For conservation to work, it must be sustainable in the long term. We are dedicated to providing young African scientists with the skills they need to become future leaders in conservation, science and education. This includes training hundreds of local college students each year, providing scholarships to our staff for obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees, providing professional internships, and building capacity of national park staff.
Educating the Next Generation of African Scientists
Training aspiring young scientists is one of the key goals of our community programs in Africa, helping to build the next generation of conservationists. Each year, we reach more than 400 students from universities in Rwanda and Congo, teaching them about conservation, gorillas, scientific methods, field research skills and more. We also provide intensive supervision for college students conducting their senior thesis research projects, and we offer post-graduate internship opportunities to provide further training.
Our education efforts are working! Our follow-up data show that more than 85 percent of those who do their senior thesis work at Karisoke go into scientific or conservation related careers. Many now work for the Rwandan government or local conservation organizations, or have gone on to pursue graduate degrees.
And the students study some fascinating topics, providing more information about the gorillas and their ecosystem than we could ever cover on our own. Some of the recent student studies include these topics:
- Applying fecal analysis to determine gorilla food plant usage
- Conservation attitudes among students in primary schools around Volcanoes National Park (gorilla habitat)
- Land-use change outside Volcanoes National Park using satellite images
- Ecological importance of primates in the Gishwati forest regeneration
- Altitudinal distribution of regal sunbirds (unique to this region)
Educational Opportunities for Our Staff
The Fossey Fund also is dedicated to building the capacity of our own staff in Africa, and provides college scholarship opportunities for staff who wish to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. Although many of them study conservation, they also choose to study other subjects, including engineering, accounting, education and public health. We also provide opportunities for staff exchanges among our field sites, attendance at conservation conferences, and support for research projects of their own. Our scientific staff and visiting experts also provide special seminars and courses for our field staff.
Capacity Building for Staff at National Parks
In both Rwanda and Congo, the Fossey Fund works with national park staff to enhance their ability to protect threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems. This includes hosting training sessions and workshops, developing education materials, improving data collection, and supporting other aspects of good conservation management.