Caroline Ng’weno (PhD student, UW)
I was born and grew up in a small village in Keiyo District, Kenya, where I spent a lot of time tending livestock and fetching firewood in the bush. My interaction with nature and wild creatures during my childhood provided a source of wonder and inspiration toward the environment.
For the past five years, I've enjoyed bolstering my fascination with scientific know-how as a wildlife conservationist at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia District, Kenya. My research interests span a broad range of topics focusing on the ecology of African savannas. I am particularly interested in predator-prey interactions, human-wildlife co-existence, and the advancement of human livelihoods and quality of life through education.
Increasingly, protected areas are recognized as being insufficient for conserving many facets of bio-diversity in East Africa. Therefore, the long-term viability of wildlife populations hinges on compatibility of wildlife with humans and their livestock. Despite lacking formal protection, the Laikipia Plateau of Rift valley, Kenya boasts the highest abundances of wildlife in the country and is a representative of the vast majority of African savannas in simultaneously housing wildlife, humans, and livestock. Over the past 20 years, the abundance of some ungulates has declined. These declines coincide with an increased tolerance of ranchers toward predators, especially lions. In response, ranchers are considering re-implementing lethal control. Therefore, through my dissertation work, I am trying to elucidate how cattle affect the balance of predators and prey in the region. My project results will be critical in developing strategies toward the long-term conservation of wildlife alongside livestock production, and I hope that my research will have concrete benefits to local pastoral communities in arid and semi-arid rangelands.
I aspire to foster appreciation for wildlife by local communities through education, outreach, and by developing science-based solutions to guide conservation actions for the benefit of nature and human welfare. It is through such a hybrid approach that I believe the most effective work in conservation can be accomplished. I just hope I'm lucky enough to continue having fun under the guise of "work".
In addition to animals and research, my interests include playing and watching basketball, community service, watching wildlife documentaries, and learning about other cultures.
My work is supported through the Earthwatch Institute, the Schlumberger Faculty for the Future Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund.