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Newsletter February 1996

at the University of Missouri - St. Louis

Vol. III, No. 1 - February 1996


The Jane and Whitney Harris Ecology Lectureship will be given by Dr. Paul Alan Cox, Dean of General Education and Honors and Professor of Botany at Brigham Young University. Dr Cox is a tropical conservation biologist and ethnobotanist.

In 1988 Dr. Cox gained international recognition for his struggle to preserve rain forests and culture in the South Pacific through his efforts to help establish a U.S. National Park of 11,000 acres in the American Samoa. In 1989, Dr. Cox raised the necessary funds to save the 30,000 acres of Falealupo rainforest in Western Samoa from logging, creating one of the world's first indigenously controlled rainforest reserves. For his achievement he was honored by the Samoa, Nafunua, and by King Gustav and Queen Sylvia of Sweden who invited him tp present an honorary lecture in Stockholm. More recently, he has been instrumental in creating three new rainforest preserves totaling 65,000 acres of lowland rainforest in Samoa.

Dr. Cox and colleagues were active in the fight against poaching of Pacific flying foxes, resulting in an international ban on commerce in flying foxes. He produced an award winning video on this animal.


The International Center for Tropical Ecology is pleased to announce several new scholarship awards from foundations and an equipment grant from the National Science Foundation.

Several local organizations have given donations to the Center to support student research. Mallinckrodt Chemical, Inc. has established an endowed scholarship in tropical biology and conservation to provide summer support for student internships. Ms. Carol Perkins gave $1000 in honor of Marlin Perkins for a tropical scholarship award. The Trio Foundation donated $2000 to support research scholarships.

The Stephen M. Doyle fellowship; given in honor of Stephen Doyle, an undergraduate alumni of the University of Missouri and botany enthusiast, was the Center's first endowed fellowship. We are pleased to announce that this endowment has increased.

On the national level, the Center has received two new foundation grants. The General Service Foundation gave three conservation internship scholarships and one conservation fellowship which will provide support for a Latin American student. The Center received $15,000 from the Compton Foundation to support the studies of Latin American students interested in tropical biology, conservation, and sustainable development.

The Center received commitments from the Missouri Department of Conservation and Mallinckrodt Chemical, Inc. to support World Ecology Day on a continuing basis. These commitments significantly facilitate the planning of this event and we look forward to hosting more fine quality days.

Drs. Stephen Mulkey, Victoria Sork, Carol Kelly, Bette Loiselle, and Robert Marquis, with the help of Dr. Lois Brako (Office of Research), received a $141,500 award from the National Science Foundation to purchase plant ecology research equipment for the Anheuser-Busch Conservation Ecology Complex.


The doctoral program in Biology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis accepted 11 new students for the 1995-96 academic year in the areas of ecology, evolution, systematics and conservation biology. The countries these students represent include Colombia, Ecuador, Iceland, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Peru, USA and Venezuela, and include three students with Fulbright scholarships and one with a government scholarship. The Master's program in biology enrolled 27 new full-time and part-time students bringing the total enrollment to 55 students. Countries represented include Costa Rica, Greece, Canada, Guatemala and Guyana. All of these students benefit from the academic stimulus provided by the International Center for Tropical Ecology, including visiting speakers and tropical research fellowships

During the 1994/95 and the first part of 1995/96 academic years, eight thesis master's and two doctorate degrees were awarded. Carlos Reynel (Peru) received his doctorate for his work on the systematics of Neotropical Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) and Guanghua Zhu completed his work on a revision of the genus Dracontium (Araceae).

The Certificate Program in Tropical Biology and Conservation accepted nine students representing a diverse array of countries including Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia. Five students have received Certificates since the establishment of the program in 1995.


The day was co-sponsored by the Center for International Studies and Mallinckrodt Chemical, Inc. The speakers came from a wide variety of community groups and delivered stimulating talks representing different points of view on these issues.
Environmental and conservation displays focusing on recycling, ecology, conservation and the environment were presented by sixteen environmental groups.

To encourage participation of schools in the program an award of $100 was given to the school that had the most innovative presentation. The recipient of this year's award was the McKelvey Elementary School's-Gifted Program.


Armand Randrianasolo (Madagascar) received a Rockefeller Foundation African Dissertation Internship Award. Luis-Miguel Renjifo (Colombia) received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, and research awards from the Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Conservation Society. Eric Wold (USA) received a scholarship from the Federated Garden Club of America. John Lill (USA) received a research grant from the Webster Groves Nature Society and a Sigma Xi research grant. Cris Hochwender (USA) was awarded a grant from the Litzinger Ecology Center. Diego Perez-Salicrup (Mexico) received funding for his dissertation research from BOLFOR, an environmental organization in Bolivia.


The day was co-sponsored by the Center for International Studies and Mallinckrodt Chemical, Inc. The speakers came from a wide variety of community groups and delivered stimulating talks representing different points of view on these issues.
Environmental and conservation displays focusing on recycling, ecology, conservation and the environment were presented by sixteen environmental groups.

To encourage participation of schools in the program an award of $100 was given to the school that had the most innovative presentation. The recipient of this year's award was the McKelvey Elementary School's-Gifted Program.


The Parker-Gentry Tropical Research Fellowship Program was established in 1995 to honor the memories of Ted Parker and Al Gentry, two of the world's most outstanding field biologists who died in a tragic accident in August 1993. Gilbert Barrantes, from Costa Rica, was named the 1996 Parker-Gentry Fellow for his project "Determining Processes that Explain Food Resource Use by Birds in Highly Seasonal Environments." Grace Servat, from Peru, received a Parker Gentry Research Award for her project titled "Patterns and Underlying Causes of Foraging Specialization in Bird Assemblages of Polylepis (Rosaceae) Forests." Luis-Miguel Renjifo was the 1995 Parker-Gentry Fellow.


The Center hosted three well known scholars to give seminars at the Department of Biology, as well as for the community speaker series, using funds from the Harry and Flora D. Freund Foundation Visiting Scholar Series. Students and faculty interacted with these scholars individually and in small groups. This opportunity to interact with and participate in seminars of visiting scholars provides valuable intellectual excitement to our program.

Dr. Carlos Martinez del Rio (University of Wyoming - Laramie), whose studies focus in physiology and morphology of digestive systems of birds and bats as a means to interpret plant-animal interactions, gave two seminars titled: "From isotopes to metapopulations: the evolutionary biology of a desert mistletoe" and "Bird digestion and the evolution of nectar and fruit pulp composition."

Dr. Ernesto Medina (Instituto Venezolanode Investigaciones Cientificas) whose work focusses on tropical environmental physiology gave two seminars titled: "Challenges and opportunities in mangrove research" and "Biochemistry, ecophysiology and evolution of Bromeliaceae."

Dr. Norman Myers (Consultant for Environment and Development) a world renowned scholar in conservation biology and public policy, delivered a stimulating evening lecture titled: "Population, Environment and Development: The Great Challenges of our Age." He is well known for many books including The Sinking Ark, and The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and our Future.


Alumni from the University of Missouri are continuing studies in tropical ecology or have conservation oriented jobs. Carlos Reynel (Ph.D., 1995) returned to Peru and is working as a professor in the National Agrarian University in La Molina developing new courses in conservation ecology. Monica Romo (Peru, MS, 1993) is working as the Peru Coordinator for Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP). Gabriel Picon (Venezuela, MS, 1995) is working as a botany consultant witha hydroelectric company in Venezuela (EDELCA). Ricardo Rueda (PhD, 1993) is an Assistant Professor of Botany at the University of Nicaragua in Leon. Evan Notnam (USA, MS, 1994) is attending Miami University, Oxford Ohio and will conduct his doctorate research in Peru. Marie Ann de la Fuente (USA, MS, 1995) is pursuing a doctorate degree at the Colorado State University.


Following are several short reports on graduate student research. These projects were conducted using money awarded to students from one of the Center's research fellowships. The projects highlighted below represent only some of the exciting projects being carried out by graduate students at the University of Missouri.

Teri Bergquist is a USA doctoral student interested in the impacts of gold-mining on Neotropical fish communities. She and her advisor, Dr. Godfrey Bourne, were invited by the government of Guyana to conduct a study on the affects of gold mining on fish communities in order to provide information vital to the conservation and management of small stream fish diversity. Many Neotropical streams are being polluted and dramatically changed as a result of gold-mining; however, some companies are attempting to employ environmentally safe gold-mining methods. Bergquist's investigations were conducted in an area where one such company is working. The M.H. Correia Holdings Limited attempts to use environmentally friendly mining practices where they use a closed mercury recovery system and attempt to minimize turbidity levels generated by the dredges. She sampled various streams in the upper regions of the Mazaruni River, an area currently being mined by M.H. Correia Holdings Limited, and tributaries of the Berbice River, which are not impacted by mining activities. She will compare mercury levels from the Mazaruni River (gold mining) with samples from the Berbice River (no gold mining) to evaluate the impact of mercury contamination due to gold mining. During her work Bergquist sampled approximately 860 fishes belonging to about 45 species. Voucher specimens of these species will be deposited at four museums after the study is completed. Initial assessment of the Correia's mining operations indicates that their mining operations do not have a detrimental impacts on fish communities. These results are exciting because they indicate that it is possible to conserve the biodiversity of fish communities while meeting the legitimate needs of impoverished peoples that mine the rivers. Thus, this study is relevant for the formulation of management programs for other exploited river systems in Amazonia.

Nidia L. Cuello , a master's student from Venezuela, was drawn to the program at the University of Missouri because of its link to the Missouri Botanical Garden. She is interested in documenting the exceptional floristic diversity of plants in her country. Cuello is conducting research in the montane cloud forests of Cruz Carrillo National Park in the Venezuelan Andes located at the northern end of the Guaramacal mountains which were fractured and isolated from a more extensive Andean mountain chain since the Eocene. This isolation has given the mountains unique character, with endemic plants and great biological diversity. Tropical montane cloud forests and paramo (open shrubby vegetation) are the predominant vegetation types in the region. Cuello's project is examining the floristic diversity and the forest structure of the Guaramacal mountains to provide qualitative and quantitative comparative data of the species composition in relation to elevational and rainfall gradients between both northern (drier) and southern (wetter) slopes. The results of this research will provide a contribution for the study of the flora of the area, which is currently being developed by the Smithsonian Institution and a Venezuelan University, Guanare, Portuguesa. A basis of quantitative floristic information is needed for this area, and is very important for park management. Further, this study will help elucidate patterns of family, genus, and species richness, abundance, dominance and distribution. Thus, this study will provide a better understanding of the pattern of floristic diversity of the Venezuelan Andean forest, as well as an information base for comparisons with other Andean forests in South America.

Carolina Valdespino , a doctoral student from Mexico, is studying the habitat use patterns of the endangered volcano rabbit (Romerolagus diazi). This species has a restricted distribution in the mountains close to the largest city in the world, Mexico City. Ultimately she hopes to develop a management plan that will ensure that this species is saved from extinction.

Carolina has been studying the size of rabbit populations in two different habitat types: pine-grass forests and grassland. She chose sites located in two of the core areas of the distribution of the volcano rabbit. Valdespino has shown that the intensity of habitat use differed among the sites and was higher in the grass land areas. Having obtained a good understanding of the habitat requirements of this species, Carolina now plans to determine the genetic variability of the species. Genetic variability is important because it measures the ability of a species to adapt to changing conditions and this information is essential for conservation programs, both in the wild and in captivity. She is working with researchers from the St. Louis Zoo (the Center has a partnership with the Zoo) to determine the best method for catching the rabbits so she can obtain samples that can be used for genetic analysis.


Only known from two locations in the Andes of Colombia, this highly endangered bird of montane forests was rediscovered by Luis Miguel Renjifo, while conducting his dissertation research in Ucumari Regional Park. This long-legged bird, a member of the Formicariidae or antbird family, inhabits the forest floor. The Moustached Antpitta was last seen over twenty years ago, with only a few records of its occurrence since its discovery at the turn of the century (1911), despite many recent ornithological surveys. Renjifo encountered an active nest and was able to monitor the nest and obtain photographs and sound recordings of the adults.

This is a very significant rediscovery for Neotropical ornithology and for bird conservation efforts in the region.

Renjifo, a doctoral student from Colombia, is interested in protecting the rich avifauna of his country. He is working in premontane tropical forest in the Colombian Andes which has a diverse assemblage of bird species. Renjifo's study will provide patterns and baseline information on the effects of fragmentation for birds, and will offer insights for the conservation of tropical Andean avifaunas (see May 1995 issue for complete discussion of his project).


The fifth Neotropical Congress was held in Asuncion Paraguay, from August 5-11, 1995. The congress focussed on behavior, evolution, conservation and ecology of Neotropical birds and attracted leaders in the field from many different countries.

Three students from the Biology Department presented papers at this conference. Mercedes Roug�s, who was the 1995 recipient of the Stephen Dolye Fellowship for travel to the meeting presented a talk entitled "Seasonal and Altitutinal Variation in Bird Communities in Montane Forests in Northwestern Argentina." Pepe Tello presented his master's research titled "Lekking Behavior of the Round Tailed Manakin, Pipra chloromeros." Luis-Miguel Renjifo presented a paper (written in collaboration with Grace Servat, Jaqueline Goerck, Bette Loiselle and John Blake, all from the University of Missouri) titled "Composition Patterns of the avifauna of the Northeastern Neotropics: Importance of the Mountain Regions for the Conservation of Birds."

Pepe Tello, Mercedes Rouges, and Luis-Miguel Renjifo also received a travel award from the congress for transport to the meetings.