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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
2-93 Project Team and US Partner
A group photo of Dr. Bryan L. Stuart, Dr. Somphouthone Phimmachak, and field assistants (Photo courtesy of Dr. Aowphol).
In July 2015, Ms. Somphouthone Phimmachak graduated from Kasetsart University and published two articles from her Ph.D. research on which she was the primary author, with co-authors Dr. Anchalee Aowphol and U.S. partner Dr. Bryan Stuart. “Ecology and natural history of the knobby newt Tylototriton podichthys (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Laos” appeared in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 63: 389–400, and “Morphological and molecular variation in Tylototriton (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Laos, with description of a new species” was published in Zootaxa 4006 (2): 285–310. In July 2015, Dr. Anchalee Aowphol and Mr. Natee Ampai, a Master’s student in the Zoology Program at Kasetsart, published a research article entitled “Description of the tadpoles of two endemic frogs: the Phu Luang Cascade frog Odorrana aureola (Anura: Ranidae) and the Isan big-headed frog Limnonectes isanensis (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from northeastern Thailand” in Zootaxa 3981 (4): 508–520. PhD student Ms. Siriporn Yodthong and three lab members conducted a field survey for her Ph.D. research project at Ko Chang National Park, Trat Province, July 11-16, 2015. Dr. Aopwhol, Ms. Yodthong, and three lab members conducted additional field surveys at Koh Pha-Ngan National Park, Surat Thani Province, September 23-28, 2015. Also during the third quarter of 20215, PhD student Ms. Sengvilay Seateun and her field assistants collected data on the ecology of the Asian turtle Cyclemys oldhamii at Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, Nakhon Ractchasima Province. Moreover, Ms. Seateun plans to monitor the turtle movement and activities using radio-telemetry in early 2016.

On the Laotian side of the project, which is headed by co-PI Dr. Niane Sivongxay, Dr. Somphouthone Phimmachak, and two graduate students, Ms. Monekham Davanhkham and Ms. Keochay Phoumixay, conducted three field trips studying the ecology of the geckos in genus Cyrtodactylus and the species diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Laos. They worked in Khammouane and Vientiane Provinces (July 24-August 3), Houaphanh Province (September 16-25), and again in Khammouane Province (September 17-30). U.S. partner Dr. Bryan L. Stuart visited the National University of Laos and participated in the field work with Dr. Sivongxay’s team during the second half of September 2015. The two Laotian graduate students, Ms. Davanhkham and Ms. Phoumixay, defended their thesis proposals to the committee September 22-23.

As for the Vietnam component of the project, which is headed by co-PI Dr. Huy Duc Hoang at the University of Science, Ho Chi Minh City, project researcher Ms. Le Thi Thuy Duong and other Vietnamese team members surveyed in Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park for three weeks in June-July 2015. During August and September, Ms. Duong analyzed data in the laboratory and made preparations for a field trip in Vietnam with the Thai and Laotian participants that is planned for November 16-25, 2015. During the trip, the group will conduct field surveys in Cat Tien National Park and Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park. The next upcoming fieldwork will be in Laos in February 2016.

USAID Interview with Dr. Aowphol on Women Leaders

USAID Women Leaders article featuring Dr. Aowphol

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