MPhil in Conservation Leadership
Current Conservation Leadership students
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Biographical sketches for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership students 2012-13
I channelled my early passion for nature into a BSc in Natural Resource Engineering (2001). During my degree I also worked as a volunteer in various Iranian NGOs, including a biodiversity survey in the north of Tehran province. I then studied for an MSc in Environmental Diagnosis and Management at Royal Holloway, University of London (2007), which gave me practical training and scientific knowledge of analysis and assessment of environmental issues. For my research project, I secured a placement in MWH Global, working with an international environmental consultancy in UK. Given the importance of financial skills for managing environmental projects, I also attended a postgraduate certificate in Finance and Management at the London School of Business and Finance (2010). After completing my training, I began to work in an UNDP-Iran Joint Initiative entitled: "Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project" (CIWP). The ultimate goal of CIWP was to establish an ecosystem approach to conserving Iranian wetlands based on inter-sectoral procedures. I was involved in facilitating various tasks such as development of "National Wetland Strategy and Action Plan", involving governmental and non-governmental organizations players, building the capacity of local people and developing appropriate research activities. My career plan is to work with international organizations that are attempting to develop new approaches to conservation around the world. I am particularly eager to foster an active cooperation with the Cambridge Conservation Forum during my year in Cambridge.
I started out at the University of Illinois in a bee suit, researching links between honeybee genomics, behaviour and evolution. I then studied how tourists impact capuchin health and aggression in Costa Rica, and analyzing the effects of forest degradation on red colobus reproductive success in Uganda, I became aware of many threats posed to biodiversity. Following my BSc, I worked with Neotropical Primate Conservation & Amazónicos por la Amazonía (AMPA) to protect habitat for the two most critically endangered primate species in the Peruvian Andes. I then studied for an MSc in Integrated Resource Management at the University of Edinburgh (2012) to further understand economic and socio-cultural underpinnings of the decision-making processes behind natural resource management. My thesis took me back to Peru to work with AMPA and local farmers to determine the historical deforestation trends occurring in a biologically important forested corridor, identify the current economic incentives driving degradation, and assess the perspectives of farmers and their interest to establish a community-run management plan to protect the remaining forests. I am looking forward to studying Conservation Leadership at Cambridge to further explore how we can develop collaborative initiatives to promote sustainable and equitable forest management.
I have completed an MSc (2008) in Ecology from Salim Ali School of Ecology, Pondicherry University and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Natural Resource Management and Ecological Restoration at the Ecological Society, Pune, India. These qualifications provided me with an opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in ecological restoration of grassland ecosystems with special emphasis on soft engineering approaches. This experience confirmed my belief that, given protection and time, every landscape can be restored into a functioning ecosystem. My academic and professional experience has led to involvement with various global and national level projects related to natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. As an ecologist in pre-eminent technological institutions such as the International Water Management Institute, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur and Centre for Development in Advanced Computing (C-DAC) I have gained exposure to the use of GIS and Remote Sensing in the planning process. Throughout my academic and professional experience, I have travelled throughout much of India's wilder landscape. My research and professional interests lie in valuation of ecosystem services, and trade-offs between combining spatial models and in-situ ecological observations. My motivation with these concepts has conditioned me to look at nature through the lens of natural capital. I am also interested in popularizing alternative practices in biodiversity conservation in India to attain the goals of both sectors, on the one hand conserving the biodiversity, and on the other hand to incentivize the efforts that local communities or individuals take to achieve conservation goals. I am a keen birdwatcher and love to explore and trek in new areas during my free time.
I gained a keen interest in nature despite growing up in Singapore's concrete jungle. While studying for a BSc in Biology at the University of Bristol (2009), I volunteered extensively in habitat management and bird monitoring. Upon graduating, I steered a two-year project to enhance the biodiversity of urban park corridors in the National Parks Board, the government agency overseeing greenery and natural areas in Singapore. I conducted bird, butterfly and dragonfly surveys and subsequently distilled the data into accessible information and practical recommendations for application by land use planners, landscape designers and park managers. These took the form of training sessions and internal dossiers to guide my colleagues in future work. In 2012, I joined WWF Singapore to help coordinate the local Earth Hour campaign. After the event, I continued as a Communications Executive where I built the social media reach and supported outreach and fundraising work. I also produced a scoping report to develop the local strategy for the WWF global campaign on illegal wildlife trade. I believe that successful conservation initiatives need strong links between sound conservation science and practitioners in addition to public engagement and support. Eventually, I aspire to lead terrestrial conservation projects in Southeast Asia.
I have had an interest in nature since I was small, and was very much influenced by my father, a biologist, and my grandfather, a poet. This enthusiasm in trying to understand the way nature operates, how it influences us, how we influence nature, and how everything is interdependent, led me to pursuing a BSc in Environmental Sciences (2000) at the University of Cape Town. My main areas of specialisation were environmental management, terrestrial ecology and GIS. After completing my studies, I returned to Mozambique to live and work. First, I gained 5 years of experience within the private sector, working as an environmental consultant involved in issues related to environmental management and impact assessments. For the past 6 years I have focussed on conservation, and worked for 4 years within the Ministry of Tourism as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Transfrontier Conservation Unit, and for two years as Programme Director managing Niassa National Reserve, the largest conservation area in the country through a private-public partnership. The opportunity to work in operating environments varying from the private sector to Government has enriched my professional career and my understanding of the complex political and social platforms that conservation also needs to take into account if it is to succeed. The MPhil in Conservation Leadership provides a very interesting integration of issues such as management and leadership, which are not easily available in other Masters courses, and that I consider of to be great value towards the goals I set many years ago, influenced by a poet and a biologist.
I am an Arctic ecologist, having gradually migrated northwards since my early upbringing in Africa. My first degree was in Geography and Environmental & Evolutionary Biology from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA. I hoped to be able to apply spatial tools and analysis to ecological problems, combining a love of nature and wildlife with an interest in maps and spatial assessment. My MS research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA (2000) built on that idea, and focused on the development of current and predictive GIS habitat models for muskoxen in Alaska, in light of potential oil and resource development. I had the fortune of being involved in a side project in northeast Greenland on the effects of potential climate change and herbivory on plants. After leaving academia for a short time to work in international environmental consulting, in regions ranging from the Canadian Arctic to New Caledonia, I returned to do a PhD at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge (2007). My thesis was on the potential effects of climate change on reindeer habitat in northwestern European Russia and the Barents region. Following that, I held a joint position as scientist and Station Manager of the Norwegian Polar Institute's research station in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, at 79°N, officially the world's most northern community. I'm tremendously excited to participate in this Conservation Leadership programme, learn valuable skills to develop my ability to effect change in the conservation world, and discover where this southern migration might lead.
My passion for conservation work gave me the zest to leave teaching in which I had engaged for 9 years after graduating from Njala University College (1986) with a BSc in Agricultural Education. I joined the Forestry Division as Assistant Conservator of Forests in charge of protecting the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve, a montane forest along the Atlantic coast of Sierra Leone. I later pursued a 2-year forestry course at the Zimbabwe College of Forestry in 1995 and continued my service with Forestry Division on completion. In 2007, I joined the Gola Forest Programme in Kenema mainly to protect 71,061 ha of tropical rainforest, the last remains of the Upper Guinea Forest in Sierra Leone. I was appointed Superintendent in charge of Park Operations, to provide protected area operations and support functions, to ensure that the integrity of the Gola Forest Reserves and associated flora and fauna is maintained through both strong collaborations with key stakeholders and strict law enforcement. When the status of the Gola Forest reserve was raised to the Gola Rainforest National Park, I was promoted to Protected Area Manager mainly responsible for the implementation of the Gola Forest Management Plan and to supervise departmental heads of Park Operations, Community Development, Research and Biodiversity Monitoring, Admin and Finance.
I earned my first degree in Ecology and Environmental Protection at University of Belgrade, Serbia where I completed a thesis on Aquatic Ecology. When I started my next degree in Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, I switched my research attention towards nature conservation, and especially to the social science components. Hence, social institutions, norms and values, biocultural diversity and sacred ecology became my professional interests. Although I was born and raised in Serbia, a land-locked European country, most of my research experiences have been gained from tropical and sub-tropical islands. My MSc thesis was on cultural understanding of biodiversity and landscapes in Andasibe village, Madagascar where I worked with local communities and eco-tourists on concepts of flagship and sacred species. Recently, under auspices of UNESCO Climate Frontlines initiatives, I documented traditional knowledge and practices of artisan fishermen, their perceptions and adaptation strategies to climate variability in Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde. In between, I worked for the IUCN European Green Belt Initiative on rural development issues. Currently, I participate in the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management by co-leading Thematic Group on Ecosystem Services. Also, I am a founder of SILENE (Social Inclusion and Learning on Environment and Equity), a Belgrade-based environmental NGO.
I am from Tajikistan where I obtained my MSc in World's Economics (2009). My thesis was dedicated to the establishment of, and system of land registration for, private farms in Tajikistan. As my knowledge and understanding of these issues developed, I joined the "University Project on Green Nature", a student-run organization, which aimed to raise awareness of biodiversity conservation and protected areas. This was an excellent experience, as the initiative was strongly rooted in local communities and I had the chance to make long-term contributions to the quality of life of communities surrounding protected areas. I spent three years participating in various events and learned about environmental management issues. In 2009, I joined UNDP where I managed a project to strengthen the management effectiveness and the sustainability of two national protected areas in Tajikistan. Models and best practices from this project are now being replicated throughout the national Protected Area system. As a result of this project, four community based organizations were established to serve as stewards for achieving environmentally sustainable livelihoods in and around these protected areas. I facilitated several training sessions for field-based protected area officers and local stakeholders in order to enhance their capacity to manage natural resources. I hope that my participation in the MPhil Conservation Leadership will enable me to greatly expand my knowledge and skills about cutting edge biodiversity conservation approaches through the exposure to world-class environmental conservation leaders.
I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Planning and Management (2004) and an MSc in Environmental Science (2012). In between schooling for my Master's degree, I started pursuing conservation work initially as a volunteer for the humpback whale research and conservation project, and then with a new volunteer-based NGO called Isla Biodiversity Conservation. Both projects were in the Babuyan group of islands, a remote island-group in the northern most Philippines. Isla was then starting on the Calayan Rail Project, which focuses on the research and conservation of the newly discovered and island-endemic Calayan Rail. This provided a platform where I can lead and take initiatives in the island group as its Program Manager and leader to several projects on the island. Isla has encouraged me to undertake hands-on work and to look at different aspects of conservation from research and capacity building to project management. In turn, this has paved the way for my involvement with other conservation organizations. I believe the MPhil in Conservation Leadership will help me become an effective conservationist able to take on the task of pursuing my organization's vision of a maintaining a sustainable small island ecosystem in the Philippines.
My environmental career dates back to 2004 when I started working with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an organization that supports communities to protect land and conserve wildlife, while empowering them to manage their natural resources. I worked with communities living adjacent to the Amboseli National Park in the southern region of Kenya. To better understand human-ecosystem interactions, one of my research objectives while studying for my MSc in Dryland Biodiversity focused on assessing the perception of these communities towards wildlife conservancies, areas primarily set aside for wildlife and tourism within group ranches. I later worked with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), a government parastatal responsible for implementation of policies relating to environment in Kenya. I undertook environmental research and coordinated climate change projects. I joined the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2010, to assist countries prepare their national communications and technology needs assessment reports, as required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I believe that this highly interactive course will enhance my understanding and professional networks in conservation. In addition, I will be better equipped to advise and support communities and national governments on conservation issues.
I hold an MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford and have experience of working in the environmental sector since 2006. I have worked for non-governmental organizations, with self-governing units, local communities and within the public institutions. My work with civil society and communities taught me the principles of participatory approach and showed me the benefits of bottom-up initiatives, while the public sector trained me in leadership, good management and communication skills. Most recently, I was Deputy Head of the Agency of Protected Areas under the Ministry of Environment Protection in Georgia. My main responsibility was to plan the further development of Georgia's system of protected areas through establishment of new PAs and strengthening existing ones. I worked closely with different local and international organizations to improve the governance and management of PAs in order to effectively fulfill their main functions. I believe the MPhil in Conservation Leadership at Cambridge will enable me to deepen my knowledge and expertise in the field, meet new people, increase my professional network and get better equipped to participate in the conservation processes at local as well as global levels.
I graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc in Physical Geography (2007). After graduating I travelled widely, searching out iconic wildlife and habitats. Visiting these wild places reaffirmed my wish to pursue a career in conservation. I began my professional career working for New Zealand's Department of Conservation. Initially I was employed as a Biodiversity Ranger at Boundary Stream Mainland Island which is primarily an ecological restoration project. Here I experienced both the academic and practical sides of invasive and endangered species conservation. After a year I moved to the Department's Research and Development Group where I worked as Research Technician, evaluating the viability of self resetting traps, a new conservation technology. In this role I saw first hand the potential interdisciplinary innovation has for advancing conservation methods. Later, I assisted a species focused project looking at Kea, an endangered parrot. I was employed to track, capture and handle wild kea in remote areas of New Zealand's Southern Alps. My main interests are island conservation, invasive mammalian species and interdisciplinary innovation for advancing conservation.
A fascination for wildlife, ecology and biodiversity conservation led me to pursue a career as a conservation biologist. Following a BSc in Biology (2007), I have been involved in many conservation research projects concerning many taxa, with an emphasis on felids, and from biodiversity assessments to conservation education and ecological research. During 2006-2007 I worked with WCS in southern Bolivia and WWF in the Peruvian Amazon studying felid ecology and their population spatial requirements. I also led projects on the impacts of illegal wild mammal trade and on the influence of urbanization on bird and bat populations. I worked with a national NGO in 2010 assessing the suitability of some wild mammals for sustainable meat commercialization, and I was coordinator for Zoology during 2011-2012 at San Francisco University's Biodiversity Research Centre. In 2009 I joined the WildCRU, Oxford University, to study for a PGDip in Wildlife Conservation, where I gained many skills to conduct ecological research and implement conservation actions. I am interested in studying the influence of human activities on wildlife ecology and conservation. This MPhil is a great opportunity for me to gain the necessary skills to be effective ameliorating these threats, taking into account the multidisciplinary nature of biodiversity conservation.
I graduated with a BSc in Environment and Town Planning from Université Saint Joseph, Lebanon (2005). I then enrolled in an MSc in Environmental Studies from the same university and graduated with an honours degree (2007). In 2006, I was recruited by an engineering consultancy firm, in which I gained practical experience in Environmental and Social Impact Studies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In 2010, I was recruited by the British Embassy in Muscat as the Regional Environmental Manager for the MENA Directorate. This enabled me to further extend my responsibilities in the Middle East, and to implement policies addressing energy, water efficiency and carbon reduction measures. In 2011, I was recruited as the Projects Manager for the conservation NGO, the Environment Society of Oman. My role comprised overall project management and the initiation of new conservation programmes. I have a passion and commitment for the environment, and I am particularly interested in the MENA region, which represents my home area of geographical expertise and which currently faces many challenges that are leading to the severe depletion of the region's natural resources. I believe the MPhil in Conservation Leadership will deliver me with appropriate mentoring to address issues of critical importance.
As environmental issues gain importance on the political agenda, policy makers need to understand the language of scientists, and scientists need to translate scientific issues into the language of policy makers. To gain expertise in these areas, I completed a BA in International Affairs and Politics with a minor in Sustainable Development, followed by an MSc in Human Ecology with high honours from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium. After graduation, I worked briefly as a consultant before joining the European Commission as stagier in DG Environment, at the International Agreements and Trade Unit. During my professional career I have been involved with innovative new approaches to biodiversity policy and MEA implementation, synergies and capacity building. I have worked both for government and non-governmental organizations, including the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, IUCN, Traffic International, UNEP-EMG, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and the Department of Environment, Nature and Energy at the Flemish government. My future career plans are to continue working on biodiversity policy to help bring about the necessary changes that would not only ensure the sustainability of our environment, but also of our actions.
I graduated from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka (2008) with a BSc in Zoology specialising in Wildlife Conservation and Management as the main stream of study. After graduation, I joined the Regional Biodiversity and Species Conservation Programme of the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Group of IUCN Asia, where I was involved in a project devoted to restoration and conservation of tsunami-affected coastal ecosystems in the region and assisted in developing the Species Information Service Data Entry Module (SIS DEM) for threatened endemic species in Sri Lanka. Thereafter, I joined the University of Colombo as an Assistant Lecturer in Zoology. My academic career has centred on teaching and research related to Ecology and Wildlife Management. Subsequently, during my tenure at the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), I coordinated and contributed to an in-depth study on climate change impacts on aquatic ecosystems and rural livelihoods which aimed to provide small-scale aqua-farmers with strategies to maintain their resilience in the face of climate change. My recent research focuses on: understanding complex interactions between protected areas and their stakeholders; population dynamics of wetland and urban avifauna in relation to changing environmental factors; and ethical aspects of conservation practice. I believe in participatory approaches to achieve conservation goals and have a keen interest in reconciling people and nature through awareness-raising activities and promoting sustainable lifestyle and livelihood options.