Insect Communities

A sampling trip to Kruger

A moth trap in the Kruger NP.

Pajá and Sylvain have spent the past three weeks in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. They continued sampling of moths and recording of bats for the project led by Petr Pysek and David Storch focused on the role of seasonal rivers in dynamics of biodiversity in African savannas. This visit was a bit more adventure than the previous ones, including storms, getting stuck in between swollen rivers and their fording, or cancelled flight home. Despite such minor delays,the sampling was successfully finished and they brought material and data from 30 plots in the northern part of the park. This material will be processed in the coming months, whilst Rob and Sylvain are already arranging the last sampling in February/March 2020.

Vincent got the postdoc position!

Vincent Maicher has defended his thesis just a few months ago. We are very glad he found his first postdoctoral position almost immediately. Since February, he will start working in the Poulsen Ecology Lab at the Duke University in Northern California, US. He will be working on impacts of forest elephants on tropical rainforests in Gabon, i.e. one of his thesis topics and surprisingly close to our Cameroonian locality. Vincent, congratulations and good luck in the new scientific environment, it has been a big pleasure to work with you!

New publication on seasonal shifts of lepidopterans along elevation

Recently, our new study on biodiversity patterns of butterflies and moths along the elevational gradient of Mount Cameroon has been published in the Journal of Biogeography. On the huge dataset of almost 1,200 species of lepidopterans sampled at three seasons across four years, we are showing that individual species, as well as patterns of their diversity, shift along elevation seasonally. Therefore, our general understanding of biodiversity patterns along altitude and their causes can be biased by often seasonally-restricted sampling, especially in the tropics. It is also the core chapter of Vincent’s dissertation defended in the last summer. Congrats, Vincent, and thanks to numerous co-authors and collaborators troughout the past years!

Full reference: Maicher V., Safian Sz., Murkwe M., Delabye S., Przybylowicz L., Potocky P., Kobe I.N., Janecek S., Mertens J.E.J., Fokam E.B., Pyrcz T., Dolezal J., Altman J., Horak D., Fiedler K., Tropek R. (in press) Seasonal shifts of biodiversity patterns and species’ elevation ranges of butterflies and moths along a complete rainforest elevational gradient on Mount Cameroon. Journal of Biogeography.

Expedition to montane grasslands of Mt. Cameroon

We have just climbed down from Mount Cameroon. Kobe, Dominik, Stepan, Petra and Rob (together with our priceless Cameroonian assistants) have spent the last four weeks in Afromontane grasslands on Mount Cameroon. We have finally broadened our scope above the timberline and sampled data on pollination networks in the unique and rich montane grasslands. Besides our “common” reconstruction of pollination networks in communities at different elevations, we have also experimentally studied breeding strategies of selected flowering plants. After four years of working in rain forests of Mount Cameroon, this was a great experience and we all are looking forward to have the results processed! In the meantime, we have also some good news from our groups which will be added in the next days.

Conference of the Czech Ecological Society

Several members of our groups have attended a biennial meeting of the Czech Society for Ecology – Ekologie 2019. Besides active presentation of our research (Yannick, Jan and Rob gave oral presentations, whereas Pája, Antigone, Kája, Sylvain, Sentiko and Honza presented their results by posters), we left a visible footprint at the conference in other ways as well. Robert and Lenka were among the main conference organisers and Jan edited its’ book of abstracts. Pavla Halamová was awarded for the best student poster! In the picture below, it is hanging behind her right shoulder. And during the meeting, Rob was elected as the president of the Society. Although it is not always easy to evaluate a meeting which you helped organise, but we have enjoyed it a lot!


Research of moths after forest fires

Forest plot spontaneously regrowing after natural fire.

Pavla continues with the sampling of data on diversity of moths in previously burnt and undisturbed forests for her master thesis. This year, she samples at the beautiful sandstone landscape of Bohemian Switzerland NP, in northwestern Czech Republic. With the help of a few other group members, she has just finished the fifth sampling session of this season and she is getting ready for the next one. In the meantime, she is also finishing identification of all ~23,000 moths sampled in 2018 in Kokořínsko. We all are looking forward to the results!

The first defended Ph.D. in our group!

Yesterday, Vincent Maicher has successfuly defended his doctoral thesis entitled “Biodiversity patterns of butterflies and moths on Mount Cameroon”. Vincent spent the last five years by studying biodiversity of Cameroonian moths and butterflies from various points of view. It comprised 7 expeditions to Mount Cameroon (2 of them fully led by Vincent), 14 months spent in the field, countless sleepless nights of moth collection, and ca 80 thousand of collected butterflies and moths (> 47 thousands included in the thesis). It all resulted in 8 chapters (published papers or manuscripts in various phases of review process) dealing with community ecology, conservation and taxonomy of Lepidoptera. Both reviewers, Prof. Toomas Tammaru and Dr. Thomas Merckx, were generally positive and initiated fruitful discussions on some of Vincent’s chapters. Finally, Vincent’s defence was successful. Honest congratulations, Dr. Vincent Maicher!

Vincent is getting ready for his dissertation defence.

Newly described skipper from Mount Cameroon

Andronymus magma Sáfián & Tropek 2019 © Sz. Sáfián/Zootaxa

Biodiversity of Mount Cameroon is still rather poorly known. We know pretty well as we are constantly meeting unknown species of butterflies and moths. In such cases, we are doing our best to change it and to scientifically describe such newly discovered species.  Fortunatelly, we are collaborating with several experienced taxonomists, such as Szabolcs Sáfián for  butterflies. Now, the description of Andronymus magma has been published in the taxonomical journal ZootaxaSo far, we collected the species in lower elevations, around the Drink Gari camp, of the southwestern slope of Mount Cameroon only. As we are not aware on any other similar specimens to be collected elsewhere, we consider it as an endemic of the mountain. This is also the reason for the species name.

Full reference: Sáfián Sz., Belcastro C., Tropek R. (2019) Two new species in the genus Andronymus Holland, 1896 (Lepidoptera, Hesperiidae)Zootaxa 4624: 108-120.

Pollination Summer School

In the last week, Rob has participated on organisation of the German-Czech Summer School, together with Tiffany Knight and Demetra Rakosy from the Helmhotz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, and with Jana Jersáková from the University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice. Among many other student from Czech and German universities, Sailee, Pavla and Kobe from our group have attended the Summer School. We have spent a week in the White Carpathians Landscpape Protected Area in the southeastern corner of the Czech Republic. On the model comparison of natural and restored meadows, we have been teaching students how to study pollination networks. They have tried all project stages, from data sampling, through identification of visitors, up to data analyses. We all have enjoyed the entire week and are looking forward to repeat the experience sooner or later.

Lucas has defended his master thesis!

Lepidopterans on flowers from our videorecordings as used on a title of Lucas’ thesis.

Last week, Lucas Brisson has defended at the University of Poitiers his ‘major master project’ (alternative of our MSc thesis) which was fully done during his Erasmus practical traineeship in our group. Lucas spent with us the last six months during which he has been working on his own project entitled ‘Role of butterflies and sphingids in pollination networks on Mount Cameroon’. When processing our material and data collected at four different elevations and two seasons on slopes of Mount Cameroon, he learned a lot of new skills, including processing of video recordings, identification of butterflies and moths, analayses of their interactions with flowering plants and many others. Moreover, he has joined us for our field project in the Krkonoše Mts. in April. All these resulted in the successful defense, first rank in his year, and the MSc degree. Congratularions! The thesis is of such high quality that we will transform it into a manuscript for some scientific journal. If you are also interested in Erasmus (or other) internship in our group, check this site.