MSc student at work: Esther from Makerere University studying moths (left), Duncan from University of Nairobi setting experimental plots at the slopes of Ngangao Forest in Taita Hills (middle), and Shaban from University of Dar es Salaam spreading moths (right).

Training New Talent for Pollinator Biology in East Africa

The JRS funded project Assessment of Lepidoptera Pollinator Species Diversity in East Africa, led by Dr. Esther Kioko, is injecting new life into biodiversity thinking by supporting three graduate students studying pollinator biology at the National Museums of Kenya, Makerere University and the National Museum of Tanzania. An initial survey by the project indicated that biodiversity data end-users prefer to receive data via online reports and electronic databases. However, the specific data desired by end-users varied, and included topics such as land use change impacts on pollinators, crop production in relation to pollinators, and pollinator conservation strategies. To scientifically address these needs, the three young scholars will begin graduate research projects on the topics below.

  1. In Kenya, a master’s student from the University of Nairobi will assess the diversity, abundance and role of hawkmoths in yield quality and quantity of the economically important spider plant (Cleome gynandra L.).
  2. In Uganda, the Zoology Museum at Makerere University will support a master’s project researching taxonomic and functional diversity of Lepidoptera pollinators in agricultural landscapes surrounding Mabira forest.
  3. In Tanzania, a master’s student registered at the University of Dar es Salaam will work with museum staff on an assessment of biodiversity of pollinating butterflies and moths in forests of East Usambara Mountains and surrounding agricultural land.

Furthermore a course on pollination biology, the first of its kind in Uganda, has been developed at Makerere University. This course will provide a valuable educational resource for the three current MSc students, in addition to future entomology graduates, and contribute to increasing awareness of pollinator issues in East Africa. The education of these young scientists will increase regional capacity in biodiversity informatics and help ensure that East Africa has a talented supply of young professionals dedicated to pollinator preservation and conservation in the future.

The Assessment of Lepidoptera Pollinator Species Diversity in East Africa is part of a growing number of grants within the JRS Pollinator Biodiversity Program grantmaking initiative. The primary goal for the Pollinator Biodiversity Program is to increase the accessibility and quality of pollinator biodiversity data through a long-term investment in collecting baseline data, developing technologies and methods to do so, and creating data sharing platforms relevant at regional and local levels.