PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight – Anna Maňourová

Anna Maňourová is a PhD student at the Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague and the upcoming new coordinator of PlantLink!

What is currently on top of your research agenda?

Finishing my PhD! 2022 is the year of changes for me. I am trying to finalise some of the projects I have been involved in and focus more on the fields of my particular interest with possible future implications.

As I am based at the Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences, my target has always been tropical regions, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. I am very thankful to have had the chance to work in Cameroon, Zambia and Ethiopia. I hope this is not the final list of countries I will undertake! However, nowadays, I must focus on compiling my dissertation thesis on the domestication of Garcinia kola, a medicinal tree native to West and Central Africa. By looking at its morphological, genetic and chemical diversity, we are trying to identify superior individuals/populations and disseminate the upgraded planting material among smallholder farmers interested in the species cultivation. This would not be possible without the involvement of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), with whom I have collaborated since my bachelor’s level. Apart from that, there are projects supported by Czech Development Aid running in southern parts of Ethiopia, where I collaborate with my cherished colleagues from Mendel University in Brno. Our focus is, e.g., on implementing a fruit value chain for improved nutrition and efficient production or developing practical teaching and supporting research at Arba Minch University. Finally, I would like to mention a project funded by the Euro League for Life Sciences (ELLS) concerning the implementation of Project-Based Learning among master’s degree students of SLU, CZU, and BOKU. In my opinion, it is crucial to focus not only on the research itself but also on spreading the news and awareness to the public and reaching out to students as future scientists. Moreover, interdisciplinarity is the key when it comes to the implementation of any scientific outcome.

-Tell us about your latest publication

Our latest paper, called Effect of Farming on the Vegetation Structure, Soil Properties and Termite Assemblages in the Northern Congo, is an outcome of Mechanisms of soil organic matter turnover in the Congo Basin along with the land-use gradient project which we had in Cameroon. If you want to know more about soil degradation dynamics and biodiversity patterns under different land-use regimes in the tropics, check it out! And if you are curious about the species I study, here is a review article.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

I have always dreamt about going to Africa, studying the local organisms and sharing the knowledge in a Sir David Attenborough style! Well, this has shifted a bit and currently, I see myself in the field of life sciences, ethnobotany, working on food security and underutilized/neglected species. By this, I can combine all the most important factors – plants, food and people.

My tropical journey started in 2014 in Cameroon, where I tried to figure out if the tree species identified as a priority by ICRAF fit with the needs of local communities. After that, we selected Garcinia kola as the species to focus on entirely. During my PhD studies, I got the chance to become part of various scientific and development aid projects of different research groups, which I am very grateful for. Experiences are always worth earning!

-What are the implications of your research for society?

In general, all the projects I have been involved in have directly impacted the local communities. If the impact was not that straightforward, then we tried to make it visible in a different way; see Ebogo matters initiative. Working in agriculture implies that society is an indispensable component.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

With unlimited resources, I would like to bridge the gap between pure science and development aid by writing a comprehensive, holistic project that would benefit from both fields. During my short yet intensive career, I gained the impression that communications between these two disciplines could be much improved. Science should not be here for publications only, and, conversely, development aid practises should be based on facts supported by research.

Thank you, Anna! We wish you the best of luck with your PhD and also in your new role as PlantLink coordinator!

(Photo: personal communication)