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Gulf of Guinea Expeditions 

January 27, 2011

The Race: Celebrations, Updates and a Memorial

I have been informed by a colleague that my last blog was a tad on the “heavy” side; I cannot apologize for this as sometimes science is difficult to describe in an informal blog, but this blog will be slightly different.

First celebration. We have just learned that Island Biodiversity Race has been ranked #3 Best Biodiversity Blog by The Pimm Group of Duke University (US).

Here is the link: http://thepimmgroup.org/919/best-biodiversity-blogs/

Needless to say, it is wonderfully gratifying to learn that people have been reading this, and thus that it is worth the effort. But it is way more important that the people of São Tomé and Príncipe and their unique islands are beginning to get some attention, especially with development looming.

In earlier blogs I have mentioned our poster project. The posters are meant to do the same thing as the blog but will be much more accessible to the Sao Tomeans — not too many fishermen carry laptops in their dugouts! Below is a finished poster (lacking one logo) and when printed and laminated, we intend to post them in every school and public building that will have them as a visual message that the islands are unique. Each individual image is an endemic species, and there are 5 different iterations of two sizes with different species. The one below will be 20 X 24”, others will be nearly twice as large. We are very close to printing.

THERE ARE NO OTHER ISLANDS LIKE OURS!!

You will note that there are no fish in the above poster, nor will there be any in the first round of posters. While we have a number of new species, none has been officially described as yet.  However, luckily the Academy was just visited by Dr. Luiz Rocha of the University of Texas. Luiz was on a 2006 marine expedition that led to a publication on the coastal fishes of São Tomé and Príncipe. Another author on that same paper was our own Dr. Tomio Iwamoto who was a participant in both GG I and GG II and whose island work has been featured on this blog many times. Just to prove there are gorgeous endemic fishes  found only in the islands, here are two, courtesy of Dr. Rocha.

Thalassoma newtoni, an endemic wrasse. (Rocha)

Clepticus africanus, another endemic wrasse. (Rocha)

Second celebration. I introduced myself once at the beginning of this blog back in 2008; I won’t again beyond suggesting you see the first and second blog and mentioning that I and many of our Gulf of Guinea expedition scientists and grad students are part of a very old scientific organization. Yesterday, our Department of Herpetology (my home) just cataloged our 300,000th specimen. This is a very BIG deal, and our reptile and amphibian collection (including all of our São Tomé and Príncipe material) is the 6th largest collection in the world.

(l-r: me, Jens Vindum, Sr. Collections Mgr., and Lauren Scheinberg, Research Assistant. – phot. V. Schnoll

Updates:  I still have no final word on our millepedes, currently being studied at the Royal Central African Museum by a colleague, but the last hint was that we have three species (one new), all of one genus, Globanus. And just before he left for southern Chile, Jim Shevock (GG IV) showed me a manuscript on a host of new records and new species of bryophytes from São Tomé and Príncipe.  He is submitting the paper for publication with his European colleagues.

Finally, we got news from the islands a few weeks ago of the death of our friend, Abade. Abade was Ned Seligman’s cook and great character. I first met him 12 years ago when I went alone to the islands to begin organizing the future expeditions with the help of STeP UP, Ned’s NGO. Abade had a sort of secret, enigmatic, vaguely evil smile that somehow reminded me of the way a sorceror should look.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and I jam convinced he understood English perfectly well… he just wouldn’t speak it to me! Just one Abade story among many: during GG I, we were desperate to find one of the endemic frog species, Newton’s rocket frog (below).

Newton’s rocket frog, Ptychadena newtoni – endemic to Sao Tome

We were assured they were once common downtown but we had been  unsuccessful so far. At dinner one night at Ned’s, Abade (through Ned) decided he would show us these frogs, and we all marched off into the night through a grassy field near the airport. As we were searching by flashlight, we suddenly heard the thunder of many running boots coming down metal stairs in two large building off in the gloom.  Abade had led us onto the army base and the troops had obviously seen our lights in the field! Believe me, if there is one place anywhere in Africa you do not ever want to be , it is on an military base! We all ran like a flock of chickens with Abade in the lead, of course.  We remained frogless for a couple of  weeks until we figured out how to find us.  All of us of all of the GG teams will miss  him.

More anon.

The parting shot:

Abade, in Ned’s kitchen.   Ciao, Amigo!  RCD phot – GG IV.

PARTNERS

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) and Africa’s Eden for logistics, ground transportation and lodging, STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Barbero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, the continued support of Bastien Loloum of Zuntabawe and Faustino Oliviera, Curator of the Herbarium at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George G. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami, Hon. Richard C. Livermore, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III, Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Taylor and Velma and Michael Schnoll for helping make these expeditions possible. Our expeditions can be supported by donations to “California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund”.


Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 6:23 pm

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