The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History (CBC-AMNH) collected extensive data on species diversity, distribution and habitat use during joint multi-taxa biodiversity surveys in Vietnam. In order to analyze these large collections (particularly the invertebrates) and integrate survey results into larger scale biodiversity and conservation questions, the CBC-AMNH relied on two laboratories:
- The Invertebrate Preparation Laboratory was established to facilitate sorting, preparation, identification of the over 100,000 specimens collected in Vietnam.
- The Geographic Information System (GIS) Laboratory assisted with research site selection, survey preparation and data analysis.
For further information on the CBC-AMNH's Vietnam research and conservation laboratory work, please visit the individual laboratory pages.
Invertebrate Research Laboratory
The collection and study of invertebrates and their use as indicator organisms for research and conservation is constrained by a number of factors, including the volume of specimens obtained by standard sampling methods and the species diversity this is understood to reflect. Additionally, the work of effectively sorting, preparing and identifying extensive invertebrate field collections can only occur in the laboratory. This laboratory stage is critical for the complete taxonomic analysis of focal invertebrate taxa and for a general analysis of all collection contents, including within and between sample diversity.
The CBC created the Invertebrate Lab to address these constraints. Active since the fall of 1998, the lab's curatorial assistants and preparators have processed thousands of specimens and prepared significant collections for further study and repatriation to Vietnam. The principal goal of the laboratory is to develop statistical measures of biodiversity and species richness for the focal taxa and to provide a basis for additional research on their taxonomy, ecology and biogeography. Laboratory data will also provide a baseline for comparisons of altitudinal transect collections at the three study sites.
The Invertebrate Lab has focused on sorting, preparing and identifying the extensive samples collected in Vietnam. Approximately 100,000 specimens have been processed to date. Focal groups examined in detail to identify new taxa and range extensions and to reveal areas of local endemism include Arachnidae, Braconidae, Drosophilidae, Reduvidae, Staphylinidae, and social Vespidae. Additionally, Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera collected along altitudinal transects are being sorted by date and elevation to identify general distribution patterns.
The Invertebrate Lab has also begun the repatriation of prepared and identified collections of invertebrates to the IEBR in Hanoi. A primary goal of the CBC is to provide research-ready collections to our Vietnamese colleagues and to assist in curation and utilization of an up-to-date invertebrate collection. A large collection of Braconidae has been provided to parasitoid specialist Dr. Khuat Long, and the IEBR has received thousands of prepared and identified Coleoptera from the 1998 surveys in the Truong Son Mountain Range. Additional invertebrate specimens will be repatriated as preparation and identifications are completed.
Remote Sensing & Geographical Information Systems (RS/GIS)
In 1998 the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History (CBC-AMNH) established a Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems (RS/GIS) Laboratory. The goal of the RS/GIS Laboratory's work is to promote the application of advanced technology and remotely-gathered scientific data to questions in biodiversity and conservation. Remote sensing can be used to quantify and record variation in reflected energy from the earth's surface across the electromagnetic spectrum. When combined with more traditional data sets, including biodiversity surveys, museum collections and base maps, remotely-gathered data can assist conservation efforts across a variety of geographic scales.
The RS/GIS Laboratory has worked on a number of CBC-AMNH research and conservation projects in Vietnam, including:
- Using satellite imagery to identify potential research sites in Ngoc Linh (Quang Nam Province) and Mt. Tay Con Linh (Ha Giang Province). The RS/GIS Laboratory also provided high resolution maps and mapping tools for use during the surveys.
- Estimating forest conversion rates between 1989 and 1998 in the Ngoc Linh Mountain Range, Kon Tum and Quang Nam Provinces. Results from this work were incorporated into a collaborative feasibility assessment for establishing a Nature Reserve at Ngoc Linh (Quang Nam) (Tordoff, Tran & Tran, 2000).
- Verification of habitat and forest type at research sites in Quang Nam and Ha Giang Provinces. Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) researchers have mapped locations and directional habitat photographs onto topographical maps and satellite data in the regions. This has allowed verification of interpretations based on the remotely-gathered data ('ground truthing'). Additionally, this visual habitat catalogue can be correlated with the biotic survey results, providing researchers with specific information about species-habitat associations.
- Organizing workshops on the underlying fundamentals and application of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems to biodiversity and conservation research in Vietnam. Workshops were held in northern and southern Vietnam in 1999 and 2001, bringing together a diverse group of Vietnamese scientists, resource managers, technicians and university students.
Literature Cited - Remote Sensing & Geographical Information Systems (RS/GIS)
Tordoff, A.W., Tran Hieu Minh and Tran Quang Ngoc. 2000. "A feasibility study for the establishment of Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam." BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, Hanoi, Vietnam.
For more information on the work of the GIS Laboratory, please visit the Remote Sensing & Geographic Information page.
Scientific Training & Capacity Building
Local scientific knowledge, field and laboratory research capacity, and readily available resources are critical to the conservation of any country's biodiversity. The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History (CBC-AMNH) has made scientific training and capacity building an important component of its conservation research in Vietnam. Efforts by scientists from the CBC-AMNH and their collaborators include training in biodiversity survey techniques, collections management, and invertebrate specimen processing.
In 1998 staff from the CBC-AMNH and the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) participated in a two day training seminar on survey techniques for guards, foresters and supervisory staff at the Vu Quang Nature Reserve, Ha Tinh Province. Nguyen Quang Truong from IEBR addressed frog species diversity, microhabitat partitioning, vocalizations, behavioral characteristics, and inventory methods. Dr. Guy Musser from AMNH discussed regional small mammal biodiversity and illustrated appropriate surveying techniques to measure it. These presentations were designed to facilitate species and habitat identification, illustrate hidden biodiversity, and emphasize the importance of lesser-known taxa in understanding and conserving forest ecosystem biodiversity. Additionally, CBC-AMNH and IEBR researchers collaborated on joint presentations to Province officials, reporting preliminary survey findings and learning about local concerns and priorities for education, biodiversity, conservation and research.
The maintenance of well-organized, accessible, research-ready collections is necessary for both Vietnamese and visiting foreign researchers to conduct specimen-based research in taxonomy, ecology and biogeography. Museum researchers have collaborated with both the IEBR and the Vietnam National University (VNNU) on curating, maintaining, and improving their specimen collections, aspects of which are irreplaceable. This work included assessing current storage status and needs and training staff in identification, labeling and management of biological collections. In addition, the CBC-AMNH has contributed necessary collections materials, including microscopes, identification books, cabinets, air conditioners and computers, to the IEBR Zoological collections.
As part of the training component of the CBC-AMNH's National Science Foundation grant for research in Vietnam, the Invertebrate Laboratory hosted Dr. Khuat Dang Long from IEBR for two months in 1999. Dr. Long is a senior scientist at IEBR and has served as IEBR Coordinator for the joint CBC-AMNH/IEBR field studies. During his stay Dr. Long learned laboratory preparation techniques, advanced curatorial practices and collections management, and utilized the AMNH's microphotography and on-line research resources. He also helped repatriate prepared and identified Braconidae (Hymenoptera) and Coleoptera specimens collected by the joint field surveys. This training enabled Dr. Long to return to Vietnam with a solid grounding in invertebrate laboratory organization, methods and techniques.
Dr. Long is using these experiences to develop a similar entomology laboratory at the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources in Hanoi. The activities of this facility will include an active research program and improved standards of invertebrate processing, curatorial practice and collections management. The CBC is contributing directly to the laboratory's development and in infrastructure. In spring 2001, the CBC provided funds to purchase a computer, printer and CD writer, an air conditioner and adequate ventilation system, metal specimen storage cabinets, and tables, shelves and additional office equipment. We have also donated a large number of up-to date books and an extensive collection of reprint materials on invertebrate systematics and taxonomy.
Education & Community Involvement
A primary focus of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History (CBC-AMNH) is increasing public awareness and knowledge of biodiversity through education and local community involvement. CBC staff collaborated with Vietnamese environmental educators, National Park staff and other community members to advance these goals through the Vietnam conservation and research project.
CBC staff and their Vietnamese counterparts have worked together on a variety of efforts to increase community-level involvement in conservation:
In 1998, CBC Director Dr. Eleanor J. Sterling and CBC Outreach Program Manager Meg Domroese visited Bach Ma National Park in central Vietnam to discuss interpretive exhibits with the park staff. Domroese participated in a workshop at Cuc Phuong National Park (northern Vietnam) with environmental educators which focused on developing educational programs to raise conservation awareness.
Interpreting Biodiversity: A Manual for Environmental Educators in the Tropics (Domroese & Sterling, 1999) has been translated into Vietnamese and is currently available through the Centre for Environment, Tourism and Development in Hanoi (email@example.com). Developed at the CBC, the manual outlines key steps in designing an interpretation program, including principles of exhibit design, interpretive presentations, community outreach activities, and evaluation methods. A supplement to this manual is planned to address biodiversity concepts specific to Vietnam.
In March 2003 a photographic exhibition entitled "Discovering Vietnam's Biodiversity" opened at the American Museum of Natural History. It presents a dynamic vision of Vietnam's species' richness and its underlying causes, current explorations, new species discoveries and research, and threats to biodiversity and conservation efforts. This exhibition will travel the United States and ultimately visit Vietnam. An educators exchange will link educational efforts at the AMNH with those in Vietnam and explore ways of conveying messages about biodiversity conservation and using science in outreach, with a specific emphasis on exhibition development.
Interest in environmental education and conservation awareness has been increasing in Vietnam. The recently established Conservation Education Network (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Vietnam connects educators and organizations and promotes environmental education and awareness, particularly in communities near National Parks and other protected areas. The non-governmental organization, Education for Nature-Vietnam or ENV(email@example.com), focuses on training community-based environmental educators and raising awareness of key conservation issues through education programs and resource development.
In early 2002, the CBC initiated a long-term project to produce curriculum materials for teaching conservation biology in developing countries. A major obstacle to preserving global biodiversity is the lack of training opportunities for conservation scientists and educators in those tropical countries where most biodiversity is found. The Integrated Conservation Biology Curriculum will provide a set of training modules and teaching resources on approximately 100 key topics in conservation biology. These are designed for three ability levels (undergraduate, graduate and professional) and will be developed to work within existing university programs in tropical countries. The materials emphasize inquiry-based learning methods and will be modified for the local language and culture of each country.
Vietnam is one of several countries agreeing to participate in piloting the Integrated Conservation Biology Curriculum. In early May 2002 the CBC, along with the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, Vietnam National University and the Faculty of Biology, Hanoi University of Sciences, held a training workshop in Hanoi, entitled "Techniques for Teaching Biodiversity Conservation: An Introduction." The purpose of this workshop was to introduce instructors who will be training teachers to the resources and inquiry-based learning exercises and to initiate the development of new modules.
Literature Cited - Education & Community Involvement
Domroese, M., and E.J. Sterling. 1999. "Interpreting Biodiversity: A Manual for Environmental Educators in the Tropics." Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
For more information on the Center's curriculum development activities, please visit the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners page.
For more information on the Center's education and community involvement overseas, please visit Partnerships for Community Involvement in Conservation.
For more information on the Center's publications and other media products, please visit CBC Publications.