Latest Class of Half-Earth Fellows Study Entomology and Taxonomy

Arcenia filling out a log.

Now more than ever, a new generation of taxonomists are needed to explore, identify, and study Earth’s vast biodiversity as human action threatens the possible extinction of over 1 million species in just the next few decades. The late E.O. Wilson’s last lecture was a call to action to support this important task and area of scientific study. 

“The most effective point of entry for the study of any ecosystem is the species that compose it. The species are what count…we need many more experts devoted to the classification and natural history of individual groups of organisms,” remarked Professor Wilson on Half-Earth Day 2021 in “Ecosystems and the Harmony of Nature.”

The Half-Earth Fellowships in Taxonomy and Biodiversity Exploration graduated its second class in late 2022. From over 50 applicants, two scholars were selected by Dr. Piotr Naskrecki, Scientific Chair of the Half-Earth Project and Associate Director of the E.O. Wilson Lab in Gorongosa National Park to participate in a taxonomy research intensive.

Arcenia and Raul's Graduation

L to R: Ara Monadjem, Arcenia Chivale, Piotr Naskrecki, Josphine Mundava, Raul Chomela at Gorongosa National Park.

The latest Half-Earth Fellowships in Taxonomy and Biodiversity Exploration in Gorongosa were awarded to Arcenia da Piedade Chivale, an ichthyologist at the School of Marine and Coastal Sciences of Eduardo Mondlane University, and Raul Santacruz Chomela, an ornithologist from the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Lúrio University. After training in entomology last Fall with Dr. Naskrecki, they were joined by Dr. Albert Chakona, a South African ichthyologist, who provided advanced training in fish taxonomy, Dr. Mark-Oliver Roedel training on aquatic amphibians, Dr. Ara Monadjem, a mammalogist who taught the scholars small mammal taxonomy, and Dr. Josphine Mundava, an ornithologist who led training in bird identification. The fellows completed the multi-week program in December.

“I really hope that we continue the Fellowship in the coming years as the demand is great and it allows us to find remarkable young taxonomists in Mozambique,” shared Dr. Naskrecki.

Raul Chomela studying an insect.

Raul Chomela studies an insect.

In other news, after graduating with M.Sc. in conservation biology, inaugural Half-Earth Fellow Ana Gledis da Conceição, accepted the position of biodiversity offset officer at the Mozambican governmental body responsible for all protected areas in the country, ANAC. 

Piotr commented, “It is a great opportunity for her to use her knowledge of biodiversity mapping to identify priority areas for conservation.”

Ana continues to pursue her passion for bat biology and taxonomy and is working with Dr. Naskreki on a paper that examines the correlation between the inner ear morphology and the bats’ hunting behavior. Ana has just returned from a biodiversity survey of Mount Mabu in central Mozambique (organized by the Kew Gardens in the UK), where she collected one of the rarest bats in southern Africa, Myotis Welwitschi.

Learn more about other Half-Earth Project Fellows in Research and Taxonomy.

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