Our biodiversity program manager, Deogratias (Deo) Tuyisingize, started with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in 2004 as a student at the University of Rwanda. Deo did his senior thesis work with us, focusing on the endangered golden monkeys that live in the forest with the gorillas. His career journey has since taken him from student, to staff member, to leader, mentor and more.
While on staff with our biodiversity program, the Fossey Fund helped support Deo’s work on a master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Cape Town, which he completed in 2010. He was then promoted to the position of biodiversity program manager.
Now, we are incredibly proud to announce that Deo has completed his Ph.D., from the University of Rwanda. Scientists and staff from around the world watched via Zoom on June 29, as Deo presented his dissertation research, entitled “Conservation ecology of the golden monkeys and their habitats in Rwanda.”
Golden monkey conservation
Golden monkeys are a guenon found only in the Virunga mountains, where the mountain gorillas live, and also in Rwanda’s Gishwati forest, part of the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Deo’s long-term research is the most in-depth look at how these endangered monkeys are faring, providing information about their ranges, diets, reproductive patterns and threats to their survival. Currently they exist in fragmented populations and face a variety of dangers, such as habitat loss and degradation.
He also led an international team to develop the very first action plan for golden monkey conservation, which focuses on improving their protection and habitat. His goal is to see viable golden monkey populations thriving throughout their range by 2027.
Studying other animal and plants
In addition to studying golden monkeys, Deo has also worked on many other important aspects of our biodiversity program in Volcanoes National Park. He has studied the distribution of mammals, birds, and amphibians in the forest, piloted the use of remote cameras in Volcanoes National Park, and implemented a long-term monitoring program of bamboo, a critical food for both golden monkeys and gorillas.
“The goal of pursuing a Ph.D. in the conservation of endangered primates is not just to earn a degree but to reinforce collective efforts for conserving all threatened species and saving our planet,” Deo says.
Helping future conservationists
In addition to his work for the Fossey Fund and his own academic research, Deo has been an invaluable mentor to up-and-coming undergraduate students in Rwanda. He supervises students from Rwanda’s national universities who come to the Fossey Fund to work on their own research projects — just like he did — and teaches applied conservation biology field courses for them as well. A full circle of the student becoming the teacher!
“Deo has set an impressive example for how much can be achieved if you are passionate and dedicated about wildlife conservation,” says Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., the Fossey Fund’s senior manager of primate research and one of the co-supervisors on Deo’s Ph.D. “I am sure that many of his colleagues are inspired by Deo and will follow in his footsteps,” she adds.
“The wonderful journey that Deo has successfully made, from student with us, through his master’s degree and now his Ph.D., shows how meaningful our programs are for supporting future conservationists are,” says Fossey Fund president and CEO/chief scientist Tara Stoinski, Ph.D. “From students to staff members, we are proud to be able to support advanced education opportunities like this.”