Event Detail


Seminar: Tropical Rainforests

Sarah Fayed
Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011
Hong Kong Fooll Club, 3 Sports Road, Happy Valley
Sarah Fayed’s seminar on her solo scientific research climbing high into the canopy of tropical rainforests in Papua New Guinea

Drinks 6.30 pm seminar starts 7.30pm HK$100 Members and HK$150 Non members

Sarah Fayed joins the RGS HK for a Seminar entitled "Exploring the Rainforests of New Guinea " chaired by Robert Gibson. Sarah Fayed has spent much of the last three years swinging from tree tops in Papua New Guinea and Australia studying the mysteries of rainforest canopies and in particular that of the evolution of Helicia tree, a curiosity of science.

In her introduction to the Seminar, Sarah Fayed presents her principal research findings, some insight into the incredible animals that interact with the Helicia and some tales from the Papua New Guinean villages where she is known as the ‘white meri go antap long diwai' (Pidgin for "the white woman who climbs trees ").

Sarah Fayed's introduction starts with discussing animalplant interactions, what scientists know about them and why they are important. She then introduces the plant family she principally works on, the Helicia, their biogeography and why they are a fascinating example of plantanimal interactions. She then explains how she has conducted this research, involving months of residence with remote tribes, each day climbing into the rainforest canopy collecting data. She has had to establish field laboratories, transport research equipment into the most remote areas, reside with headhunters, leading to a plethora of amusing though sometimes dangerous incidents. She concludes with an explanation of how she is using her research information, in particular for conservation.

Helicia trees are of particular interest because of their surprising evolutionary pattern. Helicia come from the plant family Proteaceae and yet they break many typical Proteaceae patterns. They are among the most recently speciating genera and yet they have the highest speciation rate out of all 80 genera. Helicia also have the largest geographic distribution of any Proteaceae genus and extend further into Asia than any other Proteaceae. Sarah Fayed's principal research focus is why Helicia have speciated so rapidly and recently and spread so far and what can it tell science about evolution, speciation and extinction. Answering these questions has taken her to tree canopies in addition to those in Papua New Guinea, to Australia's Northern Territory, Cape York and Daintree rainforests.

Following the introduction to her work by Sarah Fayed, Robert Gibson will open the Seminar to the floor, then in an open forum, all present can discuss or question about rainforests with particular reference to New Guinea.

Sarah Fayed is presently reading for a PhD at the University of Tasmania, on the ‘Rapid speciation in and invasion of Helicia into Papua New Guinea and SE Asia'. She previously took a First in her Masters' degree in Botany and Zoology from Australian National University, prior to which she read ecology at the University of New England. She is the recipient of more that 20 scientific awards including from the Explorers Club and the Commonwealth Education Scholarship Fund.

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