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J.W. 'Tico' McNuttPhD, Founder and Director
J. Weldon “Tico” McNutt, (PhD) is the Founder and Director of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (www.bpctrust.org). He began his pioneering conservation work on African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Okavango Delta in 1989 as a graduate student at the University of California, Davis. In the past 26 years, working in Botswana with graduate students, local staff and trainees, Tico has charted the individual life histories of hundreds of wild dogs spanning eight generations. After years of research on this previously misunderstood and persecuted species - Africa’s most endangered large carnivore-, the African wild dog is now among those most sought after by African wildlife tourists. Tico now supervises a growing team of researchers and students from around the world to fulfill BPCT’s broader mission: the conservation of all African large carnivore species.
In 1996 Tico and his wife Lesley wrote the award winning book published by Smithsonian Books:“Running Wild: Dispelling the myths of the African Wild Dog”. They continue to supervise a research program and the research camp they built in 1990, and where they lived continuously for eleven years raising their two sons in the Eastern Okavango Delta. They now run BPCT from offices in the village of Maun where they have developed a Conservation Education Centre for local primary school children, a children's wildlife education program called Coaching for Conservation, and the Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry, which is dedicated to deciphering the chemical language of territoriality of African wild dogs and other threatened wildlife species.
Tico has been honoured with several awards including: the Distinguished Alumni Award for International Service in 2011 from the University of California Davis, Cal Aggie Alumni Association; the 2011 Tusk Conservation Award at the American Express Conservation Lecture Series at the Royal Geographic Society, London, UK; the 2015 Barrows Conservation Award at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, OH. USA; and the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award, at Lakeside School, Seattle, WA. USA.
Lesley McNuttMA, 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 2014, C4C has reached 6,000 kids through an annual football camp and year-long after school programs now in Botswana and South Africa. With Lesley's tireless dedication and enthusiasm, C4C continues to inspire children to lead healthy lives and protect themselves and protect their environment an truly become KIDS WHO CARE.
Researchers and Project Workers
Krystyna Golabek, PHDPost Doctoral Research Coordinator
Krystyna Golabek joined BPCT in 2011 as Research Coordinator and Post doctoral researcher. She is also a visiting researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford. 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.
Neil Jordan, PHDResearch Fellow - BioBoundary Research Project
Neil Jordan joined BPCT in 2011 as a Post-doctoral researcher on the African wild dog Bioboundary project. Neil now holds a joint position as a Lecturer in the Center for Ecosystem Science (University of New South Wales, Australia) and the Taronga Conservation Society (Australia).
Neil's 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 for the Vincent Wildlife Trust, and was responsible for the detection and promotion of pine marten conservation throughout England and Wales.
Neil is interested in the ecology and behavior of predators in human- or livestock-dominated areas, and in applying this knowledge to develop and evaluate tools to reduce human-wildlife conflict. A major aspect of his work at BPCT focuses on the scent-marking behaviour of African wild dogs, and whether scent can be used to manage their ranging behaviour and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Neil is also developing a research programme to investigate the ecology and behavior of large carnivores in livestock areas, principally lions, leopards and spotted and in applying this knowledge to develop and evaluate low-cost, locally-feasible, preventative tools to reduce livestock losses.
Peter Apps, PhDResearch 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 GilfillanPhD Student
After previously working with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust as a Research Assistance in 2012, Geoff Gilfillan commenced his doctoral research in March 2014 with the University of Sussex (UK) after obtaining The Study Abroad Studentship from The Leverhulme Trust (UK). Geoff also holds a BSc degree in Zoology from the University of Durham (UK), and has previous ethological experience with the golden monkey in Uganda, and meerkats in South Africa. One of Geoff’s primary research interests is in animal communication and Bio-acoustics in particular, and as a consequence, how and why lions communicate through roaring has formed a central part of Geoff’s research.
Jessica VitalePhD Student
Jessica Vitale is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham (UK) who started her doctoral research with BPCT in March 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 in 2012, collecting data primarily on the large cats. After observing several interactions between spotted hyaenas and the large cats, Jessica became increasingly interested in the role of hyaenas in the large predator guild. She created an identification database to better monitor the hyaena population, and developed research questions that now serve as the foundation of her PhD research.
Lindsey Rich, MstPHD 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 AbrahmsPHD 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.
Joseph OlefileResearch 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stopper Onalethata NkapeResearch 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.