Friday, May 9, 2008

Blog #1: A Three-Week Expedition is Underway

This weekend a team of researchers are taking off for Nosy Be, Madagascar. The northwest corner of the island has been identified as a biodiversity hot spot for both terrestrial and coastal marine biodiversity. The area is home to high numbers of unique forms of life and is under high environmental threat.

I will be among the researchers accompanying Dr. Gustav Paulay of the Florida Museum of Natural History on this mission. I will work with Dr. Paulay to collect samples of sea cucumbers and other species for biodiversity characterization at the organismal and genetic scales. Our contribution is part of a larger land-sea biodiversity assessment of the southwest Indian Ocean, coordinated by two researchers at the University of Reunion.

The broader study (BIOTAS) is seeking to not only characterize biodiversity in this part of the world but also to examine the natural organisms. The study will lead to greater understanding of how evolutionary processes shape species assemblage in the region and between its islands, and help identify conservation priorities.

My day to day routine will consist of diving, collecting and documenting species. I will be updating this blog from a satellite phone during the course of the expedition, and I look forward to sharing my observations on the invertebrate species we find.

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