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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 Dong 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
The third quarter of 2014 proved to be a strong academic period for the project team. Team member Somphouthone Phimmachak prepared a paper, “Ecology and Natural History of the Asian Newt Tylototriton Shanjing (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Xiengkhouang Province, Laos” and will submit it in October 2014. Additionally, Dr. Anchalee Aowphol helped prepare the PhD research plan of Siriporn Yodthong entitled “Diversification and Gene Flow of Anurans on Islands and Adjacent Mainland in Thailand”. Ms. Yodthong has been involving with the PEER Science project since September 2013 and started her proposed PhD project in April 2014. She will enroll in the PhD program in Zoology at Kasetsart University in December. There was also extensive collaboration between teams including the training of a PhD student, Ms. Sengvilay Seateun, by Dr. Nancy E. Karraker from Department of Natural Resources Science at the University of Rhode Island on turtle ecology at Sakaerat Environmental Research Station between August 3-7, 2014 and a visit from US collaborator Dr. Bryan L. Stuart for two weeks at the end of June in which he gave his advice on the research of Dr. Anchalee Aowphol and the graduate team members.

The Vietnam team also received a visit from Dr. Stuart in which he conducted fieldwork in Khammouane Province between July 5-20, 2014 in collaboration with Dr. Niane Sivongxay, the graduate student from Laos and Ms. Sengvilay Seateun from Kasetsart University, Thailand. In terms of academics, two Master’s students received training in techniques of museum specimen collection in mid-July. In July, two undergraduate students presented their bachelor thesis. One student studied the morphology and feeding habitats of tadpoles while the other studied the diets of adults certain frog species. In addition to academics, the team conducted two week field surveys in Phuoc Binh National Park. This will be followed up with a team field trip to Thailand in the beginning of November. All team members from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand will go to the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

USAID Interview with Dr. Aowpho on Women Leaders

USAID Women Leaders article featuring Dr. Aowpho

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