Oxford Brookes Professor of Biodiversity Conservation takes project students to the Greater Mara ecosystem (GME), Kenya, to assist in a long term project assessing the viability of wildlife conservancies.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Kenya Students

Professor of Biodiversity Conservation takes project students to the Greater Mara ecosystem (GME), Kenya, to assist in a long term project assessing the viability of wildlife conservancies.

Professor Stewart Thompson   is a Director of a research cluster in a University whose work explores the linkages between wildlife protection mechanisms/policies and landscape scale ecology; the effects of land-use change on wildlife; threatened species conservation in developing countries and wildlife tourism and human-wildlife conflict resolution.  This summer he took a group of students to Kenya to help with a conservation research project. Read about their adventures below.

This summer I took 10 project students with me to the Greater Mara ecosystem (GME), Kenya, to assist in a long term project I oversee - assessing the viability of wildlife conservancies. Innovatively, wildlife conservancies promote the protection of wildlife by creating additional conservation areas on Maasai owned land and I am keen to explore how well the model works compared to the "traditional" protected area mechanisms currently in play. In the conservancies our students undertake a variety of field-based research including the identification and quantification to changes in vegetation cover.  However, the main emphasis is on understanding ungulate distribution patterns and abundance taking place as a result of the establishment of the conservancies. Although not the central tenet of the work, as a nice aside we are also able to appreciate how the predator populations are also responding to this new protected area concept, especially (if you are a student!) the elusive leopards. Overall our students research in the GME helps provide the evidence with which we can examine whether wildlife conservancies are delivering their theoretical promise - significant if the conservancy concept is to grow.

I saw our students expand the current monitoring programme to two new wildlife conservancies in the GME, allowing for a more widespread appreciation of conservancy conservation utility. Their hard work and enthusiasm provides conservancy managers with the essential information on the ecological condition of their conservancies which assists in the development of the management plans that capture the needs of both people and wildlife in the GME.  Early starts, long days and variable weather for the seven weeks we were there never seemed to deter our students - an enjoyable and productive time was had by all.  For me the buzz is easy to identify - working alongside the next generation of field-based conservation biologists who are looking forward to making a difference!

Professor Stewart Thompson