Jeneen Hadj-Hammou placement – Wildlife Conservation Society
Details of student and placement
Name: Jeneen Hadj-Hammou
Institution: Lancaster University
Placement Host: Wildlife Conservation Society
I completed a three-month internship with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) team in the final year of my PhD, from January-April 2021. My internship focussed on contributing to the management of a new marine Trans-Boundary Conservation Area (TBCA) between Kenya and Tanzania. I was also more generally part of the WCS team and took part in a variety of meetings to learn about what it takes for NGO programmes to run effectively.
While I was not able to travel to Kenya and Tanzania due to COVID-19, I did feel fully emersed in the remote-working team environment. The pandemic presented unique problems to solve for data collection, and the project I was focussing on for my internship addressed issues at the core of this. Namely, I assessed the value of using video transects and fish trapping as more accessible methods of surveying coral reef fish populations, in comparison to Underwater Visual Censuses (UVC). I processed video footage of fish transects from coral reef sites across the TBCA and derived fish biomass and abundance estimates for each site. These estimates were then compared to those calculated from UVC methods in previous years. The estimates obtained using low budget, accessible video transects were comparable to those obtained using the more conventional, expert conducted UVC methods. So, even though the pandemic meant that UVCs were unable to take place, as the scientists that normally conduct the surveys were not able to reach the sites, reasonable biomass and abundance estimates were still able to be obtained. This felt like a fantastic achievement to have contributed to.
This experience taught me a great deal about the diversity of conservation research. Conservation is rooted in people and places. I had already collaborated with the WCS office in Kenya for two of my PhD chapters, and am co-supervised by a senior zoologist at the NGO, but working alongside those at the office in my capacity as an intern allowed me to grow and supplement my academic perspective on conservation with a more applied perspective. I hope to continue learning from and contributing to the important work that my colleagues at WCS do in the future. I really appreciated the opportunity ENVISION provided to do this internship and definitely recommend that others in the Doctoral Training Programme take up similar placements.