The Central African Biodiversity Alliance 2015 Undergraduate Field Course Plant Research Group at Mbam & Djerem National Park, Cameroon. Pictured from left to right: Katie DiAngelus (Drexel), Katherine Achy (UCLA), Dr. Maximilliano Fero (National University of Equatorial Guinea), Francisco Mitogo (National University of Equatorial Guinea), Andrienne Bih (Univeristy of Buea, Cameroon) and Alexandra Ley (University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany). Photo credit: David Montgomery.
A group of researchers who work in Drexel’s landmark Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program and the Drexel-managed Central African Biodiversity Alliance will speak at Drexel in a sneak preview of their speeches before a symposium with the world’s preeminent scientific society.
Katy Gonder, PhD, director of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program and associate professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, organized the Feb. 9 event. Running from 1:30–3 p.m. in room 340 of Curtis Hall, it will feature speakers from several differenct conservation programs and labs currently working in Africa.
“While many students and faculty have participated in the programs, many have not had the opportunity to learn about Drexel’s activities in central Africa, or to meet our colleagues from universities from these countries,” Gonder said. “This symposium will be a time for everyone at Drexel to learn about our presence in the region and the different ways they can get involved.”
Effectively, the talks will be a warm-up for the symposium Feb. 12 hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington D.C.
Speakers will include Eric Fokam, PhD, of the University of Buea, and Stephen Ntie, PhD, of the University of Science and Technology of Masuku — both representing the Central African Biodiversity Alliance — and Maximilliano Fero, PhD, of the National University of Equatorial Guinea, representing the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program.
“We have three superstars of biodiversity research and conservation in central Africa joining us,” Gonder said.
Each of the experts will provide their perspective on the difficulties and opportunities provided by conservation organizations in the rich, Congo Basin environment.
One of those organizations, the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, is a partnership between Drexel and the National University of Equatorial Guinea that promotes conservation and study of the wildlife and habitat of Bioko Island. As a result of the partnership, important research it produced includes an in-depth look at the heavy toll the bushmeat trade has taken on monkeys.
The Central African Biodiversity Alliance, meanwhile, is funded by the National Science Foundation and operates in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Gabon. One focus of the CAB Alliance is understanding how climate change will impact Congo Basin biodiversity, including an endangered subspecies of chimpanzee that lives only in Cameroon and Nigeria — a subspecies re-discovered by Gonder in 1997.
Such findings are invaluable, but running the organizations to uncover them is no easy task.
In light of that, the scientists’ talks in February will focus on the challenges of promoting and training the next generation of experts to continue the biodiversity work being done in Central Africa through programs like the one at Bioko and the overarching Central African Biodiversity Alliance.
“All three of our experts speaking here share a deep commitment to training the next generation of central African environmental sciences professionals,” Gonder said. “And they have all made amazing strides to improve research, educational and networking opportunities for rising conservationists.
The AAAS’ meeting will focus on improving global science engagement and how that can meet and solve the challenges now facing the globe.
“I believe the AAAS is interested in doctors Fero, Fokam and Ntie because what they have to say uniquely meets that mission,” Gonder said.
Even before their symposium with the AAAS, the group will also have a Feb. 11 symposium at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“We are thrilled,” Gonder said. “We view this symposium as a wonderful opportunity to showcase the research, international collaboration and strides in biodiversity conservation made possible, in part, by National Geographic’s continued support of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program’s efforts in Equatorial Guinea.”
Those interested in the event at Drexel can RSVP here.