UNO Awarded Nearly $1 Million for Central African Conservation Project

central-africaThe University of New Orleans will receive $966,350 from the National Science Foundation for its role in a project to conserve biodiversity under climate change in Central Africa. The total grant is for $4.95 million for a period of five years and was awarded through the agency’s program in Partnerships for International Science and Education.

Nicola Anthony, UNO associate professor of biological sciences, is a co-principal investigator on the project, along with Mary Katherine Gonder of the University at Albany, State University of New York. Thomas Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles is the principal investigator. This project also involves several international partners including the Université des Sciences et Techniques de Masuku and Institut de Recherches en Ecologie in Gabon; the Universities of Dschang, Buea and Yaoundé I in Cameroon; the Smithsonian Institution’s Gabon biodiversity program; the Wildlife Conservation Society’s programs in Cameroon and Gabon; the San Diego Zoo Global program; the Universities of Cardiff and Stirling in the United Kingdom.; and Universities of Eberhard-Karls and Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.

Central African rainforests represent one of the most important centers of biological diversity in the world. While numerous efforts have been made to prioritize regions for protection, habitat degradation and deforestation continue at an alarming rate, severely limiting the ability of species to respond to climate change. To address this challenge, more than 150 scientists and students from three continents will unite around a common research program that seeks to identify top areas for conservation where the capacity for species to either move or adapt to climate change is greatest.

“This is an exciting project that seeks to tackle real world conversation problems across western central Africa,” Anthony said. “We are thrilled that UNO can play a role in research and education efforts that will not only inform conservation efforts in one of the last great forests of the world but also help build meaningful collaborative partnerships between universities in the U.S., Central Africa and Europe.

Research scientists from participating institutions will identify peak areas of change where evolutionary potential is thought to be highest. These priority areas for conservation will then be ranked according to their social and economic value and the threats that they face from development and projected climate change. Research activities will be complemented by interdisciplinary training programs targeting U.S. and African faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. These joint international research and educational efforts will enhance existing collaborations and establish new partnerships that will collectively boost regional capacity in the region as well as build a foundation for lasting conservation efforts in the future.

The project is funded by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering.