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MPhil in Conservation Leadership

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Biographies for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership students 2018-2019


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Peter Abanyam (Nigeria)

Student

For over a decade, I have been poised to seek a balance between human development and nature. In 2008, I founded "Enviroscope Nigeria", focused on creating conservation awareness and promoting local action to reduce deforestation and protect biodiversity in the Cross River region. My team and I featured the environment on local radio and television programmes, built forest dependent communities capacity through bee keeping and snail farming, to help boost family income and reduce human pressure on forest resources. After completing a B.Sc. in Environmental Resource Management from the University of Calabar, I joined the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 2011, implementing projects for improved conservation of the Cross River Gorillas, Preuss's red colobus and Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee in Nigeria. My work focused on equipping Cross River National Park Rangers with skills and knowledge on wildlife and Law Enforcement Monitoring, using CyberTracker and Spatial-Monitoring-And-Reporting-Tool (SMART) technologies. The opportunity of working with park rangers and local communities around Cross River National Park and the Mbe Mountains has placed a high demand on me to work towards improving literacy and poverty levels in rural forest areas as well as promoting conservation. I have recently implemented a conservation education project in Oban focusing on school children, traditional institutions and peer groups.

Rezvin Akter (Bangladesh)

Student

I grew up in a small town in Bangladesh. From childhood I created a bond with nature, through making friendship with house sparrows. The twitter of these small birds served as an alarm clock for me in my childhood. I still cherish this friendship as it inspires me to work for nature. After a Master's degree in Zoology from the University of Dhaka, I started working with WildTeam in 2009. It was a project focused on tiger conservation in the Sundarbans. During the past nine years I have worked with the community people, government bodies and NGOs with the goals to empower them with conservation knowledge, mitigating human-wildlife conflict and combating wildlife crime. I worked on a behaviour change campaign in the periphery areas of the Sundarbans, and through this campaign I gathered experience on social marketing for wildlife conservation which helped me to grow special interest in environmental education and related behavioural change. I also worked with the urban youths for creating environmental awareness among themselves. I would like to assist in forming friendship between man and nature to build a common world livable for all creatures. In 2016, I had the privilege to join the "International Visitor Leadership Program" in the US. I love to travel and explore the wilderness in my free time

Prerna Bindra (India)

Student

I spent my childhood years with my nose buried in books, preferably in the crook of a tree in the company of birds, squirrels and other small mammals seeding in me a love for nature. I chucked my steady (and staid!) management career, and plunged into journalism with a determination to highlight conservation concerns. Though I shifted out of mainstream journalism a few years back, I continue to dabble in writing and have written about 1,500 popular articles on nature. Two of my four books were released in 2017: The Vanishing: India's Wildlife Crisis, and another for children titled When I grow up I want to be a Tiger. As a conservationist, my primary focus is protecting wildlife habitats and endangered species, mainly through policy interventions, advocacy and awareness. I am keenly interested in development impacts on nature ethics and conservation. I am widely travelled in India's wilderness areas, and have served as a member of India's National Board for Wildlife and other government bodies. This position gave me the opportunity to engage with the national and regional governments to lobby for wildlife-sensitive policies, including in the creation of new protected areas. I am a Chevening Gurukul Fellow and was also awarded the International Visitor Leadership Program

Rebecca Boslough (USA)

Student

Growing up exploring Montana's forests and high mountains, I developed a strong sense of place and witnessed the importance of conservation firsthand. Curiosity about Montana's landscape, which exists across a tapestry of working ranches, private timberlands, rural communities, and tribal and public lands, grew into a passion for collaborative land management. I pursued a B.Sc in resource conservation at the University of Montana, during which time I was awarded a 2013 Truman Scholarship for environmental work and public service. Since then, my work experience has focused on advocacy, collaboration, and environmental education in areas such as zero waste, climate adaptation and mitigation, and protected landscapes. I have held positions with environmental non-profits, the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, US Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and the US Forest Service. I was selected as a 2017 Marshall Scholar, enabling me to pursue graduate studies at the Universities of Leeds and Cambridge. Recently, I conducted research on the impact of climate change on smallholder farms in Tanzania's East Usambara Mountains as part of my M.Sc. in climate change and environmental policy. Looking forward, I am focused on understanding how and why different approaches to conservation might succeed, specifically collaborative and cross-jurisdictional resource management that seeks to reconcile conservation and agriculture.

Mariano Castro Jimenez (Costa Rica)

Student

In my childhood I had the opportunity to live in different Latin American countries and get to know their rich biodiversity and its importance for the wellbeing of our people. Since then, I developed a passion for nature conservation that years later led me to pursue a career in law, with the aim of becoming involved in the defense of nature. To complement my legal studies, I obtained an LLM in Public International Law from Leiden University. During my professional career, I have been involved in different sustainable development projects. As a legal and policy advisor, I have supported campaigns to protect fragile marine ecosystems, the livelihoods of coastal communities and endangered species. As a marine enthusiast and a certified diver, I have also joined research expeditions for the conservation of sharks and sea turtles. Advising government and law enforcement authorities has given me the opportunity to enhance protection on marine protected areas and work on the improvement of fishing management policies, including efforts to tackle IUU fishing. Furthermore, I contributed to a climate change adaptation project that aims to equip local governments with tools for risk reduction. This program will help me build greater skills to further contribute to the efforts for the preservation of nature and the development of our peoples

Paula Espinosa (Ecuador/USA)

Student

I grew up in Ecuador, megadiverse land of volcanoes, and as a child I lived in the Galápagos Islands where my passion for the natural world was born. I graduated as a biologist from the Catholic University in Quito, where I continued learning from the diverse Ecuadorian ecosystems. As my final research project I returned to Galápagos, this time studying mating behavior of seabirds in an isolated island. I continued studying animal behavior at Emory University, and then obtained a Masters in Evolutionary Biology from Stony Brook University in New York. My research aimed to understand biodiversity patterns in tropical areas to aid conservation actions, but as I collected data of poison dart frogs, the forest around me disappeared to illegal logging. This was my breaking point, where I decided to focus my work in conservation. After graduating I moved to a small coastal community where I helped built local capacities to strengthen their community organization and create local leadership. For the past three years I have headed the Ecuador Programme of Fauna & Flora International. My goal is for conservation to catalyze social transformation through sustainable livelihoods directly reducing inequality while preserving biodiversity.

Daniel Flenley (UK)

Student

I set out for a career in conservation after spending large slices of my childhood learning about exotic animals and my teenage years birdwatching the coasts of north-west England. After gaining a Biology BSc from the University of Sheffield, I volunteered in a range of conservation and ecology roles including visitor engagement, grazing management, media and publicity work and habitat restoration. Subsequent positions have comprised urban countryside wardening, environmental education in Devon, a national research internship for an endangered sand dune moth and five years in commercial ecology consultancy across England and Wales, working for government and non-governmental organisations and multi-disciplinary partnerships as well as private-sector firms. I have written for the Guardian newspaper and was shortlisted for BBC Wildlife Travel Writer of the Year in 2013. My hobbies of performance poetry, languages (I was raised German-English bilingual) and music have increasingly converged with my professional interests. Translating good science into social change requires science to be interpreted for society. In many biodiverse areas of the world this means expressing it in the rich languages of song, dance and story that are foundational to the cultural environment. My mission is to win people for nature by promoting creative conservation advocacy.

Suzy Gamgne Kamgue (Cameroon)

Student

My first steps into conservation started back in high school with environmental education in school clubs. I have a Masters degree in Environmental Management and sustainable Development from new Dawn University Burkina Faso. Prior to that, I did my BScs in biology and project management. I was involved in various Environmental and Social Impact Assessment projects after completing my Masters. After that, I joined the Ramsar Convention on wetlands which is involved in the wise use and conservation of Wetlands. My experience at the Ramsar Convention has provided me with the perception of what conservation leadership entails. I was dedicated to providing leadership development actions to wetland managers by means of introducing them to Ramsar site Information Service and wise use of resources and allowing them to sell assets from their sites and enhance their values. I later joined IUCN, supporting the implementation of programs and initiatives that fulfil our obligations under the UNCCD and the UNCBD at National level, as well as following matters of the NBSAP. I also conducted and facilitated public awareness events for the International Biodiversity day and worked on the impacts of extractive industries on Great Apes and their habitat. I see in this wonderful opportunity granted to me, an occasion to strengthen and sharpen my vision and conceptual ability and capability.

Rosalind Helfand (USA)

Student

I'm from the chaparral covered hills and urban sprawl of Southern California. As a teen, I campaigned for the landmark California Desert Protection Act, and rehabilitated injured raptors. I became a founding member of the Sierra Student Coalition, organizing campaigns around issues like lead contaminated soil. I attended UC Santa Cruz for Environmental Studies, where I focused on public policy and assessment, before returning to my hometown and successfully organizing to protect local endangered species from development. My experience building coalitions to unite NGOs, local leaders, and government led me to work across fields in social and reproductive justice, women's leadership, literacy, human rights, and education. I advise organizations on public policy, program development, community outreach, campaigns, and management. Conservation is prioritized throughout my work, and I've also coached students in urban biodiversity studies, presented for the Citizen Science for Conservation in Southern California Symposium, and developed programs to engage and educate communities and local leaders about environmental justice. I'm excited to focus on accelerating global change for a biodiverse, sustainable future.

Alfonso Hernandez Ríos (Mexico)

Student

Formed as a biologist with graduate studies in environmental sciences, conservation has been the centre of my professional interest and trajectory. I have been involved on diverse projects such as the protection of sea-turtle nesting areas, solving human-wildlife conflicts in an international airport, and the impact of global warming on lizards. For the past four and a half years I have worked for the Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C., a Mexican NGO devoted to the restoration and conservation of the Mexican islands. As a Project Coordinator, the emphasis of my duties was on the active restoration of seabird colonies in one of the richest island region of the world for this group. During this time, I was also involved in the eradication of alien invasive species and in the enhancement of island biosecurity. This responsibility allowed me to interact on a daily basis with diverse stakeholders, mainly to develop collaboration relationships in favour of comprehensive conservation approaches to improve the environmental health of the insular ecosystems.

Nikara Mahadeo (South Africa)

Student

Growing up in several parts of South Africa and spending lots of time outdoors, I developed an interest in the environment from an early age. Whilst completing my Masters Degree in Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu Natal, I envisioned a career in conservation. On completion of my degree, I was fortunate to begin my professional career as a postgraduate intern at WWF – SA, a well recognised global non-profit conservation organisation. After my 12 month internship, I was appointment as a project officer at WWF-SA, as part of a team involved in securing and protecting areas of significant biodiversity value on privately and communally owned land. I then took up a management position at the WildTrust (Wildlands Conservation Trust), a non-profit organisation addressing sustainability, through socio-economic upliftment and conservation. During my time at the WildTrust, I took on various roles and responsibilities, such as project co-ordination and donor reporting on several projects. The experiences over my short career have led to a curiosity of understanding the global context of conservation. I hope to apply the skills and knowledge I gain from the MPhil Conservation Leadership programme to advancing and addressing conservation challenges.

Alstone Mwanza (Zambia)

Student

I belonged to a school conservation club in the wildlife rich Luangwa Valley in Eastern Zambia. I did a year long Agriculture Development course and later joined the Zambia Wildlife Authority after a compulsory paramilitary training in 2004. I obtained a certificate in Natural Resource Management in 2008 and Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation in 2010 at Southern African Wildlife College in South Africa. I then obtained a BSc. Degree in Wildlife Management at the Copperbelt University. My primary duty was anti poaching, but I developed interest in environmental education, so I began park interpretation with schoolchildren in the South Luangwa National Park. I later moved to be Research Assistant at this park in ecological monitoring activities with special focus on law enforcement monitoring. I headed the piloting of law enforcement monitoring tools before I moved to National Office to spearhead the roll out of law enforcement monitoring systems while deputizing the Head of CITES Unit responsible for international trade and permits. I think that beyond permits and law-enforcement, other basic leadership interventions are necessary to conserve natural resources. The MPhil in Conservation Leadership will open the space for me to learn important leadership factors in natural resource conservation.

Nobesuthu Adelaide Ngwenya (Zimbabwe)

Student

I have always been very passionate about nature though it never occurred to me at a very tender age that conservation would be my career path. However, as I grew up, I developed an interest in the environmental sciences and eventually focusing on biodiversity conservation. I hold a BSc Degree in Forest Resources and Wildlife Management from the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe). My undergraduate studies saw the beginning of my courtship with biodiversity conservation. It was during my studies that I was exposed to hands-on conservation work with African Wildlife Conservation Fund (AWCF), doing research on carnivores, mainly focusing on African wild dogs Lycaon pictus. The experience left me with thirst to do more towards wildlife conservation. In the year 2016, I was employed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as an Ecologist. This was a milestone in my career, giving me the opportunity to contribute effectively in all facets of conservation at national and international level. My key responsibility as an ecologist is to ensure maintenance of biodiversity through conservation of ecosystems, species and ecological processes. I also play a role in ensuring the implementation of global conservation frameworks such as CITES, CBD and the World Heritage Convention. My interests as such have been broadened from scientific research on terrestrial ecosystems, to sustainable development and ethnography. My involvement in the World Heritage Committee as an expert for Zimbabwe since 2016, has developed in me the zeal to be a leader in conservation. I am sure that this MPhil in Conservation Leadership, will fully equip me for the role through knowledge enhancement, development of excellent leadership skills and qualities; and acquaintance with a wider network of conservationists and experts in the field.

Noor A. Noor (Egypt)

Student

I am an Egyptian conservationist, educator and musician/artist, with a visceral need to build bridges between disciplines, cultures and art forms. I grew up as a child of the city in central Cairo, a beautifully chaotic ecosystem that forces its inhabitants to view and interact with the world differently. Nature was not a significant part of my youth, which has left me, till today, with a childlike wonder of natural habitats and the species that call them home, including humans. After studying Political Science at the American University in Cairo and Law at Cairo University, I managed Nature Conservation Egypt (Birdlife in Egypt) between 2012-2018, handling the organisation's day-to-day operations and coordinating/implementing its different programmes, including mainstreaming biodiversity within critical industries. I also worked with Dayma Journeys as an environmental educator, helping them pave the way for educational ecotourism in Egypt while using Biomimicry as a foundation for promoting nature-inspired innovation. While conservation has taken great strides in the past decades, I believe we are still falling short due to the sociopolitical and economic structures that govern our planet. I am committed to exploring how conservation can be communicated effectively, consolidating "human nature" with the nature we are trying to protect..

Hitesh Pant (Nepal)

Student

During my undergraduate studies, I promoted grass-roots activism against artisanal gold mining in South America, raised public awareness on the non-utilitarian significance of America's river systems, and conducted research on farm-to-fork food initiatives, food security, and indigenous farming techniques to support food sovereignty. While my fascination with the natural world remained resolute, my conviction to firmly situate myself and act within nature conservation only began after my experience of working as an environmental officer for the Government of Nepal, during which I witnessed the multiplicity of value conflicts and the real consequences of unequal power relations in transforming landscapes to fit strict ideas of national development. I am specifically interested in mobilizing collective action to create pathways for inclusive conservation regimes and break the increasing dependency on exclusionary protected areas and fixed outcomes. I would like to build on my MSc. in Sustainability Science and promote conservation that builds on transdisciplinary research and action, instead of separating bodies of knowledge. I am looking forward to learning from my fellow MPhil candidates about their own personal struggles and successes in conservation, and in turn working together to develop new ideas about shaping conservation action for both people and the planet.

Babette Tachibana-Brophy (Japan/Australia)

Student

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, I have always been inspired by the focus, tenacity and courage of wildlife, and I endeavour to apply that same conviction in my work as a Wildlife Lawyer. While studying Law and International Studies at the University of New South Wales, I developed an appreciation of the profound impact that the law can have on a person's life. This principle similarly applies to animals, as I witnessed first-hand while working in Namibia in 2014, where I established a Wildlife Law Program researching the ways in which law and policy affects endangered species conservation, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and the illegal wildlife trade. In addition to the Wildlife Law Program, I assisted in rhino relocations as part of the Namibian Rhino Custodian Programme, and worked on various GPS collaring projects researching human-wildlife conflict and mitigation measures. This was complemented by a television series I produced to raise domestic awareness of the environmental issues faced in Namibia. Since returning to Australia in 2016, I worked as a Senior Lawyer for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service with the Australian Government. This role provided me with an important understanding and insight into the management of large scale conservation operations. I look forward to developing the skills to design and manage conservation projects in the future, as well as bridging the gap between conservation and the law to deliver better environmental outcomes.

Cassandra Tania (Indonesia)

Student

I was born and raised in Jakarta. As a city girl, my encounter with ocean (and conservation later on) might have started when I spent some time in one Indonesian beach and somehow felt that the ocean was calling me to explore it (talking about a spiritual experience here!). In 2011, I completed an Erasmus Mundus M.Sc in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation which was hosted by Ghent University, Belgium. In 2012, I joined WWF Indonesia after 4 month internship and was responsible for a whale shark project in Teluk Cenderawasih National Park, West Papua and Papua. The job revolved around monitoring and surveillance, giving scientific recommendations to park management and ensuring the implementation of whale shark responsible tourism. In 2015, I moved back to Jakarta and was then in charge of the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project (a regional project which is implemented in 8 countries) where I dedicated the majority of my time for coordinating and managing the project. Since 2016, I have also been a member of IUCN Shark Specialist Group for Southeast Asia Region. I would like to use this masters program as an opportunity to gain new knowledge and reflect on the next step of my professional life.