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Search to give new tree a name: New species discovered by York conservationist

Posted on 1 September 2015

A University of York conservationist has discovered a new species of tropical tree in East Africa, and is inviting schools to name it.

Dr Andy MarshallDr Andy Marshall

Dr Andy Marshall, Senior Lecturer in York’s Environment Department and Director of Conservation Science at Flamingo Land, has set up the Schools for Forests campaign to encourage schools and colleges to fundraise for the University of York’s ongoing efforts to save tropical forests through innovative research.

The school or college that raises the most will have the new 20-metre tall tree species named after them. Those who raise over £1000 will be twinned with a school in Tanzania, and invited to an awards ceremony and activity day at Flamingo Land. Other rewards such as t-shirts will be given to those who raise over £50, and all schools signing up for the Schools for Forests competition will receive teaching resources tailored for the primary and secondary curriculum. A research paper published early in 2016 will then formally announce the tree’s new name in the journal PhytoKeys.

CIRCLE is a collaboration between York’s Environment Department and Flamingo Land that aims to protect biodiversity, animal welfare and promote public understanding of the natural world. Funds raised will go towards CIRCLE’s work in Tanzania in collaboration with the Udzungwa Forest Project to better protect tropical forests through scientific research, forest management, community education, training and lobbying.

Dr Marshall said: “In June 2011 I was surveying a remote forest in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania, with the aim of understanding the habitat needs of one of the world’s rarest primates, the kipunji monkey. However, in several of my forest plots there was a tree that I just couldn’t identify. Soon afterwards, while idly rummaging through dried specimens at the National Museums of Kenya, it turned out that this was an entirely new species from the genus Polyceratocarpus. The tree grows as large as an oak tree, so I was amazed to find that scientists had not named it before.

“The Schools for Forests campaign is a fantastic opportunity to get students involved in charitable work while also having the opportunity to win an amazing range of prizes, including naming this new tree species.

“It is particularly important we conserve tropical forests like those found in Tanzania as they provide many benefits both locally and globally, and hold many endemic species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

“I would like to thank my colleagues from Ohio Wesleyan University, the National Museums of Kenya, and various other institutions, who were instrumental in helping me to describe this tree. I would also like to thank Flamingo Land and the Mammal Working Group of the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) for funding the expedition that led to the discovery of the new species, and both the United Bank of Carbon and Santander for supporting the Schools for Forests campaign.”

Schools and individuals can register their interest by emailing info@circle-conservation.org and more information can be found at:  http://www.circle-conservation.org/conservation/schoolsforforests/.

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