African researchers take part in a fish taxonomy training course
22 May is the International Day for Biological Diversity. The theme for 2013 is “water and biodiversity”. The study and management of African biodiversity form one of the main objectives of the research at the Royal Museum for Central Africa. The RMCA’s Ichthyology unit is known worldwide for its expertise on the biodiversity and evolution of the African fresh- and brackish water fishes.
The students and the museum's FishBase team.
FishBase is the largest encyclopaedia and the most important scientific online tool containing information on all fishes of the world. In this project, managed by an international consortium of scientific institutions, the RMCA’s Ichthyology unit is responsible for all data concerning African fresh- and brackish water fishes, with the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD).
Since 2005, the “FishBase team” of the RMCA organises each year a three month training course for five African scientists. This course is alternately given in French and English, and consists of three major elements:
- A detailed description on how to use FishBase and all its tools as an online fish encyclopaedia;
- A theoretical training on the taxonomy of African fishes;
- A case study in which the trainees can put what they have learnt into practice.
Between 4 February and 26 April 2013, five English-speaking scientists attended this year’s training course. What follows are the impressions of this year’s trainees.
Winnie Nkalubo Nalukenge (Uganda): “I am a researcher at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute where we mainly carry out research in the domain of fisheries – you should be aware that 18 to 20 % of my country is covered in water. In spite of this, fish taxonomy is not very developed within our institute, even if knowing which species a fish belongs to represents the very basics. So in this respect this course is very important to me and my institute”.
Mulugeta Wakjira (Ethiopia): “I have known about this training course for quite some time. I saw a poster advertising it at Jimma University, where I lecture on fisheries. This course is particularly interesting to me because I am currently working on a PhD thesis on the systematics of fish. This course is one of the major courses I follow as part of my thesis. The lab work proved to be very useful as well”.
Kevin Odhiambo Obiero (Kenya): “I am a researcher at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute where I study Lake Turkana, the biggest lake in Kenya and one of the least studied. A dam construction on the main affluent of the lake, projected oil exploitation and climatic changes all represent risks to the lake and its inhabitants. We would like to study the impact of these events on the fish that live in this unique lake. Within this context, the FishBase training course is crucial because it will enable us to better identify the fishes present in the lake, which represents the basis of our work. The training course will be of help when writing my PhD thesis”.
Hieromim Amon Lamtane (Tanzania): “I lecture on ichthyology and fisheries at the Sokoine University of Agriculture. The FishBase training course will enable me to refine my knowledge of fish taxonomy and to transfer this knowledge to my students. Moreover, I am carrying out research on the ecology of fish, aquaculture and climate change. Taxonomy constitutes the very basis in these domains, because you need to be able to identify the fish before you can study their ecology or biology”.
Elizabeth Odhiambo (Kenya): “I am a researcher in the ichthyology department of the National Museums of Kenya, where we have a large collection of fishes. I document Kenyan freshwater fish and make general inventories of the ichthyological fauna. I also manage the fish collections and databases. I participated in the course in order to improve my basic knowledge in these domains and in fish taxonomy in particular”.
The participants received their certificate on 26 April 2013 from the hands of Guido Gryseels, General Director of the RMCA.