Last week, Vincent and Sylvain attended the 3rd Afrotropical Lepidoptera Worshop meeting organised in the Centre ValBio, a research station close to the Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Vincent presented our research of patterns of lepidopteran biodiversity along the Mount Cameroonian altitudinal gradient, while Sylvain has introduced his first preliminary results on the patterns of biodiversity along a south African gradient of environmental productivity. This workshop brought together numerous taxonomists and ecologists working on Afrotropical Lepidoptera and thus allowed rich experience sharing and discussions. Simultaneously, the workshop included several Lepidoptera sampling sessions in the Park with rather unexplored biodiversity. Altogether, it was a great opportunity for Sylvain and Vincent to exchange new ideas, as well as to learn new methods of collecting and storing of moths.
From 26th till 29th March, Yannick attended the European Conference of Tropical Ecology in Paris, France. During this scientific meeting, he gave a talk on the role of seasonality in shaping the pollination networks in the montane forests of Mount Cameroon, as well as in the validity of the pollination syndrome hypothesis. Additionally, he also presented a poster showing some new results from our case study on pollination system of Hypoxis camerooniana.
Both the talk and poster were well received and during fruitful discussions after the session we have gotten useful comments on how to move forward with our data analyses. After the conference, Yannick spend a day visiting the incredible collections of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Looking back it has been a successful conference and visit to Paris!
Last week, Jan spent at the Natural History Museum in Budapest where a small part of our Cameroonian Lepidoptera material is stored under the watchful eye of Dr. László Ronkay. The museum has an impressive collection of Noctuidae of which our Plusiinae make up a small part. The digitisation and identification of these remaining specimens was one of the last required steps to finalize our dataset of the Lepidopteran traits along the altitudinal gradient.
The past three weeks, Rob has spent in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where he has worked on a project led by Prof. Petr Pyšek and Prof. David Storch, in collaboration with Dr. Llewellyn Foxcroft. The project funded by the Czech Science Foundation aim to disclose effects of rivers and large herbivores on biodiversity dynamics of several different groups of organisms in subtropical and tropical savannas. Our group will be responsible mainly for sampling of data on insects, namely moths. This time, we have been establishing study plots (60 across the whole national park), which will be sampled in the next three years, … and enjoyed the magnificent landscape and wildlife of Kruger!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.