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The Ellen Campus: One Month Later

It’s hard to believe, but our Ellen Campus has already been open for a month. It’s been a busy time of Helping People, Saving Gorillas on the campus, and it’s been so exciting to see how the purpose-built facility is accelerating our work. Our staff is fully operating from the campus, and we’ve been especially excited to have the new labs filled with students and interns.

We’ve already hosted many visitors, from students to visiting scientists to tourists to industry leaders in Rwanda.  Our labs are up and running, and students and interns are receiving trainings and conducting research.

Almost 900 primary and secondary students and their teachers have come to the campus for field trips. It has been such a joy to watch their faces light up as they try out our “talk like a gorilla” interactive kiosk or take in a film of the forest in our 360-degree Irmelin DiCaprio Theater.

Students learning about native plants and our rainwater harvesting program.

My favorite part of the gallery was the theater. When you are in the theater, you have an idea of what it’s like inside the forest. I also love the fact that there are artifacts of Dian Fossey, and even after so many years, they are well preserved.

We conducted several trainings onsite—a team of botanists from the UK, who are preparing an exhibit for the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show, worked with our botany experts to learn to identify native species planted throughout the Ellen Campus. A group of scientists from Spain visited our herbarium, which now contains more than 1,500 plant specimens from the Virunga massif. And we hosted our first students from several local universities, including the University of Rwanda and African Leadership University, a key part of training the next generation of African scientists.

And to help spread the word, we released a five-episode video series that tells some of the behind-the-scenes stories of making the campus. 

“We couldn’t be prouder that our Ellen Campus is serving as an important educational destination for the next generation,” said Felix Ndagijimana, our Rwanda programs director. “It offers many fun activities to excite young students and to teach them about gorillas and their natural habitat, and it is also proving to be useful in training the many university students who work with us.”

Students and teachers from the Rushabi Secondary School tour the Cindy Broder Conservation Center on February 9.

March is shaping up to be just as exciting. We’ll lead a multi-day training session, bringing 20 Rwandan conservationists onsite for a course on the use of geographic information systems (GIS) in conservation. We had almost 300 applicants for this session, showing how valuable this type of training is to local scientists—we plan to host more such sessions in the future. Our first international students will visit from the Georgia Institute of Technology to study the campus architecture.  And we are very excited to host the biodiversity team from our Congo program for trainings and information exchanges.

Lab coordinator Rose Umuhoza works with interns in one of our new laboratories.

We want to thank everyone who helped us make our dream a reality, and we hope to see many of you at our Ellen Campus in the coming months and years.