West Africa Mammal Fellowship

The fellowship includes a hands-on field-based workshop and a post-workshop mentorship program. Mentorship includes project supervision, equipment/book loans, mini-grants, and help with grant applications. Successful applicants will be invited to the workshop. Only workshop participants will be invited to apply for mentorship.

The Guinean Forest of West Africa is a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot, yet conservation remains a budding enterprise, limited by the expertise of local scientists and conservationists. As a result, West Africa has been identified as a regional priority for capacity building in Africa for bats (Bat Conservation Africa, 2016) and pangolins (IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, 2020).

The West Africa Mammal Fellowship aims to strengthen the capacity of post-graduate students through training, mentorship, and networking, thereby raising scientists and  conservationists to secure the future of biodiversity in their home countries. The fellowship is organized through a synergy between SMACON and Project Mecistops, along with multiple regional and international institutions and universities. Our ethos is grounded in dedicating time to designing, raising funds for, executing, and ultimately publishing original research that advances knowledge in integrative biology centered on mammalian evolution, ecology, and conservation. We are firmly committed to the principle of generating and relying on conservation evidence to drive effective intervention efforts. Ultimately, this fellowship will drive multi-disciplinary research for the conservation of small-sized, often neglected mammals in the region. This year, we will focus on bats, pangolins, rodents and nocturnal primates.

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Mentors and Facilitators

Meet our mentors and facilitators. This fellowship program and associated workshop is possible thanks to the dedication of world renowned academics and conservation practitioners who volunteer valuable time to raise the next generation of biologists and conservationists in the region. Mentors co-supervise degree projects of SMACON fellows. Facilitators along with mentors, deliver lectures during the workshop, strengthening the conceptual and technical experience of fellows.

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Eze Ajali, MEng.

Eze Ajali is an instructor on general software use and is involved in planning lessons and activities for students' acquisition of basic and advanced computer skills, especially in the areas of data management and web development. He works with SMACON where he is responsible for administration and logistics. He is passionate about fostering computer literacy, especially among students

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Anna Bastian, PhD


Dr. Anna Bastian is a biologist and as such employed as a senior lecturer for evolution and ecology by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Anna’s research combines behavioural studies, experimental approaches, population genetic analyses, and bioacoustic methods to understand how vocal communication evolved and how it is used by animals. In addition, she applies bioacoustic methods such as passive acoustic monitoring in combination with machine learning approaches and soundscape analyses in conservation projects. Over the past decade, much of Anna’s work was done on bats but more recently it includes other taxa such as frogs, dolphins, fish, penguins, and rhinoceroses, and multi-species soundscapes.

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Paul Bates, PhD


Dr. Paul Bates has been the Director of the Harrison Institute since 1994. He has described/co-described 17 mammal species new to science and helped raise over $2.3 million in project money for biodiversity research, capacity building, and conservation projects in Asia, Arabia, and Africa. He was the principal investigator of four UK government-funded Darwin Initiative projects and the project manager of one EU Erasmus+ project. He is a founding member of BCA (Bat Conservation Africa) and SEABCRU (Southeast Asia Bat Conservation and Research Unit).
 

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Andrew Dunn, MSc

Andrew Dunn has worked on biological survey and conservation projects in West Africa since 1989.  He is currently employed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as the Nigeria Country Director, helping save Cross River gorillas, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, lions and elephants from extinction in Nigeria.  He is a member of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, Section on Great Apes and is also the Regional Coordinator for West and Central Africa for the IUCN Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group.  In recognition of his conservation work in West Africa a Nigerian butterfly was named after him in 2003: Lepidochrysops dunni.

Charles Emogor, MSc


Charles Emogor is interested in tropical ecology and in understanding animal-landscape interactions as well as the social drivers of species decline. His Ph.D. research seeks to understand the distribution and ecology of the white-bellied pangolin in Nigeria. Specific emphasis is placed on their home range size, habitat selection, activity pattern, and diet. With guidance from Professor Balmford, he will also address fundamental questions about pangolin exploitation: how do local populations perceive pangolins? has the number of pangolins harvested changed over time? and what are the local patterns of pangolin consumption? Answers to these questions have implications in designing behavioural change interventions and enforcement actions against the trade of the world’s most trafficked wild mammal.

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Inaoyom Imong, PhD


Dr. Inaoyom Imong is a conservation biologist with nearly 20 years experience in biodiversity research and conservation. His Ph.D. research focused on the ecology and conservation of the Cross River gorilla. He is currently the Director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape Program. He is a member of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, a member of the Scientific Commission of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), and a founding member of the African Primatological Society (APS). He received the GRASP-Ian Redmond Conservation Award in 2013 and the Whitley Award in 2015.

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Grace Kia, PhD
 

Dr. Grace Kia is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and Africa Center for Excellence in Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (ACENTDFB), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Her research focus is on Epidemiology and Genomics of disease pathogens. Through her research, she published the first and presently the only whole genome sequence of 2 dog-wild-type rabies viruses and the first evidence of Shimoni bat virus in Nigeria. In her recent publication, she detected coronaviruses, paramyxoviruses, reoviruses, and rotaviruses (RVs) in Nigerian bats. The phylogenetic analysis indicated a broad range of RVs present in Nigerian bats, some cluster with human RVs and some represent novel species. Her passion to prevent and control human and animal deaths due to rabies birthed War Against Rabies Foundation a registered charity in Nigeria. Dr. Kia is passionate about bat conservation.

Tigga Kingston, PhD
 

Dr. Tigga Kingston is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock. Her interests encompass community ecology and the conservation of paleotropical bats. Tigga has worked in Southeast Asia for nearly three decades, during which she has made groundbreaking discoveries including "harmonic hopping" - a form of acoustic differentiation that drives speciation in bats and raised local capacity through her non-profit Southeast Asia Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU). As a direct result of her training and research in the region, she has inspired a new generation of local bat biologists, who now drive bat research in Southeast Asia. In more recent times, her long-standing interest in Africa has led to training local students and collaborating with colleagues in East and West Africa. She has received the Gerrit Miller Award - the highest recognition among bat biologists https://www.nasbr.org/miller. She is the current co-Chair of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group, a position that requires mediating in current on-the-ground bat conservation issues across the globe. She also recently launched a global network for bat research and conservation GBatNet. Follow Tigga at https://kingstonlab.org/people/tigga-kingston/

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Beatrix Lanzinger, MSc
 

Beatrix Lanzinger has worked for the Harrison Institute since 2010. Her ecotourism project, ‘Destination Ayeyarwady’, which links the conservation of the endangered Irrawaddy River dolphin to community development in two fishing villages, was awarded Myanmar’s ‘Best Community Involvement in Tourism' for 2017, an ASEAN award in 2019, and an international runners-up prize for ecotourism in 2020. Beatrix seeks to develop community-led initiatives that promote the conservation of natural and cultural heritage within the context of poverty alleviation and developing alternative livelihoods.
 

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Esther Nosazeogie, MSc
 

Esther Nosazeogie is a conservation biologist and freelance science journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is also a Research Officer at the National Oceanography and Marine Research Institute. An alumnus of the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Institute, Esther studies water birds along the Lagos coastline. Esther is passionate about conservation and communicating science to nonscientists and writes a blog focused on local researchers in Nigeria. She volunteers with SMACON as Communications Manager

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Benneth Obitte, MSc
 

Benneth Obitte is a conservation ecologist who uses socio-ecological systems to guide effective conservation interventions. This includes using innovative interdisciplinary tools to understand bat hunting and bat meat consumption in southern Nigeria, the focus of his PhD research. Ben is finishing his doctoral program in the Kingston lab, at Texas Tech University. He has conducted multiple surveys in Nigeria, works with local communities to develop conservation solutions, and is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of budding ecologists in Nigeria. He is a National Geographic Explorer and the first African winner of the Kate Barlow Awards. Ben co-founded the Small Mammal Conservation Organization (SMACON), where he is the Director of Conservation Programs.

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Matthew H. Shirley, PhD
 

Dr. Matt Shirley is a species conservation scientist relying on flagship species to advance conservation and ecology research in the West and Central African tropical forests and wetlands. His applied species ecology and evolution research programs are focused on crocodilians, pangolins, and forest-dwelling tortoises, for which he employs tools ranging from molecular systematics and phylogeography, VHF and GPS telemetry, environmental (e)DNA, and distribution modeling to better understand how these species are distributed across the landscape and how they select resources like habitat and prey.  As an applied conservationist work to ensure the future of these species populations, including conservation breeding and reintroductions, reinforcement of local national parks and wildlife management authority capacity, and training African graduate students.  He is a Courtesy Research Assistant Professor at Florida International University and the founder of Project Mecistops.  He is also currently the Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, the West and Central Africa Regional Chair for the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group, and a National Geographic Explorer.

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William Sutherland, PhD


Dr. William Sutherland is the Miriam Rothschild Professor in Conservation Biology, in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. His research area is Population and Community Ecology, and he also has wide interests in conservation biology. He is especially interested in predicting the impacts of environmental change, particularly on bird populations. Some of this work combines field data and models while other work is purely based on fieldwork. While much of his work has been in the UK, he has been involved in many projects elsewhere in the world and welcomes suggestions for collaborations. Another major theme is using evidence-based conservation to collate experience of the effectiveness of interventions (via the website www.conservationevidence.com) and then use this evidence to advise practice. He hopes that this will eventually revolutionize global conservation practice.

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Iroro Tanshi, PhD
 

Dr. Iroro Tanshi is a tropical ecologist and conservationist, a lecturer at the University of Benin, Benin City. Her work focuses on community structure and diversity patterns along environmental gradients in intact and disturbed environments with a special focus on unexplored areas and discovering populations of at-risk species. Her work has uncovered 12 new country records for Nigeria. She co-founded Small Mammal Conservation Organization (SMACON), where she is the Director of Research Programs. She is the founding co-Chair of Bat Conservation Africa (BCA). Dr. Tanshi has received prestigious international awards including the Future for Nature Award (2020), and Whitley Fund for Nature Award for her conservation work. She is also deeply committed to strengthening the capacity of African field biologists who ultimately lead research and conservation in their own countries.

Linus Unah, BA
 

Linus Unah is a first-year student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and an independent Nigerian journalist with over six years of experience covering wildlife conservation, environmental science, development, global health, and conflict. He’s work has appeared in Mongabay, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, National Public Radio, TRT World, Devex, African Business Magazine, The New Humanitarian (formerly IRIN News), The Christian Science Monitor, African Arguments, This Is Africa at the Financial Times, America Magazine, World Politics Review and several others. In 2018, he won the Future Africa Prize for Journalism for his reportage on the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s northeastern region as well as the deadly conflict between Cameroonian security forces and Anglophone separatists. He most recently worked as the West Africa Representative for WildAid, an international wildlife conservation nonprofit, where he led campaigns to reduce wildlife trade and promote wildlife conservation in Nigeria.
 

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