UQ graduates in Africa work to conserve Great Apes

15 Aug 2017

Conserving the Great Apes of Africa and Asia will be the focus this year for two recent ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decision (CEED) graduates of The University of Queensland.

Emily Massingham and Dylan Jones arrived in Nairobi this week to commence a six-month internship with the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

GRASP is a United Nations Environment Programme initiative committed to ensuring the long-term survival of chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans and their habitats in Africa and Asia.

CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson said GRASP’s approaches to natural resource management and conservation were similar to CEED’s, and grounded in collaborative science and an objective of understanding the broader context in which these issues persisted.

“We are excited that two UQ graduates, with experience in CEED’s approach to conservation, are going on to work with the only species program within the UN family,” she said.

“While they will be focusing on great ape conservation, they will be part of the larger wildlife unit and will be involved in the complex discussion on issues affecting the habitat and survival of endangered species, from habitat loss to illegal trade.”

Emily completed her Bachelor of Science in Ecology at The University of Queensland in mid-2016 before undertaking an honours project supervised by Associate Professor Richard Fuller and Dr Angela Dean.

Dylan is a Master of Conservation Biology graduate, supervised by CEED researchers Dr Alienor Chauvenet andDr Gwen Iacona of UQ’s School of Biological Sciences.

Emily said their internships had arisen from an ongoing collaboration with Dr Johannes Refisch who visited CEED on sabbatical earlier this year and is now an Adjunct Senior Fellow of UQ’s School of Biological Sciencesand CEED.

Dr Refisch’s seminars on great ape conservation and the work of GRASP inspired these two young scientists to put their name in the ring for the coveted internship.

 “Emily’s background has been investigating how nature experiences impact the conservation actions of people, while Dylan had previously built a decision tree for the management of threatened plant species,” Professor Wilson said.

“Johannes has been purposeful in targeting Dylan and Emily’s work to their individual strengths, thereby allowing them to learn and grow within GRASP throughout the internship.

“Emily and Dylan will be involved in communications, updating the apes seizures database on elicit trade in great apes, as well as contributing to various other conservation projects as they arise. They will also provide organizational support to the UN Environment Assembly in December.”

In the first week, Emily and Dylan have already been welcomed into the GRASP team. They have been briefed on politics, the difficulties of conservation in conflict-sensitive areas, and many of GRASP’s active projects. Such a briefing concluded with Johannes handing them a large pile of materials on conservation and GRASP projects.

Media: Professor Kerrie Wilson, k.wilson2@uq.edu.au, +61 7 336 52829.