Ghent University biologist Kay Van Damme interviewed by Nature


It is no small matter when famous British scientific weekly Nature proposes an interview in one of its most widely read sections. Kay Van Damme, a passionate biologist with a taste for adventure, was invited to speak about biodiversity and nature conservation on the Yemeni island group Socotra in the Indian Ocean.

Some 400 km off the coast of Yemen and 200 km east of Somalia shines a pearl of the Indian Ocean, Socotra, which was even elevated to UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. Millions of years ago, the archipelago broke away from the Arabian continent and drifted south. As a result, its own life forms developed there, with its own microclimate, hundreds of endemic plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else.

For more than 20 years, Kay Van Damme and her team have braved the scorching heat and drought of Socotra for a few weeks each year to protect the impressive biodiversity from global warming and the damage caused by the goats that eat the young plants. This work takes place in consultation and cooperation with local researchers and the population, as nature is their source of income and habitat.

Socotra is probably derived from the word for "island of happiness" in Sanskrit. And, believe me, Kay Van Damme will be happy if he can help to save the dragon tree, the crab or the dragonfly of Socotra and other rare or endangered species from extinction!

Read the full interview in Nature