Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Off to China

I'm sitting in the airport in Chicago waiting to catch a flight to Hong Kong. With generous funding from the Helen B Vogel Trust and the Mary Jane Helms Charitable Trust to Cincinnati Museum Center I'm able to join long-time collaborator Bailey McKay of the University of Minnesota in the field in Southwest China. Together with partners in Taiwan and Mainland China we are hoping to learn about the history of the bird communities of Taiwan. By comparing the birds of Taiwan with their closest cousins in Mainland China using the latest molecular genetic tools we can date the time from which the endemic species on the island of Taiwan split from their sister species in Mainland China. We can match these data to key geologic events in the formation of the island to tell us about the history of the terrestrial ecosystems on the Taiwan.

Bailey is already in China with funding from the National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute and has collected many samples from birds in Yunnan Province and I hope to join him to collect more samples, process some samples in the lab and build relationships with our Chinese colleagues. Fa-Sheng Zou of the South China Institute for Endangered Animals in Guangzhou is our key collaborator in Mainland China and an excellent host and intellectual partner in this project. Fa-Sheng's students are also proving to be fantastic collaborators as well.

The photo above is of the White-browed Robin (Luscinia indica) in Taiwan. This is just one of the many species of montane birds in Taiwan whose closest relatives are distributed around Southwestern China. Genetic data gathered from Taiwanese species and their sister species in Taiwan will likely elevate populations of birds on Taiwan to species status and tell us much about the evolutionary history of the terrestrial animals on the island of Taiwan.


1 comment:

donaldthebirder said...

Awesome stuff!