Insect Communities

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.

New publication on entomological collections digitization


Examples of the compact camera’s capabilities. © BINCO/Zookeys

Jan co-authored a paper in collaboration with BINCO (NGO focusing on biodiversity conservation) where they evaluate the use of relatively inexpensive compact cameras to digitize entomological collections. Museums often lack the means and manpower to push their massive collections towards the digital era.  Similarly, many entomologists, both professional and amateur, do not have access to expensive equipment. Professional camera systems are usually on the expensive side. In the article, recently published in Zookeys, Jan and others compared few compact cameras with such a professional setup. The quality and flexibility of the compact camera proves to be more than adequate in capturing the necessary taxonomic resolution. More information and comparison images can be found in the open-access publication.

Full citation: Mertens J.E.J., Van Roie M., Merckx J., Dekoninck W. (2017) The use of low cost compact cameras with focus stacking functionality in entomological digitization projects. Zookeys 712: 141-154.

Visit of botanical colections in the Netherlands

Štěpán and Yannick checking their field identifications. © Y. Klomberg

Yannick, together with Štěpán Janeček, spent the last week in the Netherlands by visiting the national herbarium of the Netherlands based at Naturalis and to visit the Hortus botanicus in Leiden. In the herbarium they were working on further identification of plant species from Mount Cameroon and cross-checking field determinations done during our expeditions. This visit was also an opportunity to meet Dutch Afrotropical botanists and to initiate closer future collaboration.