[Press and Public Relations] Conservation Work Internationally Recognised



November 2001

No 184

A University of Leicester biologist was presented with the award of ‘Principal Investigator of the Year’ at the annual scientific meeting of the Earthwatch Institute at Tufts University, Boston, USA.

Dr David Harper, of the Department of Biology at Leicester, was in Boston between 8 and 12 November to give a keynote address to the Earthwatch delegates. He had been invited to talk about his experience of the partnerships that maintain his research project on the “Lakes of the Kenyan Rift Valley”. Established in 1987, and in partnership with the University of Nairobi and two Departments of the National Museums of Kenya, this is one of the longest-running projects in the Earthwatch portfolio.

Dr Harper and his scientific team return several times a year to study Lake Bogoria and Lake Naivasha in Kenya, with support from the Earthwatch Institute, an international environmental charity with a unique strategy for solving environmental problems – the use of ordinary members of the public who pay to act as field assistants to its scientists for two weeks. His research on Lake Naivasha helped make the case for the Kenya Government’s declaration of that lake as only Kenya’s 2nd RAMSAR site in 1996, (an international convention which recognises a wetland’s global importance to wildlife conservation). Its fresh waters provide irrigation for an intensive horticultural industry that provides major foreign exchange to Kenya and puts cut flowers, vegetables and fruit on the shelves of every UK supermarket.

Lake Bogoria itself has now become Kenya’s third RAMSAR site, (in contrast with the UK which has 152) and Dr Harper’s new focus is to provide the science which will underpin the sustainable management of Lake Bogoria into the future. An alkaline lake, it is one of the world’s most spectacular bird reserves, regularly holding around a million lesser flamingos and a number of rarities.

Dr Harper’s award citation read: “For outstanding original scientific inquiry, training of future local leaders and contributions to conservation and policy.”

Dr Harper said: “I was honoured to be given the award, particularly since it was in recognition that the logistics of our research organisation in the Rift Valley now form the model for much bigger partnerships in a ‘Cooperative Research Centre’ in every continent, established with 25 million dollars to Earthwatch from the Ford Foundation. The award recognises the hard work and dedication of every one of my partner scientists in our team”.

Note to editors: Further details are available from Dr David Harper, Department of Biology, University of Leicester, telephone 07779 622082, email dmh@le.ac.uk (up to 28th November when he is back in Kenya). More information on Earthwatch can be found on the website: and his research at www.uk.earthwatch.org/expeditions/harper.html and on the Ramsar convention at www.ramsar.org


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