In support of work investigating the distribution and prevalence of avian malaria, Curator of Birds Gary Voelker and BRTC Curator Heather Prestridge visited Italy in 2017 to obtain blood samples from birds. Working alongside Italian colleagues, blood samples from 800 birds were collected and returned to the BRTC for analysis. The robust partnerships that Dr. Voelker has fostered with Italian colleagues (beginning in 2015) from the University of Torino, Civic Museum of Carmagnola, and the University del Piemonte Orientale quickly led to additional expeditions including Sardinia in 2018 and Sicily in 2019. The first paper stemming from this collaboration was published in 2021. In addition to investigating avian malaria, the group is also working on systematics and biogeography of birds.
South Africa 2014
Gary Voelker, Faculty Curator of Birds & Heather Prestridge, Curator (and Stuffer of Birds)
In 2014, curators Voelker and Prestridge visited the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa to collect bird specimens (including blood, tissue and ectoparasites) that will provide material for on-going research in the Voelker and Light labs at Texas A&M University. Part of the trip was coordinated with the help of Dr. Leigh Richards, Curator of Mammals, Natural Science Museum, Durban. In addition to Dr. Richards and her team, we were joined by Dr. Sergei Drovetski, a colleague of Dr. Voelker’s since graduate school.
Specimens were collected on private farms in Graaff-Reinet (Allendale and Bloemhof), Craddock (Long Acre), and Grahamstown (Strowan). These localities are all in the Eastern Cape Province, a region of South Africa in which Voelker has done little sampling over the last 20 years. The expedition was therefore geared to filling this sampling gap, and to sample across a known hybrid zone for several species-pairs (both White-eyes and Bulbuls). Overall, the samples will be included in, 1) phylogeographic studies which seek to address the impacts of historical climate on bird populations in southern Africa, 2) continent-wide assessments of avian malaria parasites, and 3) ectoparasite diversity and distributions in South Africa. Bird specimens have been cataloged at the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections.
Kevin Conway, Faculty Curator of Fishes & Heather Prestridge, Curator
In June of 2012, researchers from the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections teamed up with faculty and students from the University of the West Indies for a field course/expedition to the north coast of Trinidad. The focus of our trip was to collect species of clingfish (Gobiesox spp.) from the area. Specimens from the expedition were shared with the Zoology Museum at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
Gary Voelker, Faculty Curator of Birds; Toby J. Hibbitts, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles; Jerry Huntley, WFSC Undergraduate student.
From mid-May to mid-June of 2010 a group of researchers from the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections went on an expedition to Benin, West Africa. The main objective of the trip was to explore the feasibility of future work in the country while building the BRTC collections of bird, reptile, and amphibian tissue and blood from the region. Dr. Alphonse Adite, a former student from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and a native of Benin assisted with logistics and played a vital role in the success of the trip. It is the goal of the BRTC to continue fostering foreign relations with Benin and other countries of interest to our researchers. In the near future we will use the tissue and blood samples collected for future genetic studies of the biodiversity of Benin and how it connects to regional scales of genetic diversity across Africa. All specimens will be cataloged into the collections at the BRTC. See a complete list of species collected here (pdf file)
In 2010, Ben Marks set out to continue his study of avian diversification in the tropical rainforests of Africa. His current research has two main foci; 1) we are interested in broad-scale patterns of geographic variation in widespread species in the Afrotropics, and 2) we are investigating the role that the Congo River system may have played in promoting diversification in birds inhabiting the lowland rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This research is in collaboration with colleagues from two Congolese institutions; the University of Bukavu and the University of Kisangani.