A. G. Leventis African Biodiversity Fellowship Programme

5 previous fellows standing infront of a colourful mural at ZSL.

This new Fellowship programme, launched in September 2021 is run by Professor Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Biology, and her team in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science. It offers NGO, government and business employees working on biodiversity conservation, as well as researchers in academic institutions, the opportunity to engage with researchers based at the University of Oxford, and to benefit from the training, resources and opportunities the University has to offer. The scheme offers the chance to spend up to three months at Oxford, attending training courses, networking and creating collaborations, writing papers, and developing ideas. It also offers remote support, training and networking opportunities before and after the time spent in Oxford. Successful applicants can spend their Fellowship in any Department of the University as long as their project is within the sphere of conservation.

Due to the generous support of the A. G. Leventis Foundation, this new programme will enable us to host three visitors per year*.

 

The programme will have three core aims:

  1. To support conservation practitioners in the local and international NGO sectors, government officials who are designing and implementing conservation policies, and businesses developing and implementing corporate biodiversity strategies to build their skills, capabilities and networks and thereby enhance their ability to contribute to conservation in their home country;
  2. To ensure that Oxford’s research is informed by, and meaningful for, real-world conservation issues, and is carried out in collaboration with in-country end-users;
  3. To build long-term relationships between Oxford researchers and conservation practitioners, strengthening Oxford’s ability to make a real-world difference.

Our vision is for this programme to leverage Oxford’s research strengths and advantages in terms of access to resources and networking opportunities, to support those working in biodiversity conservation in their home countries to build essential collaborations and opportunities. Visitors will be given vital time and support to, for example: realise the potential of their datasets, design and test their conservation strategies, to develop new ideas, attend training courses, network with potential collaborators and to share their knowledge and experience with their Oxford-based peers. This will benefit everyone: the practitioners themselves, researchers, students, and the wider university. Most importantly, it will enable more effective and sustainable biodiversity conservation into the long term, on the ground.

A comprehensive fellowship experience, the experience we provide for fellows extends far beyond academic inputs. Our programme considers their entire experience in the UK, offering opportunities to take part in activities such as visiting the many museums and historic colleges Oxford has to offer, formal banqueting in Oxford’s colleges, attending Evensong, punting, birdwatching, and other ‘tourist’ activities, not to mention becoming immersed in British culture, food and customs, and importantly, making long lasting friendships and collaborative relationships.

We ensure that visitors are paired in advance with an academic working in their particular area of interest, and they also get an early career researcher to act as a “buddy”. This benefits both the visitor and the early career researcher. This mentoring system ensures that our visitors have two points of contact, for academic experiences but also for cultural and practical questions, and for socialising.  

 

Previous outputs and successes

kThe Biodiversity Fellows taking part in our other schemes have participated in technical workshops and events: for example, in 2018 Edson Gandiwa took part in a plenary panel discussion at the UK Government’s international inter-governmental Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London, and, along with other fellows (Angelo Ramy Mandimbihasina, Kofi Amponsah-Mensah, Medard Twinamatsiko and Vivienne Williams), took an active part in workshops and symposia associated with the event.

Papers have also been initiated during the Fellows’ visits: for example Angelo Ramy published The illegal pet trade is driving Madagascar’s ploughshare tortoise to extinction, while Paulo Wilfred published Attitudes to illegal behaviour and conservation in western Tanzania. Both papers were published in Oryx.

A number of research grant proposals have been won as a result of the Biodiversity Fellows’ visits. Additionally, Fellows have secured scholarships: Kumar Paudel studied for an MPhil Conservation leadership at Cambridge University, while Divya Narain secured a fully funded PhD at the University of Queensland after completing her Fellowship. We are also proud that Caleb Ofori-Boateng went on to win the 2019 Whitley award for conservation, which he won for his work to conserve the Togo Slippery frog.

 

Who should apply?

If you are a senior member of staff, who would benefit from the opportunities offered by taking part in our programme and stepping away from your NGO, government, or business environment and commitments for a short period of time, to develop new strategic approaches, write up their ideas, or build partnerships, then this scheme may be right for you.

Alternatively, if you are at a relatively early stage in your career, and would benefit from the academic possibilities offered by the University of Oxford and the ICCS group you are also particularly welcome to apply. Particularly if you would benefit from learning new skills, analysing and writing up your datasets, and building an international network. 

*NB This scheme is open to Africian nationals only 

The next call for applications will take place in Autumn 2022.

 

Meet our Fellows
man in red tshirt on a dirt track
Ojonugwa Ekpah

What made you want to join the programme as an Leventis African Biodiversity fellow?

I desire to join the programme as an A. G. Leventis African Biodiversity fellow so that my biodiversity protection skills will be explored and refined through the interaction with experts at the University of Oxford. I will also acquire new skills in protected area management using butterflies as the key species through the exchange of ideas with experts in the University of Oxford. I will bring in my datasets (e.g. butterfly habitat preference, results from bait trap protocol, etc.) along with the over 200 photos of butterflies taken from different forest areas in Nigeria.  There are also butterflies photos taken by other Nigerian citizen scientists which I have collated. I will then organized these data and in addition to the other data which will be obtained during the training in the University of Oxford, I will realise the potential of the dataset and hence develop new ideas.

The fellowship will give me the opportunity to network with resource persons of like passion in the University of Oxford. Professor Owen Lewis who is one of my potential mentors in the fellowship has started sharing ideas with me already. At the end of the fellowship, I will come back to Nigeria and train other early career conservationist and provided mentorship.

             

Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with us? Can you tell us a little about it?

Habitat fragmentation in Nigeria put pressure on butterfly species making them move towards forest however, some species of butterfly can adapt to degraded forests. To understand how butterfly diversity changes from human disturbed habitat to protected forests, butterflies were surveyed from human residential area to Omo forest reserve, southwestern Nigeria and a quick visit to the Oban division of the Cross River national park, Afi wildlife sanctuary, Becheeve nature reserve in Obudu, Okomu national park and Saponba forest reserve in Nigeria. Butterflies were sampled by opportunistic encounter along forest paths using sweep net and butterfly baited trap. Photographic evidence were also obtained. A total of over 200 species of butterflies were encountered including the rare Euptera elabontas and Euphaedra zaddachii. There is also an unnamed species observed in Omo forest in the Demetra sub-group although it was not the first observation as a team of researchers had reported it. A list of the butterfly species which are able to thrive in human dominated areas, those that can adapt to moderate disturbances as well as species that are strict forest butterflies were record. Some butterfly species came to trap. Rare species of butterflies are restricted to the forest. These data will be brought into the fellowship in the University of Oxford.

See Ojonugwa's full profile here

 

 

woman at a conference table with a heaset on
Roseline Mandisodza

What made you want to join the programme as an Leventis Africian Biodiversity fellow?

When I saw the advert for the Leventis African Biodiversity Fellowship, it just summarized what I wanted to do at this point in my career. I am at a curve in my career where I need to define myself as a wildlife practitioner and through this fellowship, I hope to have a firm springboard to move to the next level.

 

Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with us? Can you tell us a little about it?

I want to interact established researchers and academia in the field of wildlife management. I want to link local wildlife conservation practices with international standards as we seek to ensure sustainable wildlife development and management.

See Rose's full profile here

 

Woman in t-shirt
Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh

What made you want to join the programme as an Leventis Africian Biodiversity fellow?

I do practical conservation and particularly at the grassroots in Africa’s most populous nation – Nigeria. What this means is that I am often faced with real-time conflicts between conservation and human needs. Thus, as someone implementing conservation I am constantly faced with the responsibility to proffer solutions to issues that even I don't have answers to. An opportunity for such a fellowship will position me to have the sort of critical thinking for proactive and reactive responses that are not just going to have instantaneous results but transformational outcomes. I will be in an environment where I can glean ideas from a vast pool of experiences already in the vaults of people in such a prestigious institution. The connections will also be useful to grow my network.

In over 15 years of my career from conservation research to conservation interventions which has led to the creation of two protected areas, I believe I am at a critical point where the results I have gotten must be sustained while I endeavour to reproduce these results in other sites. I am constantly reminded that it’s one thing to design and implement conservation intervention, it’s another thing to create wider outcomes from that action. This is why I believe this fellowship will enable me to gain insights into diverse perspectives (through networks, presenting our work to various audiences) so as to evaluate our interventions for conservation effectiveness.

 

Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with us? Can you tell us a little about it?

A specific project I will be working on: Tackling the urgent need for conservation actions within the framework of local dynamics and ensuring management effectiveness. Given my role as Chief Executive/Project Director at SW/Niger Delta Forest Project, my work leading to conservation intervention projects with local communities and government, I will like to use this fellowship to assess where these efforts/results fit into the changing landscapes, perspectives and narratives of conservation, wildlife protection and forest/habitat management.

I am particularly interested in triggering discussions regarding (but not limited to): - How some unrelated/disconnected activities are tackling the urgent need for conservation actions within the framework of governmental policies, socio-economic realities and other local contexts. - The development of metrics to measure effectiveness and impacts of long-term local conservation efforts in the field; - Strategies to develop local cooperation for conservation projects.

See Rachel's full profile here