Fossey Fund Scientist Provides Statistics Training to Africa Program Staff

November 28, 2012

Fossey Fund Scientist Provides Statistics Training to Africa Program Staff

Damien Caillaud, Ph.D., giving statistics course to Africa program staffDamien Caillaud, Ph.D., who has been working with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s research team from Atlanta, taught a special statistics mini-course for our African staff at our regional research center in Musanze, Rwanda last week. The course included statistical methods as well as technical training in using statistics software.

Caillaud came onto the Fossey Fund team in August as a post-doctoral fellow working on several projects with our researchers. Among the projects is the ongoing development of the Gorilla Database (DB), which will be an online database of all data collected at the Karisoke Research Center since it was established in 1967. He is also contributing to two Fossey Fund studies, one on gorilla ranging patterns and one on social networks within gorilla groups and how they change as a gorilla ages.

During his visit to Rwanda, Caillaud is working with our field staff, who actually collect and enter data for the Gorilla DB, as well as discussing his research projects with his collaborators here and with the staff who help collect the data on which these studies are based. Perhaps even more significantly, Caillaud is here to help establish several new gorilla research projects, which will be led by research assistants at the Karisoke Research Center.

“The Fossey Fund, since the beginning, has always done a lot of capacity building,” Caillaud says. “That’s one very strong aspect of the organization — teaching our assistants here to become research scientists.”

The statistics mini-course Caillaud led is among several professional development opportunities that the Fossey Fund will provide concurrently with the projects, to help our staff complete their research.

Caillaud adds, “The Fossey Fund's Karisoke Research Center does a lot of behavioral and ecological data collection, so we also need to continuously increase our efforts to analyze the data generated and publish our results.”

Caillaud (lower left) and statistics course graduatesAn important part of building capacity both in Rwanda generally and within the organization is to provide opportunities for junior staff to take on leadership of their own projects. With opportunities like the statistics mini-course, senior staff can help guide them and transfer knowledge. Caillaud notes that courses in quantitative analysis, especially, are not widely available in Rwanda, so these are particularly important in helping our staff stay up-to-date with research methods and technology.

Fifteen textbooks for the workshop were provided as a generous donation from Roberts and Company Publishers. Having these textbooks available to our staff will help tremendously in supporting their research.