What inspired you to pursue this research study?
The ways that science and policy interact to inform environmental conservation has always been a key interest area for me. Then, through my current position, I’ve added social development and global economics to the mix, which makes for an intriguing conservation nexus. Conservation science, wildlife, and people have always been close to my heart – and all are significant components of this research study.
What is the most interesting aspect of studying wildlife such as elephants?
The best thing about studying wildlife is the humility it forced onto me. This is in the sense that every day, species such as elephants reveal something new, something unpredictable, which makes one realize just how little we really know about why they do what they do. On the flipside, it means there is always something exciting to study about any species, and explains why behavioral ecology, like behavioral economics, remains a stimulating field of study.
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
Seeing wildlife in vast areas such as Tsavo is unpredictable, so my favorite moments are simply when you do see something as enigmatic as wild dogs. As the Little Prince says, the beauty of the desert is that, somewhere, it hides an oasis; likewise, the beauty of being out and about is knowing that, somewhere, there is a lion, or aardwolf, or secretary bird, that you can see, or, as is often the case, cannot see!
How does citizen science support your research?
Volunteers will provide extra time, hands, and eyes – all which are vital for gathering additional data, especially from areas that are not being studied by other organizations in the area. Volunteers also bring fresh questions and perspectives to our work. They often help us to further our ideas. This is a unique opportunity to learn and gain from a wide spectrum of people across age groups, experiences, interests and backgrounds.