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Treading carefully: saving frankincense trees in Yemen

By Shihab Jamal

In 1999, Kay Van Damme joined a United Nations-led multidisciplinary expedition to the Socotra archipelago, a Yemeni island group in the Arabian Sea, to explore freshwater ecosystems. Influenced by the area’s rich and unique biodiversity, Van Damme began to run annual expeditions to underground lakes on the main island, Socotra, as well as to its aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems above ground. In 2010, he earned a PhD on the evolutionary relationships of freshwater crustaceans from Ghent University in Belgium. Over the years, with the island facing the environmental challenges of climate change and a civil war that has been under way since 2014, Van Damme started applying his knowledge to conserving endangered aquatic insects and crabs, as well as the remarkable local trees. Now, alongside undertaking fieldwork on Socotra, where he works directly with local communities, Van Damme is a postdoctoral researcher at Ghent and at Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2022