International collaborations: a PhD student from Jamaica on a scientific mission to Germany

For young scientists, international collaborations open new avenues for research and provide access to knowledge, technical skills, or technologies that would otherwise be limited. Kerri-Ann Bennett, a Jamaican PhD student at the University of the West Indies working on freshwater fish in her native country, recently had the opportunity to participate in a three-week mission to the University of Potsdam in Germany, with the support of Caribaea Initiative.

Exploring the interaction between Jamaica’s livebearing fish species

Kerri-Ann Bennet’s PhD research focuses on livebearing fish from the Poeciliidae family. She studies the biology and ecology of several species, which are either native or invasive in Jamaica. She is particularly interested in the interactions between native species and their invasive counterparts which have become widespread in Jamaican rivers.

Invasive Poeciliid fish from Jamaica

Kerri-Ann already participated in several scientific articles. The first article focused on the feeding strategies of fish species from the Limia genus, originating from various places: Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica (learn more). Another study was dedicated to the phylogeny of the same genus. In this study based on molecular tools, the results showed compelling evidence of cryptic speciation in the endemic species Limia melanogaster in Jamaica (read more). As these results were based on a limited number of populations in Jamaica, Kerri-Ann conducted more research to increase her sample size and confirm this finding. Such genetic analyses required the use of specific materials and equipment that are not currently available at her research department. Luckily, she was offered support from Prof. Tiedemann, a leading expert in Systematic Zoology working at the University of Potsdam, in Germany, and took the trip thanks to the financial support of Caribaea Initiative.


The gateway to new possibilities

A collecting site from Jamaica

Kerri-Ann’s research visit to the University of Potsdam proved to be a game-changer for her scientific pursuits. The visit provided her with a unique opportunity to utilize state-of-the-art technology and receive training in advanced techniques necessary for her research. In her mission report, Kerri-Ann notes that “this visit allowed me to use cutting-edge technology and receive training in techniques that will advance my research significantly.”

During her visit, Kerri-Ann engaged in a spectrum of research activities. She learned about the lab’s cutting-edge research and was trained in specific techniques, allowing her to conduct her research on samples that she brought from Jamaica. She also gained insights into ongoing research projects in the field of evolutionary biology, attended group meetings and a student research symposium.

Kerri-Ann’s research activities in Prof. Tiedemann’s lab yielded significant findings for her project. However, to further clarify the results, she plans to conduct a second visit and employ an alternative molecular marker for enhanced accuracy.


Implications for future research

Kerri-Ann Bennett’s research visit to the University of Potsdam allowed her to bridge the resource gap that hindered her research back home, and she was able to pursue her study of Jamaica’s livebearing fishes. Quoting Kerri-Ann, “I am confident that this visit has laid a solid foundation for my future research endeavors and will enhance my scientific career.” As science is largely based on international collaborations, such opportunities for young Caribbean talents to learn new techniques and have access to specific technologies should be encouraged.



Bennett, Kerri-Ann. “Report on Caribaea Initiative Supported Research Visit to the University of Potsdam, Germany.” 2023.

Rodriguez-Silva, R., Spikes, M., Iturriaga, M., Bennett, K.-A., Josaphat, J., Torres-Pineda, P., Bräger, S. & Schlupp, I. (2021). Feeding strategies and diet variation in livebearing fishes of the genus Limia (Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae) in the Greater Antilles. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, DOI: 10.1111/eff.12638.

Spikes, M., Rodríguez-Silva, R., Bennett, KA., Bräger, S., Josaphat, J., Torres‑Pineda, P., Ernst, A., Havenstein, K., Schlupp, I. & Tiedemann, R. (2021) A phylogeny of the genus Limia (Teleostei: Poeciliidae) suggests a single-lake radiation nested in a Caribbean-wide allopatric speciation scenario. BMC Res Notes 14, 425.