Insect Communities

Rainiest journey to Mount Cameroon

Stepan, Jan, Hernani and our new PhD student Karolina has left to Cameroon on Monday. They will spend 7 weeks in the lower parts of Mount Cameroon altitudinal gradient collecting the last data within our large project on pollination networks. For most of this time, they will be accompanied by Stepan’s co-workers sampling more detailed data on pollinating birds. Currently, the wet season culminates in the area. As Mount Cameroon’s foothills are one of the rainiest places in the world, about 2-3 m of precipitations could be expected during this time. It makes it the most challenging expedition of the running project, we wish them good luck and look forward to whatever data they will bring!

Symbolically, our team is leaving Vienna during of a few rainy days in this dry summer.

Julie’s successful internship in our group

This weekend, Julie Desmist from Université Paris-Saclay has finished her two months internship in our research group. At the Biology Centre CAS, she was assissting on our projects focused on biodiversity of Afrotropical moths under supervision by Vincent and Robert. She has been trained in the entire processing of the collected material, including moths setting, preparations and identification. After the initial training she has been involved mainly in Vincent’s project on effects of disturbance by elephants on biodiversity of rainforest Lepidoptera. Simultaneously, Julie has repeatedly joined Paja’s field sampling of moths in burnt forest plots. Altogether, Julie has learned various methods of work with Lepidoptera, both in field and lab. Moreover, she has been substantially involved in our projects which will surely lead to a co-authorship on a research paper. We thus evaluate her intership as highly successful and wish her good luck for the future career! Anybody interested in internship in our group should visit this page.

Vincent’s visit in Munich

Recently, Vincent spent two weeks in the huge Lepidoptera collections of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich where all Geometridae collected during our Mount Cameroon project are stored. Thanks to our long-term collaboration with Dr. Axel Hausmann, all geometrid specimens are now set and ready for identification. Vincent helped with processing of this material, especially with identification to morpho-species, but some poorly known genera still hide a high number of cryptic diversity. Therefore, under Axel’s supervision, Vincent dissected several hundreds of specimens to improve their identification and sorting. We are glad that also this huge dataset is approaching its finalistation.

New postdoc in our group

Hernani training setting of our cameras.

Hernani Oliveira has recently joined our group as the new postdoc. Hernani is an ecologist and chiropterologist specialised in ecological networks of interspecific relationships. He will support our group in processing of our datasets on pollination networks from both Cameroon and Czechia. Currently, he is mainly getting familiar with our sampling methods, because he is going to join our next expedition to Mount Cameroon, to finish sampling of pollination networks along its altitudinal gradient. Being in Africa for the first time for the Mount Cameroonian intense wet season is surely a big challenge (not only) for him. Good luck during the fieldwork, as well as the next two and half years!

Pollen DNA sequencing in Krakow

Jan preparing aliquots under the laminar flow © T. Suchan

The last two weeks, Jan spent at the W. Szafer Institute of Botany in Krakow, Poland, where he worked on the continuation of his metabarcoding of pollen grains sampled from Mount Cameroonian butterflies. Extracted pollen samples, collected from 250 individual butterflies and moths along the altitudinal gradient, were transferred to the institute. There, under supervision of Dr. Tomasz Suchan, the DNA libraries were prepared and purified successfully. Sequencing still has to be performed, but the quality of the library promises good results. We hope for the final success!

Tree climbing course

Karolína and Jan during their first climbing steps.

In the last week, Jan, Karolina (new PhD student coming to our group in the next weeks), Hernani (our fresh new postdoc) and our friend Krystof Chmel participated on a tree climbing course organised by Slávek Hoblík from During the course, they have learned more about the equipment used for tree climbing, different knots, and different techniques of climbing trees at both low (3-8 meters) and high (20-30 meters) canopies. The course is highly relevant to our pollination research. All its participants will use the new experience during installing of cameras into canopies on Mount Cameroon in the coming field trip between late July and half September.

Biology of Butterflies 2018 in Bangalore

Robert presenting Mt. Cameroonian butterflies © L. Gilbert

Last week, Robert has participated at the 8th Conference on Biology of Butterflies in Bangalore, India. Together with Marianne Espeland, they have organised the first symposium of the meeting entitled Interacting Butterflies: From Genes to Communities. It was opened by a plenary talk by Naomi Pierce and followed by the entire morning of interesting talks on interactions of butterflies with other organisms. Robert gave a talk on butterflies in pollination networks of higher altitudes of our Mount Cameroonian gradient. The rest of the conference was filled by numerous highly interesting talks and posters, meeting with old friends, making many new contacts, and eating of great Indian food. The next BoB conference will be organised in Prague in 2022!

Honza Filip successfully defended bachelor thesis

On Friday, Honza Filip has successfully (i.e. with the best evaluation) defended hi Bachelor thesis entitled “Influence of landscape fragmentation on characteristics of pollination networks in meadows”. Under supervison of Robert and Stepan, has critically reviewed published results on pollination networks in fragmented meadows. After final exams, Honza will continue in our group as a master student, having a chance to apply his knowledge for BSc. thesis in his MSc. project. Congratulations for the defence, and fingers crossed for the exam!

Student excursion to South Bohemian sandpits

On Monday, a few members of our group, together with some students of our department, attended an excursion to South Bohemian sand pits led by Jiří Řehounek and Robert. Firstly, Klára Řehounková from University of South Bohemia showed us their experimental plots in Klara’s Island in the Cep II sanp pit. Jiří then showed us their other restoration projects in the same site, followed by several other sand pits managed by the Calla NGO or by the regional conservation offices. Besides several successful projects, we have also found a previously highly valued fly ash deposit in Hodějovice to be under intensive technical reclamation which has already destroyed all the interesting habitats. But, generally, the excursion was successful bringing practical experience to our students.

Klára Řehounková presenting experimental plots in the Klára’s Island. © R. Tropek

New paper on microtopographic heterogeneity in postmining sites

Together with the group of Jan Frouz, especially his PhD student Jabbar “Roj” Moradi, we performed a comparison of biodiversity of several groups of terrestrial arthropods of differently restored plots at the Velká Podkrušnohorská spoil heap, one of the largest dumps of brown coal spoil in Europe. After the heaping, it keeps a typical wavy surface with heterogeneous microhabitat conditions. Nevertheless, it is flattened by dozing soon after the heaping. In the paper, recently published in the highly-ranked Journal of Environmental Management, we have shown that such dozing, as the typical initial step of technical reclamation practice in Central Europe and elsewhere, decreases species richness and conservation value of post-mining sites for spiders, moths, ants, orthopterans and centipedes. We explain it through an apparent suppression of micro-habitat heterogeneity. We hope that such expensive practice, in both money and work effort meaning, will disappear from any restoration projects concerning biodiversity conservation.

Full citation: Moradi J., Potocký P., Kočárek P., Bartuška M., Tajovský K., Tichánek F., Frouz J., Tropek R. (2018) Influence of surface flattening on biodiversity of terrestrial arthropods during early stages of brown coal spoil heap restorationJournal of Environmental Management 220: 1-7.

The wavy surface of brown coal spoil heaps spontaneously vegetated after heaping (upper parts of the figure), together with habitats after their dozing. © J. Moradi/Journal of Environmental Management