May 1, 2013
Dept. of Forestry Rangeland Stewardship
I lead the Mongolian Rangelands and Resilience (MOR2) project in Mongolia, where our team studies nomadic pastoralists and rangeland ecology. The main goal of this project is to understand whether or not community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) organizations will benefit the rangelands and rural people in Mongolia, which have been threatened by recent political and economic transformations as well as climate and land-use changes.
In community-based natural resource management, people cooperate and collectively work together to find solutions to natural resource problems as a community. Right now, we are focusing on understanding the effects of climate change on Mongolian pastoral systems with the goal of determining whether or not CBNRM organizations can help make these systems more resilient to climate change. We are doing this by comparing ecological and social conditions in communities that have CBNRM and those that don’t.
Our preliminary data from 10 countries in the Gobi region show that areas managed by CBNRM organizations have more vegetation cover and biomass on average, and households in these communities are more innovative, proactive and better prepared for harsh weather disasters, compared to communities without formal community organizations for resource management.
This project is all about breaking barriers between an individual approach to rangeland management and a collective community-based approach. It’s about building a bridge between herders, scientists and government and non-governmental organizations. To learn more about the Mongolian Rangelands Resilience project, click here!
June 1, 2013
From: Dr. George Wittemyer
Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
I have spent the last 15 years in Samburu, Kenya monitoring the individual elephants and their habitats. Unfortunately, in 2009, my research turned to face a growing epidemic of ivory poaching across the region. More than 50% of the elephant deaths in 2011 and 2012 were attributed to poaching. This high rate of illegal killing continues and is occurring across a wide part of Africa, impacting the species as a whole. The main cause of this epidemic is the increasing demand for ivory, particularly in China.
This high rate of elephant poaching not only affects the death rate of these elephants but it also effects the social structure of the elephant population as a whole. For a highly social species, this disruption to their normal behavior can have serious impacts.
For example, I have observed how many young elephants become orphaned when poachers hunt older elephants that have larger tusks (more ivory). These orphaned elephants are left without the benefits of their mothers care and family support and their survival rates decrease as a result.
As one of the first detailed studies concerning the impact of poaching on individual elephants in Africa, I want to use my research to help understand the suite of impacts poaching has on elephants and help find a solution to this problem. My goal is to educate people and create a sense of awareness and a bond between wildlife and society. To learn more about the Samburu elephants project, click here.
June 15, 2013
From: Dr. Randall BooneJambo!
Research Scientist and Associate Professor
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Dept. of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability
Dr. Robin Reid and I have been working with a collaborative team of researchers to study the impacts of land fragmentation, or parceling, on wildebeest in southwest Kenya. Dr. Reid worked with a large team to map all of the instances of land fragmentation, such as destruction from fences and buildings, in an area south of Nairobi National Park.
We have collared 36 wildebeest with GPS tracking devices, which is the largest set of GPS points ever gathered on wildebeest. We are monitoring how far the animals move each day, where they go, and how they respond when they encounter a fence, road or other man-made obstacle on the land. By combining the land fragmentation maps and animal behavior data, we will be able to create models to show what land management practices will benefit wildlife migration in the area. Impacts of climate change, such as more frequent droughts, could force the wildlife to migrate further in the future, and having more obstacles along the way could take its toll on the wildebeest populations.
We hope our research will give the communities here the information they need to make sustainable land management choices. For more information on the Gnu Landscapes Project, click here!
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
For the past seven years, I have led multiple trips to Honduras in Central America researching the social-ecological relationships surrounding 11,000 year-old Lake Yojoa. As part of my study, I spent the first part of 2013 as a Fulbright Fellow working with the University of Zamorano in Honduras teaching students about the watershed and brainstorming solutions for better management as well.
This lake epitomizes the “Tragedy of the Commons,” that is, the complexity of managing the lake sustainably for multiple stakeholders as well as its ecological health. Lake Yojoa is an economic life source for the local community, subsistence fisherman, industrial aquaculture farms, and a stretch of lake-side restaurants. Over the past thirty years however, the lake has been eutrifying or in other words, turning green due to an excess of algal growth - which is an indicator that the health of the lake is changing.
The goal of my study is to understand the causes of Lake Yojoa’s eutrophication and create a solution to achieve an ideal balance of sustainable environmental and economic health for the community with the help of the local residents and businesses. I luckily have access to a detailed dataset from the 1980s that helps my team and I compare the states of the lake as it was thirty years ago to as it is now. We take samples of sediment, water, and algae from the lake and test levels of dissolved nitrogen, phosphorus, and water turbidity. We also test the nutrient content, metal content, sediments, temperature, oxygen, and conductivity of the water.
My wish is that this study can be used as a model to help countries with developing economies produce sustainable freshwater livelihoods, indefinitely.
Center for Protected Area Management, Director
Dept. of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
I recently returned from Uruguay, South America—one of the smallest and least populated South American nations. Best known for its gauchos, pampas, cattle culture and the highest global per capita beef consumption, Uruguay is also one of the most prosperous and stable nations in Latin America. I traveled to Uruguay at the invitation of the United States Embassy, the US-Uruguay Cultural Center and several environmental groups to conduct a series of training and outreach activities on management of national parks and regarding the impact of climate change on parks and biodiversity. Uruguay has one of the smallest and least developed protected area systems in Latin America, and its environmental community wants to learn and adopt best practices to help the development of its park systems.
My action-packed week in Uruguay started with a rapid-fire visit of a number of Uruguay’s national parks and reserves to observe first hand their management and challenges. I was accompanied by two Uruguayan park rangers, including one, Hector Caymaris, who had spent last summer at CSU participating in our annual short course for Latin American parks professionals.
On my return to Montevideo, the nation’s capital, I served as instructor for a four-day workshop for over 80 representatives of national and local government agencies, environmental non-profits, academia, and the private sector on how to make parks more “user-friendly” through expanded interpretative programs and improved infrastructure such as trails, signage, visitor centers and guided interpretive programs. While in Uruguay, I also presented to over 170 high school students on the importance and history of Earth Day and what they can do to reduce their own environmental footprint. Finally, I presented in a business sustainability conference for government, military and business leaders on the impact of global climate change on biodiversity, protected areas and coastal zone management. These issues are of high importance in a country where most of the population lives at or near sea level and in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata delta.
Already our team at CSU is discussing other ways to support the efforts of our Uruguay colleagues to increase public appreciation of and support for their beautiful parks and to contribute to conserving the country’s natural heritage.
For more information on my work in South America, visit warnercnr.colostate.edu/cpamt-home
September 10, 2013
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability
Over the past six years I’ve been very fortunate to work with Vietnam Forestry University (VFU), which is just east of Hanoi in a town of 50,000. My first visit was in June 2008, when I traveled with two other CSU faculty with support from a WCNR mini-grant to discuss the establishment of a new degree program in Natural Resources Management at VFU. I then applied for and received a grant from the Vietnam Education Foundation to develop and teach two classes at VFU over a five-month period in spring 2009. This longer stay led to a variety of projects and initiatives, including working on a USAID project to quantify payments for environmental services in the central highlands of Vietnam, involvement in a project to measure hillslope erosion in Son La province near Laos, and helping advise on other projects relating to forest runoff, land use, and erosion.
In 2010 VFU received funding from the Ministry of Education to establish a Natural Resources Management major to be taught in English, and the curriculum is directly modeled after CSU’s Natural Resource Management (NRM) degree. The first cohort of about 25 students is now nearing graduation, and the growth in each subsequent cohort means that there are now nearly 200 students in this program. The overall goal is to establish a permanent degree program to provide students with a broad background in natural resources management and sufficient English skills to work with international aid organizations and non-governmental organizations. A second, nearly identical, degree program has been created that is being taught in Vietnamese as well.
As coordinator of the program, it is my privilege to travel to VFU each year to review the curriculum, advise on research projects, and generally help strengthen the institutional capacity of VFU. Specific improvements have included building a new weather station on campus, drilling a groundwater monitoring well for teaching purposes, and providing a variety of equipment for both teaching and graduate research. This partnership has allowed for ongoing faculty visits and international teaching opportunities, and the activities planned through 2017 will lead to even more opportunities for collaborative research and teaching between Vietnam Forestry University and CSU.
To learn more about CSU Vietnamese Educational Cooperative initiatives click here!