Prestigious Award for Earthwatch Scientist
The response of wood decomposers to man-made nitrogen inputs in forest ecosystems can help us understand the effects of climate change on forest carbon cycles.
Dr. James Kairo planting mangroves with an Earthwatch volunteer.
Dr. James Kairo of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), who works alongside Professor Mark Huxham on the Earthwatch project Tidal Forests of Kenya, has been awarded the Kenya National Award of Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS). This award, conferred by Kenya's head of state, President Mwai Kibaki, was announced in December 2010 and recognizes Dr. Kairo's work on mangrove planting and “returning lost forests back to life.”
The Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear award was instituted by the government of Kenya after independence and is one of the highest civilian service awards granted by the president of Kenya during Jamhuri (Independence) Day celebrations each year.
Informing Dr. Kairo that he was the recipient of this coveted award, the director of KMFRI, Dr. Johnson Kazungu, said: “I would like to congratulate you for this great achievement, which recognizes not only you for the excellent work you have done, but it also honors your institute, KMFRI, for performing outstanding and distinguished services related to coastal and marine research in Kenya, the western Indian Ocean region, and internationally.”
Dr. Kairo said: “This is really in recognition for KMFRI and the research fraternity in mangroves. Everything I have done for the coastal communities in Kenya and internationally has been through and on behalf of KMFRI and the researchers and technicians I have known and worked with since I joined the Institute in 1993.”
Dr. Kairo is a principal research officer at KMFRI and heads a team of scientists dedicated to research on mangrove restoration and management. He also lectures in the Department of Botany at Kenyatta University and supervises M.Sc. and Ph.D. students working on mangrove environments in Kenya and further afield. He has also been instrumental in nominating a number of emerging scientists for Earthwatch fellowships and training grants, and has skillfully identified individuals and helped them to develop their own training plans - an invaluable asset in building the capacity of many Kenyans.
The Earthwatch project Tidal Forests of Kenya began in 2004. Based at Gazi Bay in Msambweni District, the project is examining the ecosystem dynamics of replanted mangrove forests under the direction of Professor Mark Huxham, Dr. James Kairo, Dr. Martin Skov, and Dr. Bernard Kirui. Mangrove forests provide crucial habitat for fish and other wildlife, protect coral reefs from sedimentation, and, as demonstrated by the tsunami of 2004, play a critical role in protecting tropical coastlines. The project is also providing applied data on the use of mangrove forests as carbon sinks.