Toolbox update 6: Methods for studying pollen

Team Pteropus would like to share a few helpful tips and protocols on how to collect and study pollen. This isn’t just useful for budding botanists, plant ecologists or beekepers! It’s also relevant for wildlife ecologists who want to study the diet of animals that feed on flowers. It’s a good way to identify plant species in animal diet, as different types of plants have different, distinctive pollen shapes and sizes. In order to do this, you’ll need to start by collecting pollen samples directly from the flowers themselves, to build up your very own pollen reference library.

The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive 'tennis ball' shape
The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive ‘tennis ball’ shape

This latest Biologist’s Toolbox post comes to you all the way from San Jose courtesy of Esteban, who shares with us the pollen extraction protocol he was trained to use by his university. Although it’s also possible (and preferable) to use a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for pollen studies, this can be complicated and expensive. This protocol provides you with a simple and easy-to-adapt method to be used with a normal light microscope, and which you can easily execute yourself.

According to Esteban: Continue reading

Toolbox update 5: Camera trapping database

We have a treat for all you camera trappers out there, especially those with tons of photos lying in the depths of your hard drives gathering virtual dust and cobwebs. Shariff Mohamad, who is a field biologist with WWF-Malaysia, has developed a database for camera trapping data. He is delighted to share his software to make the lives of disorganized camera trappers much easier when it comes to processing camera trap photos for statistical analyses. By the way, Shariff was also one of the authors of the very useful guide to camera trapping in the previous Toolbox update #4. So take it away Shariff!

Happy new year everyone!  The reason I am sharing this is so that camera trappers have an alternative database solution apart from the popular software Camera Base. Unfortunately, there are hardly any camera-trap databases available for public use, so I thought it would be useful to offer an alternative to people out there. I initially considered using Camera Base while looking for data solutions, but in the end decided to create my own using the same platform (MS Access), as at the time I couldn’t figure out how to customize Camera Base according to my specific needs. I want to clarify that I don’t consider my database superior to Camera Base in any way, but am merely providing an alternative data solution for those with similar needs.

So here are the files you need to download: Continue reading

Toolbox update 4: Camera-trapping large tropical mammals

Like the fantastic wildlife photos we’ve been capturing through our camera-trapping work?? Well, using a camera-trap can seem daunting at first, but it’s easily learned, and constant practice will help you hone your skills in no time. We at Rimba owe our camera-trapping experience to our dedicated and hardworking wildlife biologist friends over at WWF-Malaysia. Having carried out biodiversity monitoring work in Peninsular Malaysia since 2005, these tireless field scientists have scoured miles and miles of inhospitable terrain and camped out in dense jungle for weeks at a stretch, all in search of that perfect camera-trap location to obtain valuable evidence of elusive wildlife. They’re now one of the most experienced and knowledgeable researchers when it comes to camera-trapping large mammals in tropical rainforests.

These guys have had plenty of opportunity to develop their skills, and their hard work paid off when one of their camera-trap photos won the BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Camera-trap Photo of the Year in 2010. Happily for the rest of us, they’ve decided to use their vast experience to help out fellow researchers.  Continue reading