UBS has been supporting Earthwatch's work in Africa since 2000 through annual training grants to young scientists working on Earthwatch field research projects and providing funding for six field placements a year to South African teachers.
Earthwatch is pleased to announce that the 2009 UBS training grants winners were Lauren Esterhuizen from South Africa, Fridah Mukiri from Kenya, Daniel D. G. Bewong from Ghana and Lauren Jane Waller from South Africa. All four will benefit from the funding to develop training plans at key points in their career.
Dr Dawn Scott, lead scientist on the Earthwatch project South Africa's Brown Hyaenas who nominated Lauren Esterhuizen for this award said: "Lauren is a dynamic and self-motivated individual who is currently being held back by her lack of qualifications. I believe that with this support, Lauren will go on to make a significant difference to conservation in South Africa."
In January this year six teachers from schools around South Africa, including schools close to Rustenburg near Mankwe Wildlife Reserve, were awarded field placements. They joined the South Africa's Brown Hyaenas project at Pilanesberg National Park, Northwest Province, South Africa. This builds on two previous years of successful teams joining the Earthwatch project South Africa's Hidden Species.
Education officer Penny Rees from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) accompanied the teachers on the hyaena project, helping them to link the research to practical activities they could take back to the classroom; these activities included a hyaena questionnaire which will be completed by all pupils at the participants' schools to gain information about school children's perceptions of the brown hyaena. The survey could potentially be distributed to all schools in the Rustenburg and Natal regions and will also be used for educational sessions at WESSA.
One of the teachers, Petronella Vermeulen, has used the experience to develop links between the youth group she works with, The Land Service, and the South Africa's Brown Hyaenas project, potentially using young people to volunteer.
Petronella said: "My land service club will get involved with the brown hyaena project in Kgaswane, Rustenburg. All the stuff I learned I will be able to carry over to all Land Service clubs in Rustenburg."
Amos Letsoalo, an Environmental Education Officer at the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), visited the hyaena project for the day to share practical science skills with the teachers and chat about potential visits to their schools.
A partnership with a leading investment bank is helping to develop the skills of future African conservation leaders and teachers.