Monday, December 30, 2013

Society of Marine Mammalogy conference, Dunedin, New Zealand

In early December I attended the biennial Society of Marine Mammalogy conference in New Zealand and presented the preliminary results of my (mitochondrial DNA) genetics work in a spoken presentation as well as a scientific poster. It was fun to finally be able to share some of the results of all these past years of work, and to be able to show how I'm beginning to identify distinct manatee populations across Africa. My hope is that once populations are defined and their genetic diversity is known, that it will help to direct conservation and management efforts and funding towards the most critical places and populations. To see a pdf of my poster, see Links on the right side of this page (you can zoom in on the image to enlarge it).
My project was also able to sponsor travel costs for Aristide Kamla from Cameroon, who also gave a spoken presentation at the Sirenian Workshop before the conference, as well as a poster during the main conference. Aristide also received an award from the SMM International Student Committee that covered his lodging and registration costs at the conference. He did a great job with his presentations and had a lot of interest from other researchers in the Society in his work.
Here Aristide explains the stranding network that he initiated in coastal Cameroon to Dr. Randy Wells, a dolphin expert from Florida.
My colleague Maggie Hunter also presented a poster on work we've just started, with a new marker using coding and non-coding DNA to provide perspective on the divergence of all the Trichechids (the three species of manatees).  Exon-priming intron-crossing (EPIC) primers have been shown to accurately identify species and subspecies in cryptic populations. We hope that this method will give us much greater insight into how the living manatee species evolved.
I'd like to thank all my funders, who make this research and conference participation possible!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cameroon Training Workshop

I'm very late in posting this, but I'm proud to report that this project was able to support a four day manatee training workshop in Dizangue, Cameroon held at the end of October and led by researcher Aristide Kamla. The 17 attendees included the manager and all the Ecoguards from Lake Ossa Wildlife Refuge, as well as local fishermen. Aristide reported that "it was the a great opportunity to bring together conservation officers and fishermen who usually don't talk to each other, and we were able to discuss together about manatee conservation in Lake Ossa and to resolve some issues of misunderstanding  between them".  All photos below are courtesy of Aristide Kamla.

The group in the meeting room.
 Rodrigue (who attended the training workshop I taught in Gabon in September) giving a manatee presentation to the group.
Practicing standardized measurements

Learning how to use a GPS
Group photo... it's so rewarding for me to see former trainees become trainers and pass their knowledge on to others in their countries!
The group also went out on Lake Ossa to practice surveying for manatees