What do seals and fishermen in Newfoundland have in common with lions and pastoral communities in the Maasai Mara?
OFI Module I Ph.D. candidate Monica Engel shares her research at 'Pathways Africa 2020' in Kenya and reflects on her experience.
by Monica Engel, OFI Module I Ph.D. candidate
Attending the conference opened my eyes even more for the importance of engaging communities in solving natural resources issues and challenges. The responses for ecological changes we are facing today are not linear nor straightforward, but they can be found when we are open to listening and dialogue with all the people involved.
Conference banner at 'Pathways Africa 2020: Human Dimensions of Wildlife Conference and Training' in Limuru, Kenya, where OFI Module I Ph.D. student Monica Engel presented her research on 'Predators of the sea: A love and hate story'. ©Monica Engel
Pathways is a conference and training program focused on finding solutions to accommodate people and wildlife necessities. The conference is international in scope and includes work from around the globe on a variety of themes, including community development and engagement, human-wildlife interactions, wildlife governance, participatory-decision making, and leadership.
The theme of this year’s conference was to open the door to diverse voices, and the goal was to provide an opportunity for attendees from more than 30 countries to examine how a gender and ethnical balance in leadership teams, productive collaborations, and diverse voices can improve governance and conservation efforts. The main topics addressed during the conference were leadership, species conservation, stakeholders’ collaborations, empowering communities, traditional ecological knowledge, poaching, and how development and infrastructure impact wildlife. The training component focused on empowering women as conservation leaders.
The key learning from my days in Limuru was that no matter if we are dealing with seals and fisherman in Newfoundland, or lions and pastorals communities in the Masai Mara, when comes to sharing space with species that can negatively impact one’s livelihood or safety, the approaches to understand and deal with the issues are very similar. Increasingly, people around the globe are challenged to find ways in which societies can best adapt to environmental changes. Attending the conference opened my eyes even more for the importance of engaging communities in solving natural resources issues and challenges. The responses for ecological changes we are facing today are not linear nor straightforward, but they can be found when we are open to listening and dialogue with all the people involved.
Attending the conference has also allowed me to share experiences and learn from others on different ways to engage communities, collect data and share results. A conference is also a great place for networking, and attending Pathways was indeed a fantastic opportunity to strengthen my ties with the National Geographic Society (one of the sponsors of the event) and other explorers, connect with researchers in South Africa who are dealing with anglers and invasive species, and folks in India who are developing educational tools for kids to learn about their natural landscape. Indeed, all critical things that can be used to reflect on my research and career in Newfoundland.
Last but not least, the cultural exchange was priceless.
Written by Monica Engel, OFI Module I Ph.D. candidate
Monica Engel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Geography Department at Memorial University, funded by the Ocean Frontier Institute through a Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) grant. Monica is also a doctoral fellow of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), Smallwood Foundation at Memorial University, and a National Geographic Explorer funded through the Early Career Grant. She works as part of sub-module I-3, which focuses on the 'Values, Perceptions & Knowledge' of fishers and coastal communities of Newfoundland.