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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

June 2020 - Scientific Director and Molecular Lab

The dream of every scientist and naturalist is to discover a new species for science. This dream has repeated itself multiple times at the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. For the past 10 years we have been studying the biodiversity of organisms at the reserve and several vertebrate and invertebrate species have been described. Though one may think these findings would be a rare occurrence, it has become a common event. Presently, there are several amphibian and reptile species that are waiting to be described, which are important to support the importance of protecting the Andean forests of the western Cordillera.

Unfortunately, describing new species is a slow painstaking process in some respects, since one depends on experts and, now a days, molecular labs to provide DNA sequencing and analysis. For these reasons, Adolfo Amezquita, herpetologist with a doctorate in Biological Sciences and over 20 years of experience in research, has joined our team as Science Director. Additionally, we are setting up a complete molecular lab at the reserve’s station that will provide us with the necessary tools needed to streamline the analysis of DNA samples required for species identification.

Dr. Amezquita, as Senior Researcher since 2002, created and lead the Ecophysiology, Behavior and Herpetology group (Group A1 of Colciencias) in which more than 90 doctoral, master and undergraduate level students, and over 17 projects were administered. For seven years he was the director of the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, and for four years Director of the Department of Biological Sciences at the same institution. First elected president of the Colombian Association of Herpetology, position occupied for six years, and part of the scientific committee of the World Herpetology Congress for four years. He has more than 60 scientific publications with over 2,100 citations. With a 24 h-index in publications and a Research Gate score of 32.66, he is in the top 10% of all affiliated researchers worldwide. His publications have appeared in important journals, such as: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Evolution, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Animal Behavior, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Heredity, and Plos One.

Two new amphibian species for science have already been described from MPNR by Dr. Amezquita and fellow researchers: Andinobates cassidyhornae in 2013 and Pristimantis ferwerdai in 2019. We are delighted to have Adolfo as our new team member, and we look forward to advancing in the identification of the biological richness of the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve.

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