Dr. Paul Skelley – Research trip to Brazil

In September, one of our entomologists, Dr. Paul Skelley, was invited to travel to Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, Brazil by Fernando Vaz-de-Mello, a professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso, to be a guest scholar of the Department of Biology and Zoology. The Department of Biology and Zoology has a visiting scholar program, which encourages international research by allowing professors the opportunity to request field experts to come study and work in the university’s zoological collection.

“The laws in Brazil prevent people from collecting insects, which prevents the public from appreciating the importance of their biodiversity, leading to a lack of support for museums, ” Dr. Skelley shared, “Compared to the U.S., their culture seems to more readily accept living with some pests.”

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Examining male cones of the rare native cycad, Zamia boliviana

During his three-week trip, Dr. Skelley worked with the entomology sector of the zoological collection to study and identify aphodiinae scarab beetles. His time in Brazil resulted in the identification of at least 15 new species.

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Looking for beetles on a rotting tree in the Cerrado
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A local landmark and preserve, Parque Nacional Chapada dos Guimaraes, with a popular waterfall

While there, Dr. Skelley also gave two talks to students studying biology and zoology at the university. One talk was a discussion on beetles, Dr. Skelley’s specialty in the zoological collection. Another was an introduction to FDACS-DPI and the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, the arthropod collection housed at the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, Florida.

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Standing in a wooded area by a cycad, Zamia boliviana

While in Cuiaba, Dr. Skelley was also able to meet up with another colleague, Rosane Segalla.

“Serendipitously, she was living in town to do her own research. We are working on a paper describing a new species of erotylid beetle, which pollinates Brazil’s native cycad”, Skelley said.

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A permanent pool of water in the Pantanal, a region annually flooded that hosts an amazing diversity of animals

As a visiting scholar, upon his return, Dr. Skelley is responsible for producing a manuscript on his studies and research conducted during his trip to Cuiaba. His manuscript will also include his research on the fifteen new species discovered while he was there.

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Picture of the Cerrado, the natural open woody grasslands on the region

Dr. Skelley shared that although he will not be able to return as a visiting scholar under this exchange program, as the university will only allow the opportunity for one visit, he is eager to return to Cuiaba to travel, explore and further study the expansive biodiversity of the region.


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