Speaker Series – Dr. Kurt Galbreath – Building infrastructure for biodiversity research in Mongolia
August 30, 2016 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Mongolia has a complex landscape that is home to a rich assemblage of plants and animals. This biological diversity represents a unique legacy that sets Mongolia apart from neighboring regions. Though the Mongolian biota remains relatively intact, large-scale forces such as climate change and expanding economic development have potential to negatively impact species. Unfortunately, very little is known about current patterns of distribution and abundance of even the most common and widespread species. Without such a baseline of fundamental information it will be impossible to evaluate the consequences of environmental change in coming years.
Working with colleagues at the National University of Mongolia, we are working to document patterns of biodiversity across Mongolia, with a specific focus on small mammals and their associated parasites (e.g., fleas, ticks, tapeworms, and roundworms). These organisms are diverse, abundant, and excellent indicators of ecosystem health and population structure. Field work during 2015 and 2016 has resulted in collections of more than 2300 mammal specimens and many thousands of parasites from dozens of localities across northern Mongolia. These specimens represent a rich resource for research that is filling large gaps in our understanding of species distributions and host-parasite interactions. All collected specimens are archived in museum collections to provide a resource for future investigations into the evolution and ecology of Mongolian biodiversity. Data for these specimens, including date and locality of collection, are freely available to researchers and the public via the internet, and the specimens themselves provide opportunities for scientists to investigate species responses to climate change, host-parasite co-evolution, emerging infectious diseases, and other topics.
In addition to this specimen-based infrastructure for biodiversity research, we work directly with Mongolian scientists and students to share knowledge and research methods, and to encourage and facilitate investigations on Mongolian biodiversity by Mongolian researchers. In this way we hope to contribute to the human infrastructure for biodiversity research within Mongolia, which will be critical to develop as Mongolia works to respond to the impacts of large-scale ecological perturbations that are expected in coming decades.
About the Speaker: Dr. Kurt Galbreath
Kurt Galbreath is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. His research focuses on the diversity, evolution, and historical biogeography of small mammals and their associated parasites, including tapeworms and roundworms. He is especially interested in relationships between the mammal and parasite faunas of Asia and North America, and the past climatological and geological events that influenced them.
Co-Sponsored by the American Cultural and Information Center, Ulaanbaatar