Winnie has many years of practical experience with gorilla behavior, ecology and conservation, reaching back to 2004 when she joined the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center as a research assistant. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chester, UK, with a dissertation on maternal investment in mountain gorillas. Afterward, she returned to Rwanda as a teaching fellow with the National University of Rwanda to train and supervise graduate students conducting research at Karisoke.
From 2011-12, she spent a year and a half working at Karisoke to study the physiology of stress among mountain gorillas in relation to their health and to help to collect data on mountain gorilla behavior and fecal samples. From 2013-14, she analyzed those data at the Fossey Fund’s headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., in collaboration with Emory University and the Davee Center for Epidemiology at Lincoln Park Zoo.
In 2015, Eckardt returned to Karisoke to work as research manager. Her duties include supervising the ongoing long-term Karisoke data collection and current research projects, supporting the publication and scientific writing process of Karisoke researchers and students, implementing electronic data collection, ensuring high-quality field data, strengthening scientific collaborations, supporting grant writing, and continuing her own gorilla research projects.