Dave Blackburn, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at the California Academy of Sciences


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At the Look carefully...it's a Nile Monitor on the Nile!

After a week of camping, we took an overnight trip to Jinja which is located right where the Nile flows out of Lake Victoria. It was a fun jaunt for a day and involved some great birdwatching on the lake (and even seeing a couple big Nile Monitors!).

Ugandan National Forest Authority Welcome Center at Mabira Forest Reserve Restaurant (?) at Mabira Forest Reserve Griffin Falls Campsite in Mabira Forest Reserve. We stayed five nights at this community run site. Art at Griffin Falls Campsite reception building. Art at Griffin Falls Campsite reception building. Breakfast looking east into Mabira Forest Reserve

After heading back from Bwindi, we spent a night in Kampala and then a week in Mabira Forest Reserve (about an hour or so east of Kampala). It was a great opportunity to investigate the amphibian and reptile species in this poorly studied forest. We found some really great stuff!

To Mabira Forest Reserve!

Last night we arrived back in Kampala. We spent this morning at the National Forestry Authority finalizing our permit for working in Mabira Forest Reserve and soon we’ll head out of Kampala. It’s about a two hour drive to Mabira and we should be there this evening. Looking forward to exploring around Mabira and seeing some really interesting frogs and lizards.

All packed up and ready to head out from Bwindi back to Kampala. Greg Jongsma rocking his red shorts in Mbarara en route back to Kampala.

After the African Amphibian Working Group meeting, we packed up and headed back to Kampala for a night so that we could spend time finalizing our permits to work in Mabira Forest Reserve.

Looking for frogs in Mubwindi swamp

On our last night in Bwindi NP, we hiked down to Mubwindi swamp within Bwindi NP. It was a steep and long hike back in the dark, but it was well worth the trip!

Preparing specimens collected in Bwindi NP with Dan Portik, Greg Jongsma, and me (red shirt).

Greg Jongsma presenting his MSc research on the phylogeny and biogeography of the African frog genus Hylarana at the 16th African Amphibian Working Group meeting in Bwindi NP.

Cool dudes Greg Jongsma (left) and Dan Portik (right) taking a break from the African Amphibian Working Group meeting in Bwindi NP.

To open the 16th African Amphibian Working Group meeting in Bwindi NP, Dr. Mathias Benhangana presented a short summary of research on amphibians and reptiles in Uganda.

Training workshop participants working on their photography skills. Professor Eli Greenbaum (Univ. Texas - El Paso) discussing the preparation of specimens for scientific research. Greg Jongsma (left; MSc student at San Francisco State University) and Dan Portik (next left; PhD student at UC-Berkeley) leading practice sessions in preserving specimens for scientific research.

An important part of our two-day training workshop was giving students and conservationists the opportunity to gain new skills in preparing specimens for scientific research, including taking tissue samples for later genetic analyses. This section of the workshop was led by Eli Greenbaum and myself and we also benefitted from participation by two students (Greg Jongsma and Dan Portik) that arrived in Ruhija that same afternoon.

Andy Plumptre of WCS Albertine Rift (at right) preparing to kick off the two-day training session for African students and conservationists in field biology of amphibians and reptiles. Professor Eli Greenbaum (Univ. Texas El Paso) lecturing to the training group on the importance of collecting specimens for field biology and conservation. The training workshop participants with headlamps on and ready to spend a night in the swamp looking for frogs. One of the many specimens of the frog genus Amietia that we encountered at night in the swamp.

Before the start of the African Amphibian Working Group meeting, several of us led a two-day training workshop for students and conservationists from Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, and Gabon. It was great fun and an excellent opportunity for people to learn skills necessary for conducting field research on amphibians and reptiles. 

Road along northern edge of Bwindi NP, en route to Ruhija Uganda Wildlife Authority Warden Office, jumping off place for gorilla trekking juvenile gorillas goofing around and reminding me of my boys Moses and Benjamin

After working at Kaweri Coffee Plantation, I drove to Fort Portal, down through Queen Elizabeth NP, and then into Bwindi NP. Before the African Amphibian Working Group meeting and training took place, I spent one day hiking out into the forest to see one of the habituated groups of mountain gorillas…it was terrific!

It was a fun few days here in Kaweri Coffee Plantation doing surveys for birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians with Nancy Stevens (of Ohio University) and her team.

forest path with pools in Kaweri Coffee Plantation woodland savanna on Kaweri Coffee Plantation robusta coffee clones growing Papyrus swamp in Kaweri Coffee Plantation

Habitat images from around Kaweri Coffee Plantation. Kaweri is a shade-grown robusta coffee plantation, the largest in Africa. Throughout the plantation are small forests, swamps, and other habitats that the plantation has chosen to not develop. These habitats have a surprising amount of biodiversity in them, including well over 100 species of birds, a variety of mammals (black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, civets, etc.), and of course frogs!

Pictures of communal nesting spiders in the forest at Kaweri Coffee Plantation, for my son Mo.

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