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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Biodiversity and conservation in the Lower Mekong: empowering female herpetologists through capacity building and regional networking

PI:  Anchalee Aowphol (Kasetsart University), with co-PIs Niane Sivongxay (Wildlife Conservation Society Laos and National University of Laos) and Huy Duc Hoang (University of Science Ho Chi Minh City)
U.S. Partner: Bryan L. Stuart (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences)
Project Dates: September 2013 -  September 2017
The Lower Mekong harbors a rich diversity of amphibian and reptile, most of which are found only in the region. Amphibians and reptiles play essential roles in intact ecosystems, serving as predators and prey. However, very little is known on the biology of most species of amphibians and reptiles in the region, and many new species of amphibians and reptiles continue to be discovered. Many of these species are considered to be threatened with extinction because of rapid deforestation and overharvesting for food, traditional medicine, and the international pet trade. Information on which species occur where, and their basic biology, is needed so that these species can be effectively conserved.

Turtle Ecology Training

Thailand 2

Ms. Seateun and the team being trained by Dr. Karraker on the turtle ecology at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station (Photo courtesy Dr. Aowphol).Le Thi Thuy Duong testing water in a stream (Photo courtesy Dr. Aowphol).

This project proposes to address the lack of knowledge on amphibians and reptiles in the Lower Mekong by supporting the research programs of nine female scientists who study amphibians and reptiles (herpetologists) at three universities in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. The project will also help by creating a research network among the participants and their institutions through field research exchanges among these countries and a study tour on amphibian and reptile biodiversity research in the United States.
Summary of Recent Activities
2-93 Project Team in Cat Tien Park
A group photo of the team at Cat Tien Park (Photo courtesy of Dr. Aowphol).
Dr. Six members of this multinational PEER team visited the United States July 7-17, 2017, including PI Dr. Anchalee Aowphol and students Ms. Sengvilay Seateun and Ms. Siriporn Yodthong of Thailand, co-PI Dr. Niane Sivongxay of Laos, and co-PI Dr. Huy Duc Hoang and student Le Thi Thuy Duong of Vietnam. While they were in North Carolina during the first portion of their trip, U.S. partner Dr. Bryan L. Stuart took the team to visit the extensive natural history collections at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and provided them with training on curatorial methods, including databasing and georeferencing. The visitors had time for independent study of amphibian and reptile specimens from the Lower Mekong Ecoregion found in the museum’s collections, and on the final day of their time in North Carolina, the team and their U.S. colleagues had a field visit to the Boone area to learn about salamander diversity in the Southern Applachachians. The group spent the second half of their trip in Chicago, Illinois, where they received training in curatorial methods from Mr. Alan Resetar, manager of the Amphibian and Reptile Collection at the Field Museum of Natural History, after which they had two days for independent study of the collection.

Prior to the U.S. visit, Dr. Aowphol and her students conducted fieldwork in northern Thailand May 10-16 and at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station May 19-21, in collaboration with Dr. Jonathan J. Fong from Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Her PhD students were also busy with their own projects this past quarter. Ms. Seateun monitored the Asian turtle Cyclemys oldhamii at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station using radio-telemetry, and Ms. Yodthong worked on DNA analysis in the molecular lab. Ms. Seateun also gave an oral presentation at the 7th Conference on Taxonomy and Systematics in Thailand June 26-28. As for the co-PIs, Dr. Sivongxay conducted fieldwork at in Khammouane Province (Laos) May 10-19, and in early June she led B.Sc. students on another field expedition as part of preparation of their senior projects. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, Ms. Duong has been working on her dissertation.

With this PEER project drawing to a close at the end of September 2017, the PI and her colleagues will be purchasing a few last supplies, finishing their planned research activities, and completing their final report.

USAID Interview with Dr. Aowphol on Women Leaders

USAID Women Leaders article featuring Dr. Aowphol

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