New ant species- in 3D!

GoTants

We have two new papers out in PLoS ONE today describing some new species and highlighting the potential of micro-CT for ant taxonomy.

The first paper, headed by Eli and co-authored by Georg, revises one crazy spinescent Pheidole group from New Guinea, and notes interesting findings on the musculature under the spines.

We named these species Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion after the dragons from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice.

The second paper, led by Georg, revises the Pheidole knowlesi group from Fiji including complete micro-CT galleries of all castes of six species from the group. This knowlesi group is not as morphologically spectacular as cervicornis, but is of great interest to us as it pertains to our work on the taxon cycle hypothesis.

We hope these show a glimpse of what cool things can be done with micro-CT for organismal biology, biodiversity studies, and taxonomy.
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OKEON Churamori meets Yanbaru Discovery Forest

On the first day of my internship I was invited to attend a meeting between OKEON project leaders Yoshi and Masako and representatives of the Yanbaru Discovery Forest (YDF). The Yanbaru forested area in Northern Okinawa is known for its natural beauty and endemic species. If you ask local Okinawans about wildlife and the environment, Yanbaru forest is usually mentioned before too long, perhaps due to the strong association with species such as the Yanbaru Kuina bird (やんばるクイナ)or how it is historically uninhabited tropical rainforest.

 

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Photo courtesy of: tata_aka_T

The meeting took place in order to re-establish the link between the OKEON project and YDF. Within local organisations anywhere around the world, without prior introductions, it is not easy to establish connections straight away. This is especially the case in Okinawa. It takes time, with trust and understanding needed in order to gain access to key stakeholders within an organisation. Not only is it important to meet face-to-face with the relevant people, but that relationship has to then be maintained and built upon to be truly successful.
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Collaboration and communication is key to the success of OKEON. The overall aim of the project is to gain a deeper scientific understanding of the biodiversity and natural environment of Okinawa. However, the key to the project is not science alone, but a diverse network within the local community and other organisations which support and acknowledge the project, and eventually collaborate as well. The longevity of the project depends on this network, and the longer OKEON runs for, the more useful it will be overall in terms of monitoring the terrestrial environment of Okinawa.

 

The YDF in particular is an important organisation for OKEON to establish a relationship with. It is specifically known as an area of valuable nature, and is a conservation hotspot currently being prepared for nomination as a World Heritage site. It is therefore bound to be a place which attracts people who like nature. Visitors to Yanbaru will see information on OKEON and OIST, and perhaps become interested in OKEON, further building the network. Collaboration is a good opportunity for information about OKEON to spread, and to become well-known in the community. YDF can also benefit, as co-operation could lead to new environmental education programs in the future using data from OKEON.

 

As the meeting progressed, what seemed initially to be a meeting where Yoshi and Masako were trying to win over the YDF with the importance of OKEON, there was a gradual shift towards mutual understanding, and by the end of the meeting, a much firmer bond was established. The head of the YDF even asked Yoshi for advice about an ant infestation in one of the rooms, which Yoshi happily went to investigate with his pocket microscope. Not only had the link between the organisations been established, there was talk of future collaboration regarding conservation projects and mounting an explanation of the OKEON project along the trail of the YDF.

OKEON Chura-mori Project Exhibition is coming to the Okinawan Prefectural Museum & Art Museum

This summer at the Okinawan Prefectural Museum, OKEON (Okinawa Environmental Observation Network) Chura-mori Project will be hosting a stall to showcase their activity. OKEON is a network which monitors the terrestrial environment of Okinawa, involving researchers at OIST, the local community, and collaborators at universities, museums and schools. The exhibition will allow people to gain an interactive understanding of the work that OKEON does. Visitors will be able to watch a video explaining what the project is, see a real-life example of a SLAM trap used to collect insects, and practice their fieldwork skills in a label writing workshop and insect sorting game.
Preparation for the exhibition has been underway for the past couple of months. Everyone involved has been working hard to ensure that the exhibition visitors not only have an educational experience and learn something new about how biology and conservation fieldwork is carried out, but also have a fun and interactive time.
On July 11th, the OKEON team went to the museum to set up the exhibition booth. We faced a number of challenges setting up the exhibition. One of these was that despite having seen the available space previously, having made the materials in reality there was concern that it would not all fit into the space. The equipment available to showcase the materials were also not exactly as imagined. This meant that improvisation and flexibility was necessary, both talents which the OKEON team have in abundance. Working with motivated people from a diversity of backgrounds made for a strong team, and by the time we left, everything looked good to go.
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The curator, Mr. Yamazaki, was helpful and provided guidance wherever he could. For example, when we found that the lighting was too dim to see some of the posters, he offered to provide additional lighting to ensure that everything would be visible on the day. However, it was still necessary to reprint some of the materials.
While sometimes, the tiny alterations and attention to detail seemed unnecessary, this exhibition is incredibly important to the OKEON project, as well as OIST. Unlike other media publications such as a documentary, or a newspaper article, this exhibition will be displayed for a month and a half, and therefore has a greater longevity as well as the potential to reach many more people in surrounding communities. For this reason it was imperative to aim for perfection, in the hopes that more people will take an interest in learning more about not just OKEON and the importance of environmental education, but also OIST and the research it produces, and its’ capability to collaborate successfully not only on a global scale but also on a local scale.
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With so much work having gone into the booth, the exhibition is bound to be a great success. Be sure to stop by and check it out!
Click here to access English page of museum and here for the Japanese page
< Exhibition of scientific experiments on biology at the Okinawan Prefectural Museum & Art Museum 16 July – 28 August > 

OKEON Churamori Project – Rivers and Environment

“OKEON Churamori Project – Okinawa Environmental Observation Network” was introduced on the local news of OTV as a series of their documentary “Rivers and Environment” this Thursday.
This five-minute-long documentary extracts the main objectives of OKEON Churamori Project:
  • Observe the change in enviroment by building database of insects
  • Establish the network of Okinawan communities such as high schools, universities and museums;
  • Provide enviromental education to local children.

Please contact the Media Section (media@oist.jp) to watch the video.

(Announced by the OIST Media Section)

OKEON workshop for high school teachers

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「OKEON美ら森プロジェクト」における高大連携の取り組みとして、沖縄本島内の高校生物の先生方を対象に、ワークショップを開催しました。今回のテーマは、「研究者、先生方、そして生徒、三者が得する高大連携の取り組みを考える」。先生方とそれぞれの目当てや視点を共有することで、みんなにプラスになる取り組みをしたいと考えました。今回は、普天間高校、読谷高校、首里高校から先生方が参加。
当日は先生方と活発な議論が行え、今後の取組への新しいアイデアも出て、有意義なワークショップとなりました。この様子の一部は、6月23日の沖縄テレビ、夕方のニュース特集「河川・環境シリーズ」で放映されました。

We organized a workshop at OIST for Okinwan local high school biology teachers as a networking activity for the OKEON Chura-mori Project. Participants were teachers from Futenma, Yomintan, and Shuri high schools. The theme of the workshop was “How can we create a win-win relationship through University-high school collaboration?” We had a good brainstorming session and shared many ideas. Part of the workshop was broadcasted on local Okinawa news.