Projects for Capacity Development Participants
In 2009/10, over 100 Capacity Development participants will receive training placements on Earthwatch field projects. The Capacity Development Programme has supported many projects over the years, the details of which can be found below. Projects running this year are indicated in black next to the project title.
Coral and Coastal Ecology of the Seychelles 2010/2011
The project aims to conduct a baseline survey of the unexplored coral encrusted granite boulders, intertidal flats and mangroves surrounding Silhouette Island, Seychelles. The project will map richness and diversity of fauna in these habitats, highlighting communities and species of specific scientific and conservation interest. The research will form the basis of material used to engage the Seychelles government, local community and conservation groups and will inform recommendations for the effective management of the Seychelles coastal habitats. It is also hoped that long-term monitoring stations will be established to allow evaluation of the health and richness of the reef and associated habitats, to determine rates of change within the system and to identify the drivers of change. The Capacity Development team on this project has had a particular focus on intertidal work.
For more information on the project history and research aims visit: http://www.earthwatch.org/europe/exped/smith.html
Carnivores of Madagascar 2010/2011
The Carnivores of Madagascar project is based in Ankarafantsika and studies the abundance, behaviour, and conservation ecology of carnivores in Madagascar but focusing on charting long-term population trends and immediate conservation ecology of Madagascar’s largest carnivore, the fossa. Data collected will increase understanding of how the fossa is affected by expanding populations of non-endemic carnivore species and expand the current data sets for Madagascar’s research programs and management plans for conserving the island’s valuable dry forest biodiversity. For more information about the project generally see the latest Earthwatch web pages for this project: http://www.earthwatch.org/europe/exped/dollar_teen.html
Cocoa Farming and Biodiversity in Ghana
This was a three-year biodiversity project focusing on ‘Sustainable Cocoa Production
and Cocoa Eco-tourism in Ghana’. The project aimed to:
- Increase the number of cocoa farmers managing their farms to improve conservation of natural resources and biodiversity and develop a better cocoa growing model
- Develop a cocoa eco-tourism initiative to diversity the Ghanaian economy in the cocoa growing areas and bringing awareness to the local communities and visitors of the need for sustainable cocoa production and livelihoods.
- Disseminate lessons learnt from the project amongst local farming communities and engage Cadbury and other corporate employees in the project to educate and raise awareness of sustainable cocoa production issues, rural livelihoods and biodiversity conservation
Through capacity development teams we were able to train students and conservation and research practioners in knowledge acquisition methods and develop an initial systematic record of local knowledge about biodiversity associated with cocoa farms and their landscape context in Adjeikrom, Ghana.
Ecology and Conservation of the white-necked rock fowl in Ghana 2010/2011
This project is a partnership between Earthwatch, Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) and Ghana Wildlife Division that will facilitate sharing of UK scientific expertise to provide field research and training opportunities to assist conservation of the vulnerable white-necked rock fowl in Ghana. The project will: a) enable Ghana to meet its obligations for conservation of rock fowl under the Convention of Biological Diversity (specifically Articles 7, 8, 10, 12, 13 & 17), b) build capacity for rock fowl conservation across the range of the species in Ghana and beyond, and c) establish a community-managed sanctuary for viable rock fowl populations in Ghana.
“The partnership with Earthwatch has been great in my view. Aside from helping us to gather scientific data, the Earthwatch model brings so much benefit to both the research staff and volunteers, and many of our participants have been positively affected by their experience from the project. My gratitude to all the team at Earthwatch.”
Patrick Adjewodah, PI, Re-emergence of White-necked Rockfowl in Ghana
Lakes of the Rift Valley, Kenya
Earthwatch has received further Darwin funding to build on the outputs and success of the original Darwin project at Lake Bogoria, by expanding methods and techniques to all key soda lakes in the Rift Valley. The East African soda lakes are collectively a vital habitat for Phoeniconaias Minor (lesser flamingo) and many other species. The post-project will enable lessons learnt at Lake Bogoria to be refined for local conservationists and communities throughout the Kenyan and Tanzanian Rift to build host country capacity for a coordinated trans-boundary programme of research, monitoring, and education, using P. Minor as a flagship species.
Lemurs & Forests of Madagascar
The overall objective of this project is to study the recovery process of the southernmost population of black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata variegata) at Manombo Forest Reserve following extensive habitat destruction caused by Cyclone Gretelle in 1997 and in order to maintain the viability of the species. Fellows assist local guides with the collection of data on animal behaviour following a focal animal within a study group and undertake vegetation surveys to study forest structure and composition and food availability.
Mount Mulanje Ecological Survey 2010/2011
The principal goal of this project is to monitor the ecosystem health of Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve. This will be achieved through the implementation of an Ecological Monitoring Programme (EMP), developed by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT). The project aims to design and undertake Strategic baseline biodiversity and ecosystem surveys, and develop a robust long-term ecological monitoring programme. The Mount Mulanje EMP therefore consists of many different types of studies ranging from walking transects, to permanent sampling plots, the counting charcoal bags on roads, camera trapping, the use of remote sensing for fire assessment, and to the use of electronic weather stations for meteorological data recording. It is hoped that through the use of many different approaches an idea of how the Mount Mulanje ecosystem is changing over time will be monitored and used to influence management decisions.
Samburu Wildlife and Communities, Kenya 2010/2011
On this Conservation Research Initiative, 2010 participants joined the Grevy's Zebras: Ecological Monitoring on Pastoral Land, Wamba project, which is establishing the ecology and habitat use of endangered Grevy's zebras to limit impacts from human activities. The projects are aimed at reducing competition between wildlife and local communities and teams work in the unprotected Wamba Division and in the protected Lewa Wildlife Conservancy conducting field surveys of wildlife and vegetation and help to determine the population status and habitat needs of threatened Grevy's zebras.
Bosede Adenike Kosemani, a participant on the project commented:
“It helped me understand conservation more from a community perspective and how to make decisions that favour not only the species and their habitat but also the community that interact with these species.”
The Capacity Development programme has also supported training on other Samburu research projects including Medicinal Plants and Carnivores in Conflict
South Africa's Brown Hyaenas 2010/2011
January 2010 saw Earthwatch’s first all teacher team, made up of 6 teachers from the local area and around South Africa, take part in the South Africa’s Brown Hyaenas project which primarily involves researching local carnivore ecology. Like many carnivores throughout Africa, the brown Hyaena (Hyaena brunnea) is suffering from shrinking habitats due to the land around protected areas being increasingly developed by humans. This has lead to the existence of Hyaena populations in neighbouring farmland and game ranches and conflicts have arisen between the human and carnivore populations. There are less than 1,700 free ranging brown Hyaenas left in South Africa and yet the populations in unprotected areas are often overlooked by ecological research and therefore not taken into account in national and international conservation plans. Therefore the focus of this research is assessing carnivore populations in areas with different levels of protection in order to develop the understanding of the ecology of these animals and the extent and reasons behind the growing human-carnivore conflict.
South Africa's Hidden Species
Invertebrates are estimated to comprise 95% of all living organisms are a critically important component of biodiversity, contributing to the efficient functioning of ecosystems. Lack of awareness of their significance and exclusion in conservation activities is mainly due to the absence of adequate data which this project aims to address for a suite of invertebrate taxa in areas which have biodiversity conservation significance. One of these areas is Mkhuze Game Reserve where a local team of Birdlife Guides and a team of international African conservationists are to survey the distribution and abundance of diverse invertebrates using a variety of sampling methods such as insect traps, sweep nets, and quadrats, and assist with sorting and preparation of specimens.
Tidal Forests of Kenya 2010/2011
This project is located in the mangrove forest that borders the landward side of the Gazi Bay, Kenya. The forests have become degraded because of their heavy use as a fishing ground and as a source of building lumber and fuel wood by local communities. Therefore, the research’s primary aim is to conduct pioneering plantation experiments to rehabilitate the degraded mangroves. The research results of the project will benefit the local community as well as contributing to global efforts to restore mangrove forests and counter the effects of rising sea level.
Over the past 3 years Earthwatch participants have planted seedlings on two beach sites and documented the growth and survival of these seedlings, established erosion stations and consequently been able to record rates of sediment erosion and deposition, and established experiments looking at rates of root growth and deposition.
In 2010 Earthwatch received funding from the John Ellerman Foundation to develop a hands-on training programme that will support the work being undertaken in Gazi Bay. The grant allows us to train and engage individuals from conservation NGOs and government agencies in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique who are stakeholders of a potential business protecting and managing East African mangrove plantations for carbon credit. Once the project is established and the training more developed, focused and relevant it is hoped that it will become an “Accredited Carbon Community Forestry Scheme”.
Walking with African Wildlife
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa - This magnificent landscape of rolling savanna woodland was the last refuge for white rhinos a century ago. Now the historic, 900-square-kilometre park harbours a healthy population of 2068, as well as black rhinos, giraffes, elephants, kudu, impala, wildebeest, zebras, and others, a veritable ark of African biodiversity. All of these large herbivores, in their teeming numbers, have an impact on the structure and diversity of the ecosystem. An overpopulation of any one of them can mean massive destruction to their habitat and instability to the other wildlife populations it supports. The data collected will inform appropriate management interventions, ensuring the diversity of wildlife species in one of Africa's oldest wildlife reserves.
West African Manatee Conservation, Ghana 2010/2011
This project aims to significantly improve the conservation status of the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) at Volta Lake in Ghana over a 3-year period through research and reduction of hunting. This species is the least understood and probably most endangered of all extant Sirenians, and a unique opportunity exists to improve knowledge of its seasonal distribution, ecology and response to human impacts. This should lead to better management and conservation prospects for the species across its range. The project will increase awareness of, and reduce, human-manatee conflict in shoreline fishing communities, and enhance local, national and sub-regional capacity to protect this species. The West African manatee will be incorporated in the development of community-based ecotourism efforts at Volta Lake, offering economic and social benefits to the local inhabitants while simultaneously meeting conservation objectives.
Bolaji Dunsin Abimbola, a participant on the project, said of his experience:
“I now understand the urgency of conservation of manatee and other endangered species and I have been equipped with the knowledge needed to carry out the research and contribute to the conservation of this species”
Belarus Wetlands 2010/2011
Wetlands in Belarus are extensive and various and bogs make up 14% of the country. Bogs are extremely important as they improve the gas composition of the atmosphere, carry out climate regulation, and regulate the character of flowing and subsoil water levels in vast contingencies to bog territories. Globally, the last two centuries have seen a period of artificial reconstruction of nature, during which the bogs of Belarus were mostly destroyed. Peatlands contain more than 20% of the world's carbon and up to 70% of all carbon stored in biotic systems. Western Europe has lost most of its natural peatlands and it is important to conserve remaining peatland in countries such as Belarus where significant areas of the habitat remain.
The long-term goal of the project is to find comprehensive and effective systems of conservation for the raised bogs of Belarus. Course participants are taught the practical research skills and simple techniques to sample, survey and monitor a range of habitats, plants and animals. In additional to this, training is given on a range of environmental education techniques to enable participant to raise awareness of conservation in a wide audience and, more specifically, to learn how to devise and adapt hands-on activities and thought-provoking games which illustrate a variety of ecological concepts to schoolchildren and other audiences.
Malaysian bats 2010/2011
Since the mid 1990s, Malaysia has been losing its rainforests at a rate of 2.4 percent a year to logging, agriculture, and resort development; and with the rainforest, Malaysia is losing bats. Today, 34 species in Malaysia are listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened and endangered species. The rainforest bats are particularly vulnerable, as they are adapted just for forest living. Their short, rounded wings allow them to weave in and out of dense vegetation and their sophisticated echolocation allows them to home in on insects in the dense vegetation. Not only are bats a key component of Malaysian biodiversity, they also provide valuable pollination and seed-dispersal services and do a booming business in insect removal.
The expedition will take place in a no-tourist area of the reserve, where only rangers, scientists, and indigenous Orang Asli people are allowed. The project will involve monitoring bat diversity and population sizes and identifying roosting sites and patterns. Participants will assist in harp-trapping, examining, and banding bats at one of five different sites, radio-tracking tagged bats to roosting sites, and mapping key habitat features.
Malaysian Rainforests 2010/2011
Over recent decades Borneo’s once pristine rainforests, particularly its lowland forests, have been subject to intensive, industrial-scale logging and/or cleared to make way for plantations, threatening the crucial ecosystem services they provide and many of the island’s plant and animal species. The forests that do remain are often highly degraded or scattered as small fragments embedded within inhospitable agricultural landscapes. It is these forests, rather than the remaining pockets of protected primary forest, that now support much of the island’s biodiversity and are critically important in maintaining overall ecosystem functioning. However, the regenerative capacity and long-term viability of such forests has not been well studied – especially with regards to their degree of resilience to climate change.
The key objective of this research is to maintain rainforest biodiversity and aid conservation in the face of climate and land use change. We are therefore running an integrated programme of research that aims to assess and understand biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, regenerative capacity and restoration requirements in degraded and fragmented rainforests – and therefore contribute to their resilience, conservation and long-term survival.
The Business Skills for World Heritage programme was launched in October 2009 and will run for 5 years. It is based at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, where the Malaysian Rainforests project is also run. The programme is a collaboration between Earthwatch, Shell and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which encourages the transfer of business skills from Shell employees to Natural World Heritage site employees. It is hoped this exchange of skills will enhance effective management of World Heritage sites involved and provide economic benefits to local communities thereby helping to preserve some of the most spectacular and threatened natural environments on earth. Earthwatch has also jointly run training tams for local rangers and field staff on key research techniques, data collection and data analysis.
Mangroves of Sri Lanka
The primary objective of the project is to restore community managed mangrove stands at selected sites around the coast of Sri Lanka and for these to help sustain livelihoods and improve knowledge on how restoration processes of mangrove forestation can best be managed to create coastal protection and maximise the ecosystem through sediment accretion and otherwise so as to ultimately provide direct benefits to the people of Sri Lanka.
In response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, this three-year project will use scientific research methods to examine and identify appropriate planting regimes to address the blanket replanting that has been done since the tsunami without consideration of appropriate species, densities and combinations. The project will plant a total of 45,000 mangrove trees over the three years. The project aims to rebuild mangrove forestation in three key areas in Sri Lanka; study the benefits of different species and planting densities on coastal protection and ecosystems, including in terms of protection from ocean waves and flooding; and compare results with an existing Earthwatch mangrove forestation project in Kenya and share the learning there and elsewhere in the interest of increasing knowledge of coastal protection, including against future tsunamis. Earthwatch, through funding from Zurich supported a 3 day National Conference on Identification of Knowledge Gaps for Sustainable Management of Mangroves in Sri Lanka. The report is available here – link. This marked the end of the current Earthwatch programme on this project.