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UK Scientists in East New Britain for Biodiversity Research

Caption from L-R:  Dr Sven Batke,  Dr Lorena Fernandez-Martinez, Emma Dumbill  and Tom Dallimore

By Edwin Fidelis – EMTV News, Kokopo  

Papua New Guinea’s rich natural biodiversity needs more focus and attention in terms of research in order to preserve and protect it.

Four scientists from Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom who are currently at The PNG University of Natural Resources and Environment for their research discovered that there are so many things in the local environment to be studied and identified.

Their visit is purposely to find out what is in the environment so that they have a target research area on their next visit.

The team comprises of Dr Sven Batke, Senior Lecturer in Plant; Dr Lorena Fernandez-Martinez, Senior Lecturer in Micro Biology; Tom Dallimore, a Researcher; and lab technician Emma Dumbill who is assisting the team with samples collected. They visited Mandres yesterday. In total, they have visited six sites in the province since their arrival a week ago.

Dr Batke is studying different species of ferns in the province, Dr Fernandez-Martinez is looking at soil and the bacteria that live in the soil and Dr Dallimore’s research is on different types of mosquitoes.

Papua New Guineans have taken this natural biodiversity for granted and the team believes that after this visit they will be in a better position to help staff and students of UNRE take the study of natural resources further when they return.

Dr Batke said there is so much to study because of the great biodiversity of plants so it would be foolish to concentrate on all of them at once.

He focused on ferns because it’s easy to collect and identify family genus, press and dry.

“At this moment we are walking around and doing optimistic identification of ferns. We have collected about 40-45 species and I believe there are still many out there,” he said.

Generally, his interest is in Botany, so he is looking at assisting UNRE to establish a local botany.

“The idea of this trip is to figure what’s here, the different ecosystems that you have, what habitats you have, what communities of plants you have so that when we return we can have a target research aim,” he said.

He believes that the collection made would hopefully contribute to the development of flora of the area for UNRE students to use as a guide for their future studies.

Dr Fernandez-Martinez said the reason for coming to Papua New Guinea especially to UNRE was because no one has looked in this environment before.

“I’m hoping that I will be able to isolate new strand of bacteria that will have new chemistry so we can find new compounds in here. I’ve chosen PNG as my first location because of its great diversity in the level that you can see in plants and insects and I think it should be the same in soil. There should be a great diversity that nobody has looked into before,” she said.

Dr Fernandez-Martinez mentioned that the collection is great but because of the facilities, they would have to do the experiment in UK and report back to UNRE on species found. Based on her research, she would like to run training in the future to teach UNRE staff and students on the study.

Mr Dallimore said: “This place is amazing, the people here are unbelievably brilliant, friendly and enthusiastic because in UK people don’t get excited as they do here. We are hoping that the work we are doing with you guys at UNRE will help us to find out which mosquitoes are biters and which ones are spreading diseases. We hope to find out some strategies that can manage their population. We would like to expand this research in the next visit to look at ways that some of the mosquitoes interact with some plants and the vegetation,” he said.

The team thanked the University for its hospitality and contribution towards their visit.


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