Petr Myska Releases the Second Edition of
His Extraordinary Field Guide to Local Fauna
By Ariel O’Donnell
Biologist Petr Myska is a passionate advocate for the amazing biodiversity of the Bay of Banderas and surrounding regions. The long awaited second edition of his field guide to regional fauna: Viva Natura: Field Guide to the Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals of Western Mexico is hot off of the presses, and packed with 300 pages of photos and detailed descriptions in both Spanish and English. The second edition now has 230 species represented—a big leap from the first edition’s 160.
Myska talks about his first contact with this region, “I came to Vallarta for a visit in 2000, and was totally overwhelmed by the animal life here. It was almost too much to take in. I tried to identify the species effectively, but found that there was very little information documenting this area’s fauna. That’s when the inspiration hit me to create a website and field guide for visitors and residents of this region, At the time, I was living in Mexico City, so I traveled back and forth from there, taking photos, compiling data.”
The life of a biologist is one of dedication and hard work. Hours, days, months, spent alone in the wild, taking photos, and then hours more researching and compiling data on the animals. On top of that, Myska did the graphic layout and engineered the funding for the project himself. Fortuitously, a local organization, Banderas Bay Initiative, put him in contact with Fundacion Punta de Mita (a group funded by property owners in Punta de Mita) along with CONABIO (a government commission dedicated to supporting the biodiversity of Mexico) to finance the completion of the field guide’s second edition.
Myska’s fascination with nature began in the forests of the Czech Republic. His grandfather purchased a cabin right after WWII, and his family spent weekends and summers in the wild. “Our closest neighbor just happened to be a professor of zoology at Charles University in Prague, Jan Zdarek. As a child I roamed the forest finding different bugs and animals and would bring them to Jan, who then gave me in depth background of the species. You couldn’t ask for a better education.” Jan inspired Myska’s study of biology and animal species, and continued mentoring him throughout University and his 2 Masters Degrees. To this day, they continue to work on projects together.
Myska now lives in Puerto Vallarta, and loves having this extraordinary natural setting at his back door. He explains, “In this relatively small area we have an abundance of different ecosystems: ocean, islands, beaches, estuaries, two types of tropical forests (deciduous and semi-deciduous) pine-oak forests and pine forests of higher altitudes. A one-hour drive from the Bay of Banderas to San Sebastian del Oeste encompasses all of these environments. Every ecosystem has its own vegetation cover and thus, different sets of species. Too, we are situated right in the center of what is referred to as the ‘gate to the New tropics’, a transition zone in between the temperate and tropical regions of the Americas .
And of course with the new technologies available an app was the next logical step, giving the user instant access to the same set of information contained in the book. His intention in the future is to grow this app buy inviting users to contribute additional animal species found in Mexico to the database. Myska and IT developer Hilda Camacho, owner and founder Sitisystems, worked together to create the app.
The field guide will be available by the end of the year, closely followed by the launch of the app. The book will be readily available throughout Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit. Check out Myska’s website: vivanatura.org to find a location near you. Book cost: Retail price of $25 USD for the paperback, which includes 300 pages, 440 color photographs and 230 species of local animals. Anticipated cost for the app will be $99 pesos, and can be downloaded via the Apple App Store. Myska is also considering making an E-book available in the near future.