Trench Robber Frog (Pristimantis rubicundus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 212526569
Grassroots education and conservation for Pristimantis rubicundus meets big picture research in crucial, but struggling, Ecuadorian reserve
The overall objective of this project is to integrate a multifaceted scientific investigation with practical education in the field that will eventually inform conservation actions. We aim to thoroughly investigate little-understood and new species that demonstrate patterns of endemism and fine-scale evolutionary divergences. Through expeditions to unexplored areas, standardized sampling in established protected areas, and the use of a mobile DNA sequencing laboratory in the field with students we are obtaining important biogeographical information and training the next generation of scientists in technical research procedures.
In September of 2021 researchers, educators, and students from all over Ecuador came together for one week in the jungle at the SKIS reserve to carry out a landmark event, which was made possible thanks to the Mohamed bin Zayed species conservation fund. University students participated in a week-long, intensive scientific course that became the first of its kind, using portable genetic sequencing equipment to carry out the full process necessary in describing new species and conducting genetic-based biogeographical studies. At the end of the week scientific experts in various subjects participated in SKIS’s first field conference that was combined with the inauguration of our field lab, also made possible by the contributions of MBZ. Through practical presentations given by experts the students gained new knowledge on diverse topics. Then they got to actually go out into the field with those same experts and carry out sampling; in our first ever BioBlitz 33 students and researchers set out into the night and sampled 6 different locations registering a great diversity of reptiles and amphibians, including species new to science. The results of our bioblitz can be viewed here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/skis-bioblitz-curso-de-herpetologia-2021
This event, a collaborative effort between SKIS, the Ikiam University, the Ecominga Foundation, and the National Institute of Biodiversity (INABIO), accomplished a number of goals laid out in our proposed grant.
1) We collected ecological and genetic information and began the sequencing process for our target species, Pristimantis rubicundus.
2) We accomplished our scientific goals while educating and training students in those technical processes.
3) The MBZ financial support allowed us to not only finish our field lab but to outfit it with the equipment necessary to carry out this work. We were able to purchase new calibratos, a microscope, dissection kits, lab coats, a mini-fridge and more!
The cumulative event was a huge success and could not have been done without the support of MBZ. We’ve made one huge step forward in accomplishing the goals we laid out for this project and have a robust foundation for the continuation of this important work. We encourage you all to check out the photos and other material from our field course, conference, and inaugural event.
-The event program can be viewed here:
-Photos of the course and conference can be viewed here:
-During the inaugural event we released our new field guide, published by the WWF. Comprehensive work reports on 140 herp species in the headwaters of the Anzu and was authored by researchers from SKIS, INABIO, and the Ecominga Foundation (three of the collaborating institutions on the present grant project). The field guide can be viewed and downloaded for free here: https://www.wwf.org.ec/bibliotecavirtual/publicacionesec/?uNewsID=369873
One of our most fundamental objectives is to integrate technical science and learning. Through the activities and events in September we were able accomplish just that, making a positive step forward in completing our goals. However, this work doesn’t end there and still leaves much to be done. We will be continuing to elaborate the genetic investigation of P. rubicundus and will be carrying out sampling in other regions to gain a better bio-geographical understanding of this species and more. Thank you to everyone who made this progress possible!
Alex Bentley of the Sumak Kawsay In Situ Foundation
Project 212526569 location - Ecuador, South America