By Andrew Engilis
On October 5th, two scientists from the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology joined a multi-national team of researchers to conduct biodiversity surveys on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
The expedition is coordinated by Allen Allison, senior zoologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Allison obtained his B.S and Ph.D. from UC Davis and has organized and led numerous research expeditions over the past 40 years in Papua New Guinea.
This expedition is the first of several funded by the United Nations Developmental Program and PNG Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority. The goal of these expeditions is to fill gaps in understanding the incredibly rich biodiversity of the island of New Guinea, which is home to the world’s third largest rainforest region after the Amazon and the Congo.
The expedition is to the remote and rugged Baining Mountains in eastern New Britain, a part of our planet that has never before been biologically explored. Located just 4 degrees south of the Equator, the Baining Mountains region is comprised of intact primary rainforest and the peaks are known to receive up to 6 meters (nearly 20 feet) of rainfall annually.
The team consists of botanists, entomologists and vertebrate zoologists whose goal is to collect specimens and document biodiversity. Their base camp will be at 3,500 feet elevation, but will include surveys of higher elevations up to 6,500 feet, assisted by helicopter support.
The UC Davis team is comprised of Irene Engilis, collections manager for the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, and Museum Scientist John Trochet, and will be in the field from October 10th through November 25th. Both Engilis and Trochet have conducted surveys of this kind throughout the western U.S., Chile, and Indonesia. Their role is to serve as the expedition’s lead scientists working with mammals and birds. They will be joined in November by researcher Alan Hitch who in 2009-2013, was a biologist with the MWFB and coordinated vertebrate inventories for the NIH funded ICBG Indonesia Project on Sulawesi. Hitch will assist with both bird and mammal work but will emphasize the collection of bats. Accompanying the team will be experts in the fields of herpetology, botany (specifically orchids), and aquatic insects.
This is the first of a series of expeditions; the next is being planned for 2017 to Western New Britain.
Andrew Engilis is Curator of the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.