WCS Graduate Scholarship Program 2019 Recipients

The WCS Graduate Scholarship Program is dedicated to building leadership capacity for wildlife conservation on a global scale by providing support to young conservation professionals to obtain master's degrees or PhDs at top-flight international academic institutions. These are the most recent recipients of the 2019 awards.

Dennis Minja, Tanzania

Dennis has been awarded a WCS Beinecke African Conservation Scholarship, with support from The Sperry Fund. Dennis has been working with large carnivore conservation in Africa for nearly ten years, and has developed strong skills in the use of radio telemetry, various monitoring and survey techniques, and understanding and mitigating human-carnivore conflict in local communities. He received a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Management from Sokoine University of Agriculture. Dennis is currently the Project Manager for the WCS/ZSL Serengeti Cheetah Project. In this role, he is responsible for locating and identifying cheetahs living in a 2,200-km² area to collect demographic and genetic data on each individual and liaising with various stakeholders. Dennis plans to pursue a PhD focused on the influence of habitat and anthropogenic pressures on cheetah hunting success and habitat use in the Serengeti ecosystem. A rapidly expanding human population is placing unprecedented pressures on biodiversity, with much of this growth predicted to take place in sub-Saharan Africa. In the face of these pressures, large carnivores, such as cheetahs, are facing mounting threats to their survival. Dennis’ proposed PhD research will aim to improve our understanding of the dual impacts of pastoralism and tourism on cheetah and their prey in order to develop policy and management recommendations for fostering coexistence.

Ando Rabeariosa, Madagascar

Ando has been awarded a WCS Beinecke African Conservation Scholarship. Ando has worked in the marine conservation sector in Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean for fifteen years. She began her career with WCS Madagascar as a socioeconomic specialist, where she honed her skills at community-based marine conservation management. She received a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Antananarivo, and became an environmental economist, working on marine resource conservation. She has worked with Conservation International, Madagascar for ten years, her current role is Manager for the Marine Conservation Program where she oversees the assessment of social impacts and effectiveness of marine protected areas and marine policy development. Ando in enrolled in the Master of Science Program in Coastal Science and Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she join the Conservation Action Lab to conduct her research. Her proposed thesis is “An assessment of the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas (LMMA) to the sustainable management of marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean.” In Madagascar, LMMAs have grown very quickly and research is needed to assess their effectiveness and examine how the approach can be improved to ensure it is both socio-economically adopted and successful in achieving conservation goals.

Maxwell Azali Kodia, Kenya

Maxwell has been awarded a WCS Beinecke African Conservation Scholarship. Maxwell is a Research Scientist with the WCS Kenya Marine Program, working on marine population biology, management and socio-ecological interactions. He has strong skills in statistical data analysis, ecological monitoring and database management. Maxwell has been involved in a variety of artisanal coral reef fisheries and coral reef ecology projects in Kenya. In addition, he works with local coastal communities to build their capacity in adaptive management of coral reef ecosystems and to establish fisheries co-management areas. He has participated in the WCS Kenya Annual Fishers’ forum, an informal policy forum where scientific research results are shared with local fisher communities and fishery practitioners to help reduce impacts on the reef while sustaining local livelihoods. He received a BSc in Coastal and Marine Resource Management from Kenyatta University. Maxwell is enrolled in the Master of Science Program in Coastal Science and Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he plans to evaluate the role of government policy and its potential impact on natural resources and the livelihoods of coastal communities with a focus on coastal fisheries. Maxwell understands the link between science and policy is one important avenue to increase research impact and improve conservation.

Naing Lin, Myanmar

Naing Lin has been awarded a WCS C.V. Starr Tiger Conservation Fellowship to pursue a Master’s degree in Conservation and Project Management. Naing Lin has worked for the WCS Myanmar Program for more than ten years, starting as a Research Assistant on surveys for rare bird species, moving to Site Manager for the very remote field site of Hkakaborazi National Park, and is currently a Landscape Coordinator for a newly created freshwater conservation program across numerous sites in Myanmar. In this role he works with numerous national and regional government partners, international technical collaborators and local communities. Throughout his ten years with WCS Myanmar, he has gained extensive scientific and managerial knowledge and experience on species, sites and landscape conservation. He has skills in a wide range of approaches, especially field experience in community conservation, Protected Area management, species-focused approaches, ex-situ conservation, livelihoods, ecotourism, land issues and government policy development. Naing Lin is passionate about nature and values working with local communities to promote conservation issues. During his Master’s studies Naing Lin plans to explore the role of species action plans and conservation strategies, particularly related to tigers, to determine effective ways to work with stakeholders to develop strategic and successful plans.

Hernán Álvarez, Ecuador

Hernán has been awarded a Christensen Conservation Leaders Scholarship to pursue a PhD in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. Hernán has worked in conservation for ten years, with a focus on community-based natural resource management in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He received a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. During his studies he conducted a research project to understand the factors that influence success and failure in community-based conservation programs in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Hernán is currently the Coordinator of the Human Dimensions Department with the WCS Ecuador Program. In this role, he focuses on the implementation of strategies that foster the involvement and empowerment of local people in the governance and sustainable use of their natural resources. He has developed community-based wildlife management plans, and designed an action plan for controlling commercial and illegal hunting in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, these strategies are being used by local stakeholders to reduce overexploitation of wildlife species. For his PhD, Hernán plans to study the underlying factors that motivate overexploitation of wildlife resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon. His research will promote the integration of social and environmental science with the understanding that the level of success of conservation interventions will depend on the ability to develop strategies that influence people’s behaviors thereby changing their relationship with the environment.

Sivilay Duangdala, Lao PDR

Sivilay has been awarded a Christensen Conservation Leaders Scholarship to pursue a Master’s Degree in Conservation and Rural Development. Sivilay has worked for the WCS Lao PDR Program for over eleven years and has gained vast field-based knowledge on protected area management and community engagement in conservation. He is the Site Program Manager for Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park (NEPL NP), which is the largest National Protected Area in Lao PDR. In this role, Sivilay coordinates and manages all program activities within and around NEPL NP including ecotourism management and development, participatory land use planning, livelihoods improvement, law enforcement, biodiversity monitoring and evaluation and community outreach and education. Development is happening at a rapid pace in Lao PDR. However, rural communities remain largely dependent on natural resources, as such, knowledge and understanding of rural development within this context is critical in developing appropriate and effective conservation actions within these landscapes. During his studies, Sivilay’s research will concentrate on Protected Area management and promoting community-based conservation for conservation planning. Sivilay hopes to promote responsible stewardship, reduce dependence on natural resources, improve land-use planning and work towards a genuine long-term reduction of threats within and around Protected Areas in Lao PDR.

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