Professor Shares Research from Fulbright Experience

Professor Julian Kerbis Peterhans spent last year in Uganda after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, where he trained African students in biodiversity survey techniques. During that time, four new mammal species were discovered, with three of them from a single unexplored ‘montane island forest’ in central Africa.

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A collaborative international effort by Dr. Julian Kerbis Peterhans of the College of Professional Studies at Roosevelt University (Chicago), the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York), the Centre de Recherché des Sciences Naturelles (Lwiro, Dr Congo), and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) has documented multiple unique species in a remote forest overlooking the western shore of Lake Tanganyika in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest, known as the Misotshi-Kabogo Highlands, is located within an African biodiversity hotspot known as the Albertine Rift.

Natural Sciences Professor Accepts Fulbright Scholarship in Eastern Africa

Professor Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans with a bat (Rhinolophus sp.) that was captured in Mozambique on Mt Gorongosa.

Julian Kerbis  Peterhans, Professor in the College of Professional Studies, accepted a Fulbright Scholarship for a full academic year at Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda, eastern Africa) one of the premier sub-Saharan academic institutions. He will be engaged in training African students in biodiversity survey techniques . This project follows on the heels of a 5-year award from the MacArthur Foundation in the mid 1990’s, when Kerbis Peterhans contributed to a program to train over 60 African students  in similar techniques  in Ugandan National  Parks. Uganda lies at the forefront of continental biological diversity as well as environmental awareness, positioning it as a major player in African conservation initiatives. The existing infrastructure at Makerere University gives Kerbis Peterhans a platform to continue these efforts.  In particular, the mid elevation forests of Uganda are both understudied and are severely threatened due to their proximity to people and attempts at commercial development. These forests today are small remnants of a formerly pan-equatorial forest that has since fragmented due to climate change, With support from the Department of Biology and Museum of Zoology at Makerere University, Kerbis Peterhans proposes to train a new cadre of African field biologists. His activities will include the training of students in the field, the survey of threatened forests, and the submittal of a major proposal for the development of a Master’s Program in Conservation Biology at Makerere.

RU Professor Part of International Surveying Team on Gorongosa Mountain

During August 2011, Professor Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans, along with researchers from Loyola University and the Field Museum of Natural History, combined efforts with the University Eduardo Mondlane (in Maputo, Mozambique) and the scientific department of Parque Nacional da Gorongosa to conduct surveys of birds, mammals, and their parasites on Gorongosa Mountain.
Valuable specimens of birds and mammals were collected and surveyed for the diversity of organisms that live on and within them. The parasites found in the fur, feathers, blood, intestines, and other organs of these animals will provide an important measure of the presence of diseases in these wild populations. Many of the diseases that affect humans often are derived from pathogens that infect other species so these data on the natural prevalence of these pathogens will be useful in the future to understand how disease-carrying agents might shift hosts to infect other species.

Professor Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans with a bat (Rhinolophus sp.) that was captured in Mozambique on Mt Gorongosa.

Despite a short time on the mountain, more than sixty species of birds, twenty-seven species of mammals, and thousands of ecto- and endo-parasites were sampled.  Some of the birds observed during this survey were species not known to occur in this region before, therefore expanding the geographic ranges of these species.

Another goal of the expedition was to train local students and technicians in these surveying techniques.  Students from the forestry college in Chimoio and technicians in the scientific department of the Gorongosa Restoration Project learned the methods used to collect and prepare specimens of birds and mammals.

A real treat during the expedition was to have a videographer to document the entire process.  Federico Pardo was on hand to take photos and videos and conduct interviews.  He will be producing these into short videos to appear on the FMNH and PNG websites in both English and Portuguese.

The trip was also worthwhile in building collaborations and fostering future research opportunities across multiple institutions and countries.  Specimens collected on this trip are crucial to study the fauna on Mt. Gorongosa and will be valuable for decades to come.

Professor Conducts First Surveys in Congo basin

In August 2009, RU Professor Julian Kerbis-Peterhans transferred his field efforts from Rwanda to the Congo basin (Upper Lualaba River) where he conducted the first biological surveys in a newly proposed protected area, currently known as TL2 (after the region’s great river systems: Tshuapa, Lualaba and Lomani Rivers).  They found the first specimens of the rare black guinea fowl (Agelastes niger) on the left bank of the Congo River as well as other important new records. These data will serve as a baseline of species now documented from this severely threatened area, an area that has been hammered by bushmeat hunters over the past two decades. These conservation efforts are driven by the determination of Peterhans’ long time colleagues and friends, Drs John and Terese Hart (formerly of the New York Zoological Society Wildlife Conservation Society), who have dedicated 25 years of their lives towards saving the great forests of the Congo basin (and where they have raised 3 kids!).

Post by Julian Kerbis Peterhans