Environmental degradation is rapidly driving many native land snails to extinction worldwide. Nowhere is this more poignant than in Madagascar, which, although slightly smaller than Texas, has about three times more species of native land snails than the entire continental United States. This three-year project on Madagascan land snails will (1) discover 600-1,000 new species and several new genera; (2) triple the number of museum lots (one lot equals one species from one site) in the Florida Museum of Natural History to more than 50,000, an unprecedented database for exploring patterns of species distributions and richness; and (3) make it possible to identify any Madagascan land snail in-country.
Despite the fact that thousands of undiscovered tropical land-snail species are currently going extinct without leaving a fossil record, there is a severe, worldwide shortage of specialists to collect and document them. This project will help alleviate that shortage by training one American doctoral candidate, and by training and preparing for graduate school two-to-four American undergraduate students and one Malagasy post-baccalaureate student. This project will contribute strongly toward conservation by meeting that call in a timely and extremely detailed manner. This project will establish crucial infrastructure (four-wheel-drive, backpacking and collecting equipment, etc.) to allow other researchers to bridge those gaps in our scientific and pharmacological knowledge.