Through funding from the Irene D. Pritzker Fund and the MacArthur Foundation, The Field Museum has funded projects for undergraduate biology students at the Université Officielle de Bukavu in Congo as a way of improving their scientific training and providing them with the opportunity to do fieldwork involving Albertine Rift biodiversity and conservation. Below are descriptions of the projects.
Project 1: Taxonomy and ecology of mosses in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: Case study of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, South-Kivu province
Candidate: Wabika Dumbo Pazo (supported by the MacArthur Foundation)
Biological data on mosses in the African great lakes region is scarce. Yet this group plays an important ecological role as biological indicators of environmental health. This study aims to assess the diversity of this group with a survey along an elevational gradient. Special attention will be paid to the distribution and host-substrate specificity in relation to elevation. Fieldwork in various habitats of the highland sector of Kahuzi-Biega National Park will be coupled with laboratory work to attain this goal.
Project 2: Inventory of lianas across permanent plots in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Candidate: Biringanine Mugoli Elisee (supported by the Irene D. Pritzker Fund)
Permanent plots have been established in the primary forest of KBNP in a bid to monitor forest dynamics. However, the forest has been invaded by a non-native liana Sericostachys scandens, posing a serious threat to its biological integrity.
There is a plan to extend the research plots to the secondary forest of KBNP. Prior to this an assessment of the current situation is required. This study aims at assessing liana diversity and abundance in the degraded forest as a baseline study for long-term monitoring of forest dynamics.
Project 3: Birds of the region, north-west of Lake Tanganyika
Candidate: Akonkwa Kahasha (supported by the MacArthur Foundation)
Biodiversity in the region west of Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s second largest lake, is very poorly documented. This is in contrast with the eastern side of the lake, in Tanzania, where several areas have been granted protected status and the biodiversity is relatively well-studied.
This region west of the lake is endowed with a variety of ecosystems and vast number of wildlife species. This study will focus on avian diversity in woodland and marshes north-west of Lake Tanganyika. Mist netting and field observations will be used to generate a species list for the region. Species abundance and distribution will also be documented.
Project 4: Socio-economics and illegal fishing in the region north-east of Lake Tanganyika
Candidate: Shabani Ekyamba Isaac (supported by the Irene D. Pritzker Fund)
Illegal fishing is rampant on Lake Tanganyika with clear effect on fish productivity. This study was proposed in order to assess socio-ecological factors driving this illegal activity in order to propose conservation measures for sustainable resource use.
A questionnaire will be administered to key stakeholders including fishermen, local leaders, and government officials. Field observations will be carried out to assess techniques used and record any other illegal activity. Results will be used to make recommendations for planning long-term and sustainable utilization of Lake Tanganyika’s natural resources.