A team led by Academy curator David Blackburn and research associate Aaron Bauer is awarded one of five new grants supporting biodiversity research in Africa
SAN FRANCISCO (August 12, 2014)—The JRS Biodiversity Foundation today announced the five grant recipients from its January 2014 call for innovative grant proposals in the field of biodiversity informatics. These grants cover diverse approaches to collecting and creating access to biodiversity knowledge and underscore the foundation's commitment to advancing biodiversity informatics, investment in sub-Saharan Africa, and to capacity building to increase knowledge of biodiversity.
"Biodiversity data becomes valuable when it is accessible and in the hands of researchers and conservationists who can act upon the information," says Don Doering, Executive Director of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. JRS supports this project due to the commitment of the California Academy of Sciences' lead researcher David Blackburn, collaborator Aaron Bauer of Villanova University, and their partners, to train Angolan and Namibian scientists to identify and assess the conservation status of their own nations' amphibians and reptiles."
California Academy of Sciences - Digitizing Southwestern-African Herpetological Collections, $180,000
Angola and Namibia form a hotspot for reptile and amphibian biodiversity, but decades of civil war and a lack of expertise in biodiversity informatics has made much of this data inaccessible. This means that much of the scientific collections that document the diversity and distribution of this unique fauna remain unknown. In partnership with African institutions, the project team will collaboratively digitize and geocode data from the principal herpetological collections for Angola and Namibia and distribute these globally under a Creative Commons license. In addition, amphibian and reptile specimens from Angola and Namibia in other collections in South Africa, Europe, and the United States will be geo-referenced. Generated data will be used to update conservation assessments for reptile and amphibian species, many of which have not yet been assessed or are currently assessed as Data Deficient. In?country training focused on database creation, maintenance, use, and downstream conservation applications to facilitate current priorities in these countries for biodiversity documentation.
"Funding from JRS will help us to get these historically important but digitally invisible scientific collections off the shelf and online,? says Dr. David Blackburn, Assistant Curator of Herpetology at the Academy. ?Completing our knowledge of what species occurred where and when provides the baseline for future field studies, especially for beginning to understand how humanity's impact on the world has and continues to shape the biodiversity around us."
Additional grant recipients of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation award include the Institute of Ecology at National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the University of Ghana, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to understand two of the most important topics of our time: the nature and future of life on Earth. Based in San Francisco, the institute is home to more than 60 research scientists and aquarium biologists, as well as 45.6 million scientific specimens from around the world?nearly 40,000 of which are alive and on display in the Academy?s Steinhart Aquarium. The institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Research and Field Associates and 300 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, captive breeding programs, and investigations in the lab, the institute?s scientists strive to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of life. Through these same efforts, as well as through partnerships, community outreach, and public engagement initiatives, the institute aims to guide critical conservation decisions and address the challenge of sustainability.
Founded in 2004, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation focuses upon supporting biodiversity data and knowledge that are used to preserve and to sustainably manage biodiversity, especially in those developing economies where it is most threatened. Since 2007, the foundation has awarded $12.4M in grants. For more information contact Don S. Doering, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 454-7915.