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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: August 2013 to July 2016
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
Accompanied by 11 of their graduate and undergraduate students, Dr. Anchalee Aowphol, Vietnamese co-PI Dr. Huy Duc Hoang, Laotian co-PI Dr. Niane Sivongxay conducted fieldwork at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, northeastern Thailand, November 1-8, 2014. Additional fieldwork by team members from all three participating countries is planned for May and June 2015 in Laos and Vietnam. In the meantime, in the last quarter of 2014 each of the three country teams reported significant progress on their research and educational activities. In Thailand, PhD student Ms. Sengvilay Seateun and her field assistant Ms. Siriporn Yodthong have been conducting a research project on the ecology of the Asian turtle Cyclemys oldhamii at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station. Ms. Yodthong has also been conducting her own research in the molecular laboratory investigating the genetic variation of some amphibian species. Another of Dr. Aowphol’s students, Ms. Somphouthone Phimmachak, successfully defended her dissertation in November 2014 to complete her doctoral study at the Department of Zoology, Kasetsart University, and she also submitted the manuscript on “Ecology and natural history of the Knobby Newt Tylototriton shanjing (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Laos” to the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. In December 2014, Dr. Aowphol and Master’s student Ms. Korkhwan Termprayoon attended the 4th International Symposium on Vertebrate Species Diversity in Asia, which was held at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr. Aowphol presented her research on “Phylogenetic Relationships of the Southeast Asian Tree Frogs, Chiromantis in Thailand with Comments on Genetic Structure of Chiromantis hansenae,” and Ms. Termparyoon gave a poster presentation on “Microhabitat use of Cyrtodactylus intermedius (Smith, 1917) in Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, Nakhon Ratchasima: A comparison of juveniles and adults.”

In Laos, Dr. Sivongxay and two graduate students, Ms. Monekham Davanhkham and Ms. Keochay Phoumixay, conducted two field trips in December 2014 as part of their research on the ecology of the gecko (Cyrtodaactylus) and species diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Laos. Their research took them to sites in Khammouane Province and Muang Fuang District, Vientiane Province. In Vietnam, Dr. Huy and his team at the University of Science, Ho Chi Minh City worked on data analysis in the laboratory. In late November, Dr. Huy and student Le Thi Thuy Duong visited Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park to expand their survey sites. The following month, Ms. Duong continued analyzing her data and preparing a draft of the first paper of her thesis.

The November 28, 2014, issue of the journal Science featured a letter published by U.S. partner Dr. Bryan L. Stuart, Dr. Sivongxay, Dr. Aowphol, Ms. Somphouthone Phimmachak (a Thai student), and Australian researcher Jodi J.L. Rowley (see “Salamander protection starts with the newt” in Science (letter), 346: 1067-1068).

USAID Interview with Dr. Aowphol on Women Leaders

USAID Women Leaders article featuring Dr. Aowphol

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