof. Konrad Fiedler at the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research. Under his supervision, Vincent started analyzing our huge dataset of butterflies and moths sampled along along the altitudinal gradient of Mount Cameroon. Results of these analyses will form the core chapter(s) of his PhD thesis, hopefully submitted before the end of this year.

Main university building in Vienna, credit: Arved.

Radio reports from our Cameroonian pollination research

Nestoral, Kobe and Rob setting a camera on flowers of Cuviera.

During our ongoing expedition to Cameroon, a journalist of the Czech public scientific radio Český rozhlas Plus has joined us. He prepared a series of short reports on our work and on Cameroonian nature as a part of the “Adventure of science” series within the scientific Magazín Leonardo. The special episode of the magazine is here, a series of shorter reports on our research are here. In Czech only…

Currently, we are facing the last week in the field. We are finishing sampling of the last data on pollination systems in altitudes of about 1000 m a.s.l. Although the dry season is still in its end, we have already met a few strong rains and are thus starting to look forward to process the sampled data.

Another field trip to Cameroon

We are in Cameroon again, this time our arrivals are a bit chaotic, but within a week our team will be comprised of Štěpán, Rob, Yannick, Jan and Pavel Kratochvíl, our professional treeclimber. Our plan is to spend 6 weeks in the field in the lower elevations of Mount Cameroon and collect data on the local pollination networks. For part of this time, we will be accompanied by a journalist Ondřej Novák who will prepare a few short reports for the Czech public radio Český Rozhlas Plus about our research, as well as about the local nature. Although these will be in Czech only, you can follow a webpage of their scientific broadcast Magazín Leonardo, or their facebook page. The short reports from Cameroon should be on air daily between 5th and 9th February 2018.

Rob, Francis, Štepán and Yannick in front of our future research station currently growing in Bokwangwo.

Group meeting in Lužnice

In the past weekend, our group met in the Lužnice field station of the Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences. We were joined by a few close collaborators working on our current and future projects. During both days we had enough time to discuss the progress and future plans, this time specifically focused on our pollination projects in the Afrotropics, as well as on Afrotropical butterflies and moths. Since we were all together, we celebrated the grants which our group has received recently. It was a successful and enjoyable meeting and we are looking forward to what 2018 will bring to our group!

Latest trip to southern Africa

Just before Christmas, Sylvain, Vincent and Rob have returned from a two-week expedition to southern Africa, where they have been collecting nocturnal Lepidoptera along a gradient of environmental productivity. They successfully sampled moths in the three most productive localities which Rob failed to sample a year ago. The collected material will be processed mainly by Sylvain, as this project is an integral part of his thesis.

Sylvain and Vincent processing moths collected in the previous night.

Symposium on interacting butterflies in Bangalore

Rob, together with Marianne Espeland, will organise a symposium at the 8th Conference on Biology of Butterflies which will be organised in Bangalore, India, 11-14 June 2018. Acceptance of our symposium entitled “Interacting butterflies: From genes to communities” has been announced recently. You can check its invited speakers, together with other accepted symposia, here. Our symposium will focus on various interactions between butterflies and other organisms, including herbivory, pollination, relationships with ants, or predation. We are specifically focusing on combining molecular and “classical” ecological approaches of studying these interactions from the individual to community levels. We believe that it would be a good opportunity to connect researchers working on these topics from different points of view and by various methods and to learn from each other or even to find some connections allowing better understanding of the role of butterflies in ecosystems. If you are interested, consider your attendance as well once the conference registration will be open.

Four new positions in our group

We are opening a call for three new PhD studentships and one postdoctoral position in our research team, all of them for the pollination biology topics. For more information, check the details here. All the questions, as well as the applications following the above-linked instructions should be sent to The deadline for applications for all the positions is 20th January 2018. We are looking forward to welcome new colleagues in 2018!

New grants for our research!

Today, the successful applications for the Czech Science Foundation grants have been announced. Our group is involved in three new projects! Stepan got a new project on revealing more details of pollination by birds on Mount Cameroon. Rob is a co-investigator of a project led by Dr. David Boukal focusing on communities of polluted freshwater reservoirs in post-industrial sites. And finally, Robert and Sylvain will be members of the team led by prof. Petr Pyšek and prof. David Storch studying dynamics of south African savannas in the Kruger National Park. Challenge accepted! 😉

We will be looking for new members to work on the projects very soon! The call for three new PhD students and one post-doc will be announced by tomorrow. Undergraduate students and Erasmus interns are welcome anytime! If interested, check our “Join us” page.

Another field sampling in Cameroon is over

Two weeks ago, Vincent and Sylvain returned from their fieldwork in Cameroon, altogether it was our group’s fourth visit to Cameroon this year. Firstly, they visited the Bimbia-Bonadikombo Community Forest, the last remaining coastal forest in the foothill of Mount Cameroon, to fill the last small data gap in the local moth sampling. The sampled material will be processed as soon as possible by us and our collaborators, mainly because we want to point out the importance of this highly threatened forest and the poor state of its protection. Subsequently, they carried out the second and last sampling for our project on effect of forest elephants’ disturbance on biodiversity of Lepidoptera communities. We also expect having first results in the next year.

On Friday, Štěpán has also left to Cameroon to help ornithologist from our department in Prague. Furthermore, Rob, Vincent and Sylvain are carefully watching the situation in Zimbabwe where they are planning to go in two weeks.

A plantation inside the non-intervention zone of the Bimbia-Bonadikombo forest. © S. Delabye

Sylvain collecting moths in the Ekonjo forest.