Termite sampling across Namibia

Dr Barbara van Asch and Christi Greyling (MSc student) from the Genetics Department of Stellenbosch University visited Ongava Research Centre in March while on a fieldwork trip to collect Macrotermes termites and Termitomyces (locally called Omajowas) for the two-year project “Species diversity and geographic distribution of termites and their symbiotic fungi in Namibia”. This research is the first DNA-based assessment of the biodiversity and phylogeography of these important ecosystem engineers across a whole country, and we are proud to be doing it in Namibia. A Go Green grant (from Nedbank) has been awarded to Barbara to conduct this research project.

Barbara and Christi travelled a total of 7,000 km from and back to Stellenbosch, and sampled almost 100 mounds along the way (see map below). Luckily, the Omajowa season was in full swing, so they had the opportunity to see the mushrooms with their own eyes and enjoy this delicacy for the first time! And it was of course the perfect opportunity to collect genetic samples from these fungi to try to learn a bit more about them.

Locations of termite mounds sampled during the trip.

Morphological and DNA analyses for species identification of termites will start now back in Stellenbosch, followed by optimization of methods for fungi identification. So far, the objectives have been met and we expect to share preliminary results soon!

Mounds were sampled along the main roads.

Author: Dr Barbara van Asch & Christi Greying, Stellenbosch University, Genetics Department