Neville Shulman Award winners 2021: where are they now? - Earthwatch

Neville Shulman Award winners 2021: where are they now?

The Neville Shulman Earthwatch Awards give individuals the opportunity to implement new research, increase community engagement in environmental projects and tackle some of the world’s key environmental challenges.

In August 2021 we invited our network of scientists to identify emerging scientists and encourage them to submit their research project proposals for the Neville Shulman Earthwatch Awards. From this, we selected two young scientists to receive an award of £4,000.

Now, over a year later, with projects nearing completion, we catch up with the grant winners to see how they are getting on with their projects.

Mwanarusi Mwafrica Salim: Enhancing mangrove ecosystem sustainability in Vanga Bay, Kenya

Mwanarusi

Mwanarusi Mwafrica is a young marine researcher from Kenya working for Vanga Blue Forest Organization (a mangrove carbon offsetting project) as the coordinator. With the grant, Mwanarusi hoped to help restore degraded mangrove habitats by involving the local community. She also planned to undertake structural surveys of mangroves in Vanga to assist the creation of environmental protection regulations in the area.

This is a vital project for these mangrove habitats as there has been an ongoing loss of mangrove forest in the area over the past 25 years. This is likely due to the increased human population, with over 80% of local people depending on the mangroves for building materials and as a source of energy. This has resulted in increasing pressure on the Vanga mangrove forest.

Project participant measuring a 10 x 10m2 plot during an on-going mangrove survey

The project began with two consultation meetings with the community. Then a mangrove survey was undertaken within the Vanga mangrove forest with support from the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The research showed that the mangrove forest continues to fall victim to deforestation as the survey revealed fresh cuts in the mangroves.

Two community members demonstrating as part of the ongoing awareness creation activity in Vanga

An awareness raising event on sustainable mangrove management and conservation with guidance from Kenya Forest Service was also held in Vanga village.

On a personal level, Mwanarusi feels the grant and the project has helped develop her organisational, management and interpersonal skills, enabling her to balance her work, delegate when needed and collaborate with various individuals and institutions.

About her project, Mwanarusi said:

“Addressing the issue of mangrove degradation on a face to face sitting with the Vanga community was a goal achieved on my to do list. Because I believe that dialogue is a key step to changing behaviour and practices for the betterment of our environment.”

Inception meeting for the project

Dr Caroline Wanjuri, from Kenyatta University, herself a recipient of an Earthwatch fellowship at an early stage of her career in 2009, nominated Mwanarusi for the Shulman Award. Inspired by Mwanarusi’s commitment to enhancing youth capacity in the blue economy Caroline wrote:

“She is a conservator at heart and loves contributing in making the Earth a better place for coming generations.”

Herindrainy Davidson Hajanantenaina: Abundance of nocturnal lemur species in different habitat types in Maromizaha Protected Area in Madagascar

Herindrainy Davidson, a Malagasy citizen and early-career primatologist from the University of Antananarivo and Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar (GERP) is a lemur conservation educator who combines conservation knowledge with creative skills in illustration and animation.

With this award, Herindrainy planned to update existing nocturnal lemur species data for the Maromizaha Protected Area, explore the effectiveness of reforestation efforts, and support the conservation action strategies of nocturnal lemurs in the forest by involving the local community.

Primate species in Madagascar are hugely under threat with 95% of lemur species in danger of extinction. This decline is largely a result of traditional agricultural practices.

In 2008, GERP were approved to manage the Maromizaha Protected Area and to work on reducing local dependency on natural resources. By undertaking this important work, Herindrainy hopes to help tackle these challenges facing the Protected Area and its lemurs.

Fat Tailed Dwarf Lemur

Updating the data involved assessing the abundance of nocturnal lemur populations in the Maromizaha Protected Area, in three different forest structures over three months. This involved installing four line transects in the primary forest. In each line transect, they conducted two surveys at night. Another element involved setting up a vegetation plot in each of the four line transects to help the team identify the lemur’s preferred microhabitat types.

Mouse Lemur

A key aspect of the project is to ensure the continuation of conservation education in the Maromizaha forest over the next five years. In the coming months Herindrainy and community members will work together to create a comic book, poster and a short film documenting the project.

Herindrainy felt that the grant and the project helped him to develop his skills and knowledge in using research techniques, collaborative working, project planning and management, and community engagement.

Management Platform meeting

Community participation was an important part of the project with many members of the Maromizaha community getting involved, including members of GERP, local guides and the Women’s Association.

Next steps for the project will involve undertaking nocturnal lemur surveys and vegetation plots in reforested and second growth forest. They also hope to raise awareness of nocturnal species and their conservation with local guides, teachers and children.

About the grant and the project, Herindrainy said that:

“I am largely satisfied with the support which Earthwatch offered me. This project develops my experience and could help me to conceive more research issues or questions to consider from the observation I collected in the field.”

Field guides and assistant

Professor Jonah Ratsimbazafy, President of GERP, nominated Herindrainy for the award. He recognised his potential as a researcher and a communicator.

“This project will provide education tools and resources such as posters, comic books, and a short documentary which will highlight the impacts of habitat loss on lemur distribution and introduce the impact of forest loss and climate change on human livelihoods not only in Maromizaha but also in the whole country.”

Discover the latest 2022 Neville Shulman Award winners here.

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