PI: Dorothy Wanja Nyingi (National Museums of Kenya)
U.S. Partner: Henry Bart, Jr. (Tulane University)
Project Dates: August 2013 to February 2016
|Participants in the Biodiversity and Phylogenetics Research Methods Workshop held September 24 to 27 at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi (Photo courtesy Dr. Nyingi).|
The ichthyology section is the youngest of all the research collection departments at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK). Founded in 1997, the section holds the largest collection of fishes within East and Central Africa. Despite its potential, however, it has suffered from the lack of adequate funding and human capacity. Previous collaboration with Tulane University with funding from the National Science Foundation has supported field collections, morphological and genetic analyses, and capacity building of local researchers. However, many gaps remain in field expeditions, specimen curation, data analyses, publication, and dissemination. The main goal of the project is to support the Kenyan research team in their work on fish species discovery and creation of checklists and identification keys. Building on progress made with support under the pilot round of the PEER Science program, this new project will involve field excursions in rivers not yet explored, particularly the mid and lower basins of the Tana and Athi rivers and rivers in northern parts of Kenya. The project will also include support for proper curation of fishes at the ichthyology section of NMK, training in phylogenetic analyses, and support for undergraduate and post-graduate student participants.
This project will increase the training and capacity of Kenyan scientists and students by engaging them in important components of biodiversity research, specifically taxonomic revisions and new species descriptions, molecular phylogenetic analyses on DNA sequence data, improvement of the state of preservation of the NMK fish collection, and Web-based dissemination of data from the collection. The additional training and resources provided as part of this project will ensure that Kenyans will have the capacity to conduct biodiversity research in the future and that the NMK fish collection is available to support this research for generations to come. The proposed project will also allow unfinished fish taxonomic work to be completed, greatly increasing knowledge of the Kenyan freshwater fish fauna. It will train Kenyans in fish identification methods and will provide identification keys and guides to aid the identification process. Imparting this knowledge to local indigenous people should increase their desire to protect the species and their riverine habitats.
Summary of Recent Activities
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During the fourth quarter of 2014, Dr. Nyingi and her team discovered a problem with the specimen jars donated from Tulane University. While the jars are perfect for the project, they lack quality gaskets to ensure no leakage and minimal evaporation of ethanol from preserved specimens. The team will purchase and install gaskets to solve the problem.
Additionally, the project was able to support two Masters level students, Gilbert Kosgi and Gathua Joseph, in their studies of biology and conservation. Mr. Kosgei is focusing his efforts to achieve final goal of developing a macro invertebrate monitoring guide for the Kenyan freshwater wetlands. The next quarter should see the completion of the current students’ studies and the receipt of the jars from Tulane University.