Reflecting on the African Scholars Program
The month of December brings about many exciting times. For some it’s the start of the holiday season, gearing up for multiple gatherings with family and friends, and basking in the spirit of giving. Others look to December as a time to reflect on the accomplishments of another year gone too quickly and start to focus on what new beginnings will come in January.
As the end of 2014 rapidly approaches, we at the IDP Foundation, Inc. are reflecting on a five-year grant to the Field Museum that comes to a close this December. This $500,000 grant to the African Training Fund assisted the Field Museum in executing the African Scholars Program for undergraduate and graduate science students. Started in 2009 to promote the development of highly trained African scientists, these special scholarships were only made available to talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend university.
As a result of our grant, the Museum established partners with Makere University (Uganda), the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and other prominent African Universities to offer up to ten scholarships every year, for five years, to those studying biology, anthropology, botany, geology, biochemistry, molecular biology or other fields related to the natural sciences. The selected students were paired with Field Museum scientists who acted as informal advisors and mentors. When the opportunity presented itself, the students were also able to receive special training from Field Museum scientists during both fieldwork sessions and regional workshops.
With the grant coming to a close, we are proud to have been instrumental in impacting over 46 students and scientists directly through funding their important research, thereby encouraging the development of more African intellectuals in the country.
NOTABLE STANDOUTS OF THE PROGRAM
Paul Kirika, who is in the final stages of becoming the first PhD mycologist in Kenya and in all of East Africa, worked with Field Museum Curator Thorsten Lumbosch on lichens of the world; this resulted in a special exhibit put on by the Field Museum this year.
Despite violent civil war and unrest, Hassan Babiker in South Sudan was able to successfully complete his research on small mammal diversity, abundance, species richness, and habit in three national parks which will be the basic guiding principles in the country’s long-term conservation management plan.
Dr. Paul Webala
Field Museum’s Bruce Patterson and Kenyan scientist Dr. Paul Webala collected data on over 104 species of bats in the protected areas of Kenya, providing a large majority of information to be used in producing a definitive guide to the many types of bats found in the area. Much of their work can be seen in the African Bats exhibit going on now at the Field Museum, and they are working to make a few more Brain Scoop videos with Emily Graslie on the research, to inspire others to be passionate about science.
We could not be more pleased with the research funded by our grant in partnership with the Field Museum, and fully believe these contributions to scientific exploration will create an extended community of people interested in sustainable solutions for various issues in Africa.