Lots of great specimens to study and good interaction with the marine scientific community in the South African region! An extremely productive trip.
Plus, of course, first hand exposure to ecosystems and their faunas! I still marvel at the resemblance between the kelp forests & fauna here and in California!
1. One of the BEST collections of echinoderms in Africa is at the Iziko Museum!
This is always kind of a cheat of course. I just spent 3 weeks identifying a massive collection of sea stars, so OF COURSE, I'm a little biased!
But seriously, the collections here contain historical materials from famous echinoderm workers like Hubert Lyman Clark and Ailsa Clark (unrelated). They've maintained a good record of marine biodiversity throughout the region for decades from intertidal to relatively deep-depths.
The Iziko is undergoing many efforts to share its materials with the scientific community including digitzation initiatives and of course a collections database is ongoing!
This is a great place to start your studies on the Indian Ocean or to survey the unusual temperate water habitats of South Africa!
2. Citizen Science is thriving in South Africa!
Perhaps one of the best things I've discovered about the scientific community in the Cape Town and South African is the presence of a very active diving community which LOVES to share and study the marine habitats they observe!
Groups such as iSpotnature.org, SURG (the Southern Underwater Research Group), and even websites such as Eastern Cape SCUBA diving show a multitude of pictures. This also includes the many pictures off Flickr and other photobanks.. I'm sure there are probably more...
3. There are MANY wonderful ecological and natural history stories in South Africa but they are poorly studied.
Probably one of the great things I learned about studying the fauna is how many cool things are out there and widely known to the local community but were not actually published!
For example, this amazing sea star, Pteraster capensis has been reported from throughout the area to brood and generate mucus! But was this an actual observation/report? Or simply an extrapolation from the scientific literature on the North Atlantic/North Pacific species? No scientific reports on this species are available (other than those that report taxonomy).
But I finally spoke to George Branch and Charlie Griffiths at the University of Cape Town who verified that YES indeed. This has been seen!! So, it will probably make someone a great paper some day!
4. A HUGE diversity of sea stars exists in the region! (and now there is a reference collection!)
I've seen this species for example, identified as "Halityle regularis" in some field guides, but its a different color and is much flatter. Possibly a new record? Or merely a color morph of Halityle? We need to see more than a picture to be sure. I've alluded to possible undiscovered species in past posts... UPDATE: It IS Halityle regularis-but a different color morph!
5. The staff at the Iziko is AWESOME.