The Management Team of Gorongosa National Park would like to congratulate Tara Easter, Gorongosa’s external science researcher, who was awarded the U.S. National Science Foundation’s prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship. Over 13,000 U.S. STEM students applied to the program this year and 2,000 were offered awards. The program is a five- year fellowship that provides three years of funding for research.
Tara is a master’s student at Boise State University. She and her advisor, Dr. Neil Carter, have teamed up with the Department of Conservation's Lion Conservation team to study the effects of human activities and noise on leopard space use and movement in the Greater Gorongosa Ecosystem. Tara will be setting up motion-detecting field cameras and acoustic recording devices in Gorongosa National Park and a neighboring concession where the Park's team documented leopards last year.
Tara hopes to use next-generation occupancy models to incorporate both biophysical and sensory stimuli to determine which factors may be facilitating or impeding leopard dispersal into Gorongosa’s borders. Her project ultimately aims to assess the functionality of lands in the greater Gorongosa-Marromeu landscape and indentify crucial leopard corridors.
The Gorongosa Project integrates conservation and human development with the understanding that a healthy ecosystem will benefit human beings, who in turn will be motivated to support Gorongosa Park objectives.
Tara will be based at the E.O.Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory in the heart of Gorongosa National Park. Scientific research is an integral part of the long-term Gorongosa restoration effort, as a deep understanding of Gorongosa’s ecosystem will guide effective conservation decisions. The E.O.Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, opened in March 2014, positions Gorongosa to become a premier research hub in southern Africa. The laboratory has already attracted regional, national, and international attention. Scientists from Mozambican and international institutions, such as Universities of Eduardo Mondlane and Lúrio in Mozambique, Coimbra University in Portugal, and Universities of Harvard and Princeton in the USA, have been conducting research in the Park.
One of the laboratory’s most critical roles is to provide training to the next generation of Mozambican scientists in the Park, and also to send them to universities for advanced degrees. Several students, receiving full or partial financial assistance from the laboratory, have already begun studying for future careers as veterinarians, ecologists and lab technicians at universities.