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Long-time STRI research associate Tyson R. Roberts on visit to Panama

May 26, 2008

Long-time STRI research associate Tyson R. Roberts on visit to Panama

STRI research associate Tyson R. Roberts is traveling in Central and South America studying museum specimens of Synbranchidae to complete a worldwide monograph on these strange, poorly known eel-like fishes

STRI research associate Tyson R. Roberts is traveling in Central and South America studying museum specimens of Synbranchidae to complete a worldwide monograph on these strange, poorly known eel-like fishes. He recently was in Argentina, Uruguay and Brasil studying specimens in museum collections and will soon go to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela for the same purpose.

Here, Roberts examines a specimen in the fish collection at STRI's Naos Island Laboratories. This collection is particularly valuable because one or more specimens of nearly every lot have had tissue samples removed for DNA analysis. Tyson is excited about having hypotheses on species, phylogeny, and biogeography of Synbranchidae tested by DNA comparisons.

STRI has supported Tyson's ichthyological surveys of large tropical rivers in New Guinea and Southeast Asia including Indonesia and Myanmar since 1975. Many faunal monographs, systematic revisions and other papers have been published. (See his bibliography at the internet address shown as subtitle.) A monograph on the freshwater fishes of Myanmar is in preparation. Tyson has studied negative environmental impacts of large hydropower dams, particularly in the Mekong basin. He says "It is time to shift to a new paradigm, one based upon optimal human population and rational consumption of resources rather than mindless expansion. We live on a planet that is user-friendly to us because we evolved in its biosphere. We have been drawing down on non-renewable resources, polluting, and otherwise not being friendly users, so the biosphere is becoming less user-friendly. There should be no more large hydropower dams or atomic energy power plants and far less large-scale mining. Forests of the Congo, Borneo, Sumatra, New Guinea, and other places must be saved. Brasil should protect the Amazon forest, not destroy it."

Tyson is also applying the methodology of systematic biology to identify the persons portrayed in statues of the ancient Khmer devaraja or divine kings. These magnificent works reveal fascinating aspects of kingship and religion in early Cambodia (ca 600- 1300) and shed light on the lives of Suryavarman II (reigned 1113-ca 1150), famous for building Angkor Wat, and Jayavarman VII (1179-ca 1216), the last great Khmer king. His interest in this ancient art began during one visit to Cambodia, when he noticed the presence of fish in all kinds of unexplained scenes. Since then, his interest in ancient Cambodian fish and fisheries became a passion, that includes all the ancient Khmer art, their history and religion.

Tyson Roberts Bibliography

Story: Tyson R. Roberts
Edited by M Alvarado & ML Calderon
Photos: MA Guerra

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