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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

Diversification and inventory of the threatened lowland herpetofauna of Java and Sumatra

PI:  Nia Kurniawan (, University of Brawijaya
U.S. Partner: Eric Nelson Smith Urrutia, University of Texas at Arlington
Project Dates: November 2014 to April 2017

3-40 Specimen Preservation Process
A team member takes tissue samples and preserves sample organisms.
3-40 Night Trade in Turtle Bay
Traders participate in a roaring amphibian trade in Turtle Bay.
3-40 Educating Local Children
The team educates local children on snake handling and the importance of biodiversity (all photos courtesy of Dr. Kurniawan).
Wildlife harvesting is a thriving global phenomenon that has received substantial attention from conservation biologists and policy makers. Compounded by loss of natural habitats, climate change, and disease, human over-exploitation may lead to the decline and extinction of species. The harvesting of reptiles and amphibians from the wild is an especially relevant issue to the herpetofauna of Southeast Asia. The research team will seek to establish baseline population genetic data for species of lowland reptiles and amphibians of Sumatra and Java that are prevalent in the wild animal trade. Using molecular techniques, the team expects to achieve the following goals: (1) delimit the population boundaries of species common in the animal trade; (2) determine the population of origin of animals from the wildlife trade; (3) determine the relative impact of the wildlife trade on distinct populations of reptiles and amphibians; (4) establish a new molecular laboratory at the University of Brawijaya.

This project will facilitate the genetic monitoring of samples collected from legal and illegal wildlife trade and will serve as a valuable tool for management of harvested populations. This research project will strongly compliment Dr. Eric Smith’s inventory of the highland herpetofauna of Java and Sumatra by focusing on the lowland taxa, and using his project’s biodiversity data will inform wildlife management practices and policies. Data generated by this project will help guide policies and practices that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the commercial and domestic harvest of Indonesian amphibians and reptiles. The project will provide valuable data to various stakeholders to aid in the selection and prioritization of harvestable species. This effort will include making available large DNA reference collections and large public databases comprised of allele frequencies from regularly harvested populations. The research study will greatly benefit Indonesian stakeholders, such as students, museum technicians and researchers, government officials, and local wildlife traders, all of whom will be integrated into the project. They will be trained in the field as well as museum work, computational and molecular biology, and will be encouraged to participate in local outreach programs, publications, and presentations at scientific meetings.

Summary of Recent Activities

During the last quarter of 2016, Dr. Kurniawan and his group focused on molecular work and preparation of journal articles, particularly with regard to Gekko gecko; Polypedates leucomystax; the genera Cyrtodactylus, Hemidactylus, Ptyas, and Trimeresurus; and the families Colubridae and Pythonidae. They have already collected sequences of the Colubridae and some species of the Pythonidae, with the remainder of their samples still undergoing DNA extraction and amplification for further analysis. As of January 2017, the team had three completed manuscripts ready for submission to journals. One of Dr. Kurniawan’s students also made a presentation at the 6th International Symposium on Asian Vertebrate Species Diversity organized by the Research Center for Biology, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), in Bogor, Indonesia. Based on the results of his training at LIPI, the student’s presentation described his findings on a new bent toad gecko from East Kalimantan.

Dr. Kurniawan reports that his group’s PEER-supported research has attracted considerable interest from several institutions who would like to initiate or expand collaboration. They continue to develop their cooperation with the NGO Remote Envenomation Consultancy Services by mapping snake distribution patterns to identify the most common venomous snakes likely to be found in various rural areas. The group’s data can be used in conjunction with snakebite records to help determine the types of snake antivenom that local healthcare centers should have available. Another partnership involves the Lung Hospital Dungus Madiun. By collecting reptile and amphibian samples in Madiun, the researchers provide data to facilitate snakebite prevention efforts by mapping the distribution of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous. In other collaborative efforts with Indonesian government agencies, Dr. Kurniawan’s team works with the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriensis at the LIPI Research Center for Biology to support and supply data on herpetofauna diversity and distribution in Java and Sumatra and with the Indonesian Department of Environment and Forestry to provide information on trading activities involving reptiles and amphibians. This can help the agency to formulate new rules in accordance with present market conditions. Finally, the team also cooperates with the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park to provide herpetofauna training for local students.

This PEER project is scheduled to end as of April 30, 2017, so in the final months the team is focused on some last remaining analytical work to analyze microsatellites for certain species, as well as preparation of their results for publication.

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