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The Team

Directors

J.W. 'Tico' McNutt

J.W. 'Tico' McNutt

PhD, Founder and Director
The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust is led by husband and wife team J. Weldon ("Tico") McNutt PhD and Lesley Boggs MA. Dr. McNutt began his pioneering work in the Okavango Delta in 1989 while working on his PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. His focus was the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), about which very little was known. In the past 18 years, working with graduate students and local staff, Tico has charted the individual life histories of more than 1000 wild dogs spanning eight generations. As a result of Dr. McNutt's painstaking work, the African wild dog has been transformed from a misunderstood and persecuted species to a valued member of ecotourism's Big 7, the animals most sought after by ecotourists visiting Africa. Tico now supervises an expanding team of researchers and graduate students to fulfill the program's mission of large carnivore research and conservation. Tico and Lesley have a research camp in the Eastern side of the Okavango Delta that has been operating since 1990 and where they lived continuously for 12 years raising their two sons, Madison and Wilder. They now split their time between running the camp and being closer to schools in the nearby village of Maun where they manage a wildlife biochemistry laboratory and a rapidly expanding children's wildlife education program called Coaching for Conservation. Both being pilots, their Cessna 182 enables them to oversee the field research and manage the research camp where several graduate students and research assistants work full time on various research projects focusing on large carnivore conservation.
Lesley  McNutt

Lesley McNutt

MA, Co-founder and Director, Social Programs

Lesley's introduction to Africa was in the late 1980s when she worked and travelled throughout the continent. She returned to Africa in 1993 and found herself working in the Okavango Delta doing research for a natural resource management company. She met Tico and moved to Botswana in 1994. Lesley, originally from Ontario, Canada completed a Masters in Development Anthropology at McGill University in Montreal. Her research focused on resource management, human-wildlife conflict, and the relationships between protected areas and the adjacent lands, to establish human solutions for the preservation of Africa's large predators and their habitats. As the Director of Social Programs for BPCT, Lesley deliberated over the key question of "how can we have the most impact with our conservation efforts?" In 2002, Lesley spearheaded Coaching for Conservation (C4C), BPCT's major social development program aimed at getting kids interested and involved in conservation through organized sport. C4C's core values "Respect Yourself, Respect each Other, and Respect your Environment" aim to help the youth of Botswana build self-esteem, engage in constructive social exchange and develop an awareness and sensitivity to the environment they live and play in. The innovative program has grown tremendously over the last few years and as of 2010, C4C has reached 2,000 kids through an annual football camp and year-long after school programs. With Lesley's tireless dedication and enthusiasm, C4C continues to inspire children to lead healthy lives and protect themselves and protect their environment.

Researchers and Project Workers

Krystyna Golabek

Krystyna Golabek, PHD

Post Doctoral Research Coordinator

Krystyna Golabek joined BPCT in 2011 as Research Coordinator and Post doctoral researcher. Krys’s main interests lie in communication and social cognition, and her PhD work at the University of Bristol investigated vocal communication in pied babblers, a cooperative bird species found in southern Africa. Krys’s post doctoral research at BPCT focuses on communication and social knowledge within the large carnivore guild; particularly exploring inter-specific awareness via various modalities of communication. Understanding how the top order predators avoid and/or search out each other is an important component to developing effective management strategies for these threatened and endangered species.

See a recent report on some of Krys' Pied Babbler research: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=1147 

Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan, PHD

Post Doctoral Research Fellow - BioBoundary Research Project

Neil Jordan joined BPCT in 2011 as a Post-doctoral researcher on the African wild dog Bioboundary project. Neil’s main interests lie in scent communication and its potential application for conservation. His previous work investigated the function(s) of scent marking in wild carnivores and involved a combination of behavioural observations, field experiments and laboratory analyses of scent marks. He conducted his MSc through the University of Stellenbosch where he studied scent marking in meerkats in the Kalahari Desert, and followed this with a PhD at the University of Cambridge investigating scent communication in wild banded mongooses in Uganda. Prior to joining BPCT, Neil spent two years as the Pine Marten Project Manager, based in Herefordshire, UK and was responsible for the detection and promotion of pine marten conservation throughout England and Wales. Neil is now collecting detailed field data on scent marking behavior, and is conducting field experiments to assess the potential application of scent marks in managing the ranging patterns of African wild dogs.

Peter  Apps

Peter Apps, PhD

Research Partner, BioBoundary Project
Email: peterjapps at gmail dot com

Dr Peter Apps' joined the BioBoundary project in April 2008 to set up and run the wildlife semiochemistry laboratory. His background is a highly unusual combination of zoology and analytical chemistry; for his doctorate in zoology he developed and applied a completely new method of sampling mammal and insect signaling chemicals, and followed that with 20 years experience in gas chromatography and mass spectrometry; the ideal background to his current role of unraveling the chemical complexities of wild dog scent marks in order to identify the active components among the hundreds of compounds that the dogs secrete. Learn more about the BioBoundary Project.

The low concentrations and complexity of mammals' chemical signals test the limits of current analytical techniques, Peter's speciality in developing new methods and hardware frees the BioBoundary laboratory from having to use off-the-shelf equipment and standard methods.

As well as over 40 scientific publications in zoology and chemistry, he is the author of two books on southern African wildlife; "Wild Ways" and "Creatures of Habit", and is the editor of "Smithers' Mammals of Southern Africa, A Field Guide".

Geoff Gilfillan

Geoff Gilfillan

PhD Student

Geoff Gilfillan is a PhD student supervised by Professor Karen McComb at The University of Sussex and funded by The Leverhulme Trust. Initially, Geoff was a volunteer Research Assistant with The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust for 13 months, during which time he began to develop his research ideas. The broad aim of Geoff’s graduate research is to combine natural observation, GPS technology and playback experimentation to acquire essential knowledge regarding the behavioural ecology and communication system of the African lion (Panthera leo leo). In particular, he intends to improve current understanding of the natural mechanisms of conflict avoidance and mate selection that allow for the maintenance of a viable and healthy lion population. Through the proposed research, he aims to provide important information necessary to promote solutions for the sustainable management of Botswana’s lion population.

Jessica Vitale

Jessica Vitale

PhD Student

Jessica Vitale is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham (UK), starting her doctoral research with BPCT in February 2014. Jessica holds a B.S. degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Brandeis University (USA), and has a wide range of research experience studying animal behaviour within several ecosystems. She previously worked as part of the BPCT field research team throughout 2012, collecting data primarily on the large cats. Jessica’s PhD research focuses on the spotted hyaena, which, despite being the most abundant member of the large predator guild, is perhaps the least understood predator within the Okavango ecosystem. The aim of Jessica’s research is to understand the role of spotted hyaenas within the guild, specifically how they respond to environmental cues of their competitors and what factors influence interspecific interactions over kills. Data collection will also provide important information on the population demographics and social networking of hyaenas within this ecosystem. Her research will utilize a combination of remote data collection, natural observations, and acoustic and olfactory experiments.

Lindsey Rich

Lindsey Rich, Mst

PHD student

Lindsey Rich began her PhD research in collaboration with BPCT in 2012. Lindsey’s main interests include landscape-level population monitoring and the ecology of carnivore communities. She conducted her MSc through the University of Montana, USA, where she assessed factors influencing the territory sizes of wolf packs and developed a cost-effective method for monitoring wolves across the state. Following her MSc, Lindsey worked in Portugal and the United states to develop occupancy models for an array of carnivores and in Botswana where she lead a conservation study abroad program. She began her PhD studies at Virginia Tech University, USA, in fall 2012. Lindsey’s PhD research will focus on evaluating the density, distribution, and ecology of multiple, sympatric carnivores with a focus on leopards. Specifically, Lindsey will use camera trap and spoor surveys to assess overall carnivore richness, to estimate the density of up to 5 large carnivores and 7 mesocarnivores, and to explore species-level and community-level effects of ecological variables (e.g., human impact and prey density).

Briana Abrahms

Briana Abrahms

PHD student

Briana Abrahms is a PhD student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley. She has worked with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust since 2011, first as a member of its field research team and returning in 2012 as a doctoral student. Her broad research interests lie in landscape ecology and conservation planning in the context of climate and land-use change. For her dissertation work, she is using a combination of GPS data, behavioral observation, and remote sensing to explore the extent to which fine-scale habitat selection and movement behavior of African large carnivores can be scaled up to better understand large-scale movement patterns essential to species persistence like dispersal. She hold a B.S. degree in Physics from Brandeis University in Massachusetts and several years of fieldwork experience conducting international ecological and conservation research.

Dikatholo "Dix" Kedikilwe

Research Assistant, Tracker
Joseph  Olefile

Joseph Olefile

Research Assistant, Shorobe Livestock Insurance Initiative

Joseph Olefile is a BTech student at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa where he received his National diploma in Nature conservation. Joseph Interned with the Kruger National Park under the unit of Game range and Law enforcement by performing patrols, camp management and collecting data for management purposes. Following his undergraduate career, he began a research assistantship with the “Adaptation of livelihoods and land-use to variable flooding patterns in the Okavango-Boteti system” project at the Okavango Research Institute of the University of Botswana where he helped with data collection and analysis. His current BTech project involves examining the Predator- human conflict in Shorobe area: Compensation as a key factor towards behavioral change. Joseph welcomes your e-mails at olefilejoseph@yahoo.com.

Stopper   Onalethata Nkape

Stopper Onalethata Nkape

Research Assistant, Shorobe Livestock Insurance Initiative

Stopper has been with BPCT's Shorobe Livestock Insurance Initiative since it began in 2011. Shorobe is his home village and his knowledge of the area and his long established relationships with the community and the cattlepost farmers in particular, are invaluable in the ongoing development of the insurance program. Stopper now runs the program from a small office in the heart of Shorobe village where he is available to community residents and farmers on a daily basis.

The biography and a photo are coming soon.