Observation of the Week, 6/9/18

Our Observation of the Week is this Ethiopian Wolf, seen in Ethiopia by @veronika_johansson!

Veronika Johansson wrote to me from the Swedish island of Öland, where she is currently on vacation and where she spent her childhood. “I was brought up very close to nature so the interest has always been there. My father has also always been interested in birds, plants, insects and nature in general so perhaps I was inspired by him,” she says. “I figured out that I might be able to make a career of my interests and so far it has been going quite well.”

Veronika finished her PhD at the Department of Ecology, Environment, and Plant Sciences at Stockholm University in 2015, where she “studied recruitment limitations and recruitment mechanisms of plants with dust seeds.” Her focus was on the Ericaceae family, which includes blueberries, heathers, and azaleas. These plants “are mycoheterotrophic and parasitize on mycorrhizal fungi during parts of or during their complete lifecycle,” says Veronika, meaning that they draw most of their nutrients from mychorrhizal fungi rather than from photosynthesis.

Six years ago, she and other PhD students in her program organized a trip to Ethiopia, and “were awarded funds from SIDA to finance both us going there and as many Ethiopian PhD students to join us during our trip and course events. We were around 25 persons in total traveling together.”

One of the places they visited were the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia:

It was mainly to study the afro-alpine flora but of course we also hoped to see one of the rarest canines in the world! We were lucky and saw it quite immediately when we got up on the mountain plateau. It posed for us a while but got afraid and ran off. It’s really cool to have seen it and it is a beautiful animal. I decided to upload these six year old observations both because someone might find them useful or interesting but also for myself to get help in determining some of the species we observed six years ago.

Veronika is all too correct in that the Ethiopian Wolf is one of, if not the, rarest canines on Earth. According to the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, there are only about 500 adult Ethiopian Wolves left in the wild, their already small numbers having been diminished by rabies, habitat loss, and shooting by humans. These wolves live only in the high mountains of Ethiopia above 3000m and live in social family packs. While packs may hunt larger prey, the wolves’ diet consists mostly of smaller mammals, including the Big-headed Mole Rat.

Currently, Veronika is working for GBIF’s Swedish node, “which is now from this year part of a larger new Swedish research infrastructure for biodiversity informatics, called Biodiversity Atlas Sweden (BAS).” She says, “I enjoy helping others determining their observations [on iNaturalist] and to connect with like minded [people]. I also like that you have to add a photo with your observations even though it might limit you sometimes and that there is a validation process. The observation is then of higher quality which is necessary for research use.”

- by Tony Iwane


- You can check out Veronika’s research here.

- Veronika has started an iNaturalist project for the island of Öland.

- Enjoy some amazing footage of an Ethiopian Wolf on the hunt.

- Sure, more footage. Why not.

- Orchids are probably the most well-known plants that have “dust seeds.” Here’s a cool article from Kew about them.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, June 10, 2018 12:47 AM

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