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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 - August 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).
Thirteen members of this multinational PEER team, including the PI, co-PIs, and students from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam conducted field surveys at Cat Tien and Bidoup-Nui Ba national parks in Vietnam November 16-25, 2015. In addition, faculty members and students in all three nations have been busy with research and outreach. In Thailand, PhD student Ms. Siriporn Yodthong has been working in the molecular laboratory on her preliminary study of genetic variation of some amphibians from Thai islands. In October-December 2015, PhD student Ms. Seateun and her field assistants, Mr. Attapol Rujirawan and Ms. Korkhwan Termprayoon, also collected data for her PhD research project on ecology of the Asian leaf turtle Cyclemys oldhamii at Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, Nakhon Ractchasima Province. The PI Dr. Anchalee Aowphol and Ms. Seateun attended the 5th International Symposium on Vertebrate Species Diversity in Asia, which was held December 16-18, 2015, at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. Ms. Seateun gave a poster presentation at the conference on her research on “Population structure of the Asian Leaf Turtle, Cyclemys oldhamii, from lentic habitats in Sakaerat Reserve areas, Nakhon Ratchasima (Thailand).”

In Laos, co-PI Dr. Niane Sivongxay and two graduate students, Ms. Monekham Davanhkham and Ms. Keochay Phoumixay, conducted two field trips of the research on ecology of the gecko in genus Cyrtodaactylus and species diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Laos. Their first trip (October 1-7) was in Vientiane Province and the second (November 27-December 3) was in Khammouane Province. In Vietnam, co-PI Dr. Huy Duc Hoang and his team at the University of Science, Ho Chi Minh City worked during October to analyze data in their lab. In December, Ms. Le Thi Thuy Duong also prepared a draft of a manuscript on work carried out for her thesis.

Plans call for the third joint field campaign to be carried out in Laos between March 19-27, 2016. Ms. Le Thi Thuy Duong, Ms. Sengvilay Seateun, and Ms. Korkhwan Termprayoon also expect to finish their manuscripts and submit them to journals for publication. A no-cost extension has been issued on this project through August 2017 to allow the group additional time to complete their complex set of collaborative activities.

USAID Interview with Dr. Aowphol on Women Leaders

USAID Women Leaders article featuring Dr. Aowphol

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