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MPhil in Conservation Leadership

Biographical Sketches for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership students 2014-15

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Abdullah Ahmad (Bangladesh)

Student

Since 2004, I have worked for different projects run by the Department of Environment of Bangladesh. These have aimed at conserving significant biodiversity and encouraging climate change adaptation in some government declared Ecologically Critical Areas (ECAs) in Bangladesh. I hold a BSc (Hons.) and an MSc degree in Botany from the University of Chittagong Bangladesh. In 2010, I took some courses on natural resources management at Cornell University, USA. In 2014 I participated in a short course on Sustainable Environmental Management at the University of California Berkeley, USA. I have also served as an international intern at the Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.

Stephen Asuma (Uganda)

Student

Born 50 years ago, I have worked in the conservation sector within Uganda since 1990. About half of my working career has been with Mountain Gorillas. I have a BSc from Makerere University, Kampala. From 1990 to 1995 I worked for the Government of Uganda Game department, then for 6 years for the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In 1999, I joined the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition of WWF and Fauna and Flora International, initially as a Field Officer, then moved to Country Representative job, the position I now still hold. I am a highly motivated, deeply committed conservationist. I have worked to strengthen management of protected areas and sustainable use of natural resources and support collaborative efforts towards better evidence-based decision making by policy makers and conservation managers.

Merodie Rose Beavon (New Zealand)

Student

I am an ecologist who grew up in New Zealand – perhaps better known nowadays as 'Middle Earth'. Our biggest challenge in conservation is the management of introduced pests. My personal experience of challenge this led me to study the plant/animal interactions that facilitate the spread of weeds during my MSc at the University of Canterbury. Following graduation I did a research project as part of the Nigerian Montane Forest Project. Since then I have been involved in various projects in New Zealand, mostly investigating the causes of species decline, the ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss, or the potential effects of proposed development projects on rare native species.

Emilija Bozhinovska (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

Student

My first encounter of butterflies as an ecology undergraduate in 2008 lit my passion for nature. I then became a member of the Biology Students' Research Society in Macedonia, and of the Macedonian Ecological Society. Initially, I worked on butterfly diversity in Macedonia in the Lepideptora section of the students' society, of which I later became leader. I broadened my experiences in butterfly conservation through several projects in Macedonia. Additionally, I was a part of the Wildlife Monitoring and Research Team for the Balkan Lynx Recovery Program. I am very eager to contribute towards halting the unprecedented loss of biodiversity and its key drivers. This course will help me develop corresponding practical skills and strategies needed to create conservation solutions to environmental problems.

Sayam U. Chowdhury (Bangladesh)

Student

I grew up in the deltaic plains of Bangladesh, where Nature was fast being lost in front of my eyes. I gained a BSc in Environmental Science from North South University in Bangladesh. I have worked in behavioural ecology, research and conservation of globally threatened species in Bangladesh for the last six years, especially on Critically Endangered birds. Working closely with the local community has helped me gather unique experiences as an advocate of nature, inspiring people and being inspired at the same time. My work with the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been most rewarding, and involved conservation breeding in Russia and mitigating hunting in the wintering grounds in Bangladesh. This research has now blossomed into a full-blown project that BirdLife International declared as Birdlife Species Guardian. My work on riverine birds has led to proposals for two new protected areas in Bangladesh.

Pepe Clarke (Australia)

Student

Born and raised in Australia, I have fifteen years experience as a public interest lawyer and environmental advocate. My passion for protecting and restoring the natural world has led me to work with a range of environmental organisations, including IUCN, WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Most recently, I served as Chief Executive Officer of the Nature Conservation Council, one of Australia's leading environmental advocacy organisations, and Chair of the IUCN National Committee for Australia. Throughout my career, I have placed a strong emphasis on working with local communities and policy makers to promote nature conservation and sustainable natural resource management.

Chrisgel Ryan Cruz (Philippines)

Student

My professional career and personal passion has led me to engage with policy and technical issues in biodiversity management. I gained a BA in Social Sciences and Psychology (2001), and a 4-yr post-graduate LLB in Law (2005), from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. From 2006 to 2009, I worked on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture conservation, and on sustainable use issues pertinent to farmers' and local communities' practices and rights, giving me experience of the workings of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR). In 2010, I served as Litigation Officer for a local non-governmental alternative law practice organization working for agrarian reform and environmental rights protection in southern Philippines. Most recently, I have engaged with the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, a regional inter-governmental network on wildlife law enforcement cooperation and collaboration based in Bangkok, Thailand. I hope that the Masters in Conservation Leadership will expand my abilities and judgment on conservation issues, facilitating my growth and development as a conservation practitioner.

Shadrach Kerwillain (Liberia)

Student

I am interested in the cultural practices of local communities and how their indigenous knowledge can become a positive tool for the implementation of conservation projects. I am from Liberia, a country endowed with bountiful land and amazing biodiversity, including the largest remaining block of the unique Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem. I studied for BSc in Biology at the University of Liberia. I first engaged with the environmental sector through the national environmental youth movement. In 2009, 2012 and 2013 I represented my country at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. From 2009 to 2011, I was a member of a multi-sectoral team at the UNDP working on the Investment and Financial Flow Assessment of climate finance across the forestry, energy, and agricultural sectors. In 2012 I joined Fauna and Flora International, and worked primarily on piloting REDD+, but also managed the Strengthening African Forest Governance project under a grant from the EU. My experiences over the last few years have exposed me to conservation challenges in my country, and the need for astute and inventive solutions to solve these problems. I am optimistic that I will acquire unique knowledge and skills from this Masters that will equip me to contribute more effectively to the design and implementation of high quality conservation programmes in my country.

Wilson Lau (Hong Kong)

Student

I am from Hong Kong and spent most of my formative years in Sydney, Australia. Both are big cities but my fascination with nature actually came out of the cities' juxtaposition with natural surroundings. I completed an MSc in Environmental Management at the University of New South Wales, Australia (2011), and a joint European Masters in Environmental Science, graduating at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2010). I spent the last 4 years in Hong Kong working as a project manager at a public policy think-tank, specialising in conservation research. This experience enabled me to explore different areas of conservation, including research on protected areas management, international wildlife trade, and the development of planning tools for conservation. One of the more interesting facets was engaging the conservation community in Hong Kong to work together and collaboratively in developing a biodiversity strategy and action plan, a first for the city. Gaining a more international perspective on conservation, learning about the opportunities and constraints in other countries and how conservation policies have succeeded and failed are what I look forward to most during the Masters in Conservation Leadership.

Rocio Maria Lopez (Peru)

Student

Growing up in Peru forged my passion for nature. I gained a BSc in Biology from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia After volunteering in the Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve, my work with communities triggered an interest in the relationship between human behavior and nature. This led me to develop a thesis on Peruvian top chefs' attitudes and behaviors towards marine resources and their sustainable use. I have since worked in conservation projects related to the Amazon rainforest with a similar scope. After developing a broad range of skills in this Master's programme, I plan to develop a line of research on the drivers of unsustainable human behavior that will help to improve conservation initiatives in Peru.

Aylin McNamara (UK)

Student

Fascinated by living creatures and with a keen interest in working to protect species and natural systems, I studied for a BSc in Biology at University College London and an MSc in Environmental Science and Technology at Imperial College London. Since then I have gone on to: co-author a book-chapter on the conservation status of chimpanzees in Nigeria; work for 7 years at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) on climate change and sustainability; manage research for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species supporting a new resolution on climate change within the convention; produce materials for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; sign the Coral Reef Crisis Working Group statement at the Royal Society alongside my hero David Attenborough; co-chair the BIAZA sustainable palm oil group; and develop seven sustainability strategies for ZSL. I am incredibly excited about joining the Masters in Conservation Leadership and meeting others within the CCI network.

Petra Mihalic (Croatia)

Student

I have held a deep affection for nature since my early childhood. I became involved in nature conservation because my country is extremely rich in biodiversity. I obtained a Masters in Landscape Architecture at the University of Zagreb (2005). I then worked for 7 years as an expert adviser in the Croatian government nature conservation sector, with a focus on managing the protected area system and implementing Natura2000. The Masters in Conservation Leadership is a logical continuation of my professional experience, and I feel very excited to attend the course, where I will have the opportunity to work with likeminded experts with a passion to make a difference. After the Masters I see myself in an influential position from which I can help create wiser, and more concerned generations working for a better future across the world.

Rodah Owako Okeyo (Kenya)

Student

I was inspired by nature through the abundant biodiversity in my country, Kenya. I studied for a BSc in Environmental Health at Kenyatta University. I then joined the BirdLife International Africa Secretariat office, after which I pursued a MSc in Environmental Studies, also at Kenyatta, focusing on climate change and its impacts on biodiversity. During my tenure at BirdLife Africa, I was engaged in a number of conservation projects and gathered a wide experience of conservation campaigns, appeals, project development, research and implementation of adaptive frameworks to climate change. Notably, I helped develop the 2012 status and trends report for biodiversity in the Eastern Arc Coastal Forests of Kenya and Tanzania in sites that had REDD+ projects. I then worked at Nature Kenya (The East Africa Natural History Society) to help build a constituency of members to support conservation efforts in Kenya, a role that included interactions with the private sector as well as members of the public. Kenya is currently implementing a new devolved system of governance that will have a huge impact on natural resources. This Masters will therefore mould me to be a competent conservation leader with the capacity to guide conservation actions from national to global levels.

Xingliang Pan (China)

Student

I hold a BSc in Automobile Engineering from Jilin University, an MSc in Economics from the Renmin University, and I soon expect to be awarded a PhD in Environmental Economics from Beijing Normal University. All are top twenty universities in China, and now have the qualifications of Lawyer and Registered Engineering Consultant. As a Deputy Director at the National Development and Reform Commission of China from 2007-2013, my most recent job has involved planning and policy-making for conservation projects included Returning Pastureland to Semi-natural Grassland. After being integrated with internationally renowned conservation organisations through this course, I will dedicate myself to further develop guidelines, policies, and legislation related to payments for ecosystem services in my country, promoting the beneficiaries to pay the preservers for the ecosystem services they provide.

Hermanitra Rafidimanantsoa (Madagascar)

Student

I hold a BSc in Forestry (2009) and an MSc in Forestry, Development and Environment (2013), both from the University of Antananarivo in my native Madagascar. Between my two degrees, I worked for two years (2010-2012) as environmental manager for a cashew grower company in Madagascar. In 2013, I moved to Wales and worked part-time for Bangor University, supporting the UK Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) (www.espa.ac.uk) –funded project called p4ges (www.p4ges.org). I am currently an ESPA Research Fellow based at Bangor University, from which I am taking a year out to follow the Masters in Conservation Leadership. My research focuses on the impact of upland forest cover change on the livelihoods of downstream farmers.

Gergely Rodics (Hungary)

Student

I was born in Budapest and graduated in Hungary with a BSc in Environmental and Landscape Management. I then specialized in rural development, and later in renewable energies. I moved to a Hungarian populated part of Transylvania, Romania in 2006 where I found one of Europe's almost hidden hotspots of biodiversity and traditional culture. With very few resources and a lot of enthusiasm I revitalized the Pogány-havas Association and have worked there on conservation and local development projects for 8 years. With my team of five people we undertake all aspects of conservation: scientific research, organizing conferences, field work with the local population, policy development and lobbying. We work to protect and understand local cultural heritage and nature, especially high nature value farming and environment. The results of our work are increasingly appreciated and I now need a breathing space to look at the big picture and develop new ideas. The Masters in Conservation Leadership provides a perfect platform to develop my leadership capacities, both to allow me to work on larger scale projects and to embed our local experiences in the global, especially European context, helping us to avoid the further loss of biological and cultural diversity.

Elsa Sattout (Lebanon)

Student

My love for nature developed during my childhood and took hold of my life when I joined Friends of Nature NGO and started trekking and exploring the mountains and forests in my country. I pursued my undergraduate studies in Agriculture Engineering (1994) and then gained an MSc in Natural Products and Biodiversity Conservation (1998). I hold a PhD degree in Agricultural Botany from the University of Reading in the UK (2004). In the past 15+ years, I have served national agencies and international organisations, such as UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, GIZ, AFD as coordinator, regional advisor and manager on various projects related to in-situ conservation and sustainable development. I have helped develop national frameworks and action plans for implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, monitoring programmes for natures reserves, indicators guiding national forests policies, and outreach materials such as TV documentaries, newsletters, booklets on nature reserves and on conservation practices. I have volunteered to support NGOs in setting-up long-term biodiversity conservation and sustainable development plans. My love for the forests and Eastern Mediterranean landscapes led me to write a book on Native trees of Lebanon and neighbouring countries, in which I promote the use of native species in reforestation programmes, public spaces and home gardens. Through my enrolment in the Masters, I will be able to rethink and identify best practices for reshaping new societies in my region, and aligning human identity with 'green citizenry'.