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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.

Thailand 1
Somphouthone Phimmachak with a newt found during fieldwork (Photo courtesy Dr. Aowphol).

Thailand 2
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
PI Anchalee Aowphol and her Kasetsart University team were interviewed for a story released on the USAID website on February 25, 2014. <> The story was part of a series on Asia’s women leaders. <> Meanwhile, Dr. Aowphol’s students continued to make progress in their research projects. Somphouthone Phimmachak, a PhD student in zoology, is preparing her manuscript detailing her research on newts of the genus Tylototriton in Laos. Korkhwan Termprayoon, a zoology master’s student, completed fieldwork for her study of the Eastern bent-toed gecko Cyrtodaylus intermedius at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station. In addition, Sengvilay Seateun and Siriporn Yodthong were accepted into the graduate school at Kasetsart University and will begin their PhD studies in zoology this fall.

As for the Vietnam component of this project, PhD student Le Thi Thuy Duong and a group of colleagues from the University of Science Ho Chi Minh City conducted field work at Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park in March 2014. Data on dietary habits of tadpoles and amphibians have been collected, and the morphology of tadpoles and taxonomy of diet composition of frogs have been analyzed back at the university’s Zoology Laboratory. In addition, Ms. Le prepared for and gave an oral presentation for the professional committee at the end of April 2014. On the Laotian side of the project, the National University of Laos signed off on a service agreement with the Wildlife Conservation Society. In addition, the university has admitted two students, Ms. Monekham Davankham and Ms. Keochay Phoumixay, to begin their master’s degree programs in herpetology. They began their studies in March 2014.

The lab work and data analysis of the Vietnamese research team, centering on tadpoles and other amphibians from Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park, should finish in early June 2014. In addition, Ms. Termprayoon will be giving a poster presentation at 4th Taxonomy and Systematics in Thailand conference, May 23-25, 2014, at Naresuan University.

Back to PEER Cycle 2 Grant Recipients