Roehampton zoology expert to explore hidden forests of East Africa

Dr Simon Loader, Senior Lecturer in Zoology has received a grant of $18,000 from National Geographic to examine animal life in the isolated forests of Ethiopia. 

Posted: 15 December 2015

image for news story Roehampton zoology expert to explore hidden forests of East Africa
Forest in Ethiopia

Dr Loader will lead a team of researchers to conduct a survey of amphibians and investigate the history and origins of the species in the rainforests of Gura Ferda, located in the South West part of Ethiopia. The project, called ‘Isolated Eden or Travellers Rest? Evolutionary History of the Forests of Gura Ferda’ will start in April 2016.

After DNA samples from the amphibians have been gathered, they will be transported back to Roehampton where Zoology undergraduate students will analyse the data using various genetic approaches including next generation sequencing. These genetic comparisons will help to build a picture of the evolutionary history of the species and therefore the forests they inhabit in Gura Ferda. The study will assess whether species evolved recently or a long time ago and whether their origins lie in other forests in Ethiopia or elsewhere such as Kenya, or Sudan.

Dr Loader said “The study of amphibians within the Gura Ferda region is a vital starting point for a better understanding of the rain forests’ evolutionary history. Because they are so dependent on the environment, a diverse range of amphibians could indicate a thriving rain forest region.”

The amphibian species collected in this study will be compared with existing samples taken from the moist upland forest habitats in Ethiopia and other East African countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda). The comparison of samples will reveal whether Gura Ferda is an Isolated Eden or a Travellers Rest for amphibians

You can follow the progress of the project in March/April by visiting the National Geographic blog.

To find out how you can get involved in discovering new animal life, visit our BSc Zoology course page.


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