Tharcisse Ukizintambara, PhD ’10 journeyed from his native Rwanda to enroll in AUNE’s PhD program because he wanted to complement his knowledge of ecological research methods with new skills. He is analyzing the impact that socioeconomic and political factors play in endangering species, such as the mountain monkey, in his native country.
“This program is helping me to understand how to solve these problems, especially in the context of Africa where these issues are very serious,” he said. Tharcisse, who has studied the ecology of mandrill monkeys in Gabon, plans to look at how human development pressures continue to impact remaining mountain monkey populations and their habitat in East Africa. “Rwanda is the most populated country in Africa,” he said. “Our forests are now limited to three national parks, and people still want to go in and cut more trees to increase agricultural lands. This is a serious issue.”
One of the factors that drew him to AUNE was similar research into African mountain monkeys being conducted by faculty member Beth Kaplin. Tharcisse plans to use the conclusions of Beth’s research as a point of comparison for his own. After completing his doctoral program, Tharcisse will return to Rwanda and continue his research on threatened species in his country. He plans to teach and become involved in an environmental education training center so he may share his knowledge with others.
“Knowledge is the one thing I can easily bring to Africa,” he said. “The poverty, and social and political problems, result from a lack of education. I believe we can solve some of our own environmental and economic problems by developing good education programs.”