Friday, April 12, 2013

.12/04/2013 Record Breaking Nuts

The Coco de Mer (CdM) palm is one charismatic species. It produces the world’s largest nuts (up to 20 kg), has it’s own mini-ecosystem and is full of mystery. A Phd student and geneticist from Wales, Emma Morgan, is currently in the country creating maps and taking leaf samples in an attempt to answer some of the ambiguities surrounding the charming palms. For the next month, GVI volunteers have the opportunity to work alongside Emma and help her collect data from these trees on Curieuse- one of three wild populations.
The nuts produced by the CdM are a symbol renowned throughout the Seychelles in part because they can only be found here. Tourists often purchase the iconic nuts as souvenirs, which typically sell for around $300 US a pop. The trade is highly regulated by the Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF), one of GVI’s local partner organizations, and proceeds go straight back into conserving the rare palm forests.
Emma (and now our volunteers) can talk for hours about the implications these giant nuts have regarding the family structure and distribution of the trees. Her project proposes to answer a plethora of questions ranging from how far pollen travels to pinpointing the parentage of juveniles and determining if the symmetry of a nut is directly related to it’s fitness.
GVI is currently in the final stages of a five-year census recording basic information of each tree and mapping the Coco de Mer population on Curieuse. The opportunity to join Emma in her research and view the mysterious tree from a new perspective has been incredibly exciting