Since its inception in 2019, the Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer (JWO) Research Grant has grown steadily into one of Africa’s most sought-after science prizes.
This year, an unprecedented 332 applications were received from some of the brightest minds in 29 African countries – showcasing high-calibre, game-changing research on the continent.
Dr Elizabeth Le Roux is this year’s recipient of the 4th annual JWO research grant award. She is a Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria, South Africa and an Assistant Professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.
Dr Le Roux’s research programme will explore whether the movement of cattle and pastoral communities in Africa can help to reconnect and integrate fragmented conservation areas.
The work will be undertaken over three years and is informed by the conviction that “the earth needs ecologically intact ecosystems and we need to be ambitious in our conservation targets.”
“One of the most significant challenges we face will be to find space for biodiversity in a human-dominated world. We need to resolve the conflict between biodiversity conservation and fair opportunities for the social and economic development of local communities.”
The grant was awarded to Dr Elizabeth Le Roux on the 6th of October at a special event at the Oppenheimer Research Conference, in Midrand, Johannesburg. A distinguished panel with experience across academia and practice in environmental science reviewed the hundreds of applications.
“The main purpose of the JWO Research Grant is to make common cause about how we think about saving our planet. We are fortunate to be able to engage scientists that are shifting our world-view and spearheading research that has the potential to change the world for our children and future generations,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer.
The JWO grant received entries from across Africa, increasing its reach over previous years. The grant of $150,000 provides funding to enable researchers to build evidence which can inform decision-making around Africa’s natural resources. It encourages practical action leading to the implementation of innovative solutions at local, regional, and national levels for the benefit of African communities.
Dr Duncan Macfadyen, Head of Research and Conservation at Oppenheimer Generations said “the highlight of the JWO this year, has been the wide breadth and diversity of the applications we’ve received. We’ve had sterling responses from all corners of the continent, celebrating what the JWO grant is all about, elevating African voices in securing sustainable futures.
The five other finalists short-listed for the research grant were:
- Dr Alice Karanja (Kenya) – Mainstreaming Neglected and Underutilized Crop Species for Food and Livelihood Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa (NUSRE)
- Dr Peta Brom (South Africa) – Spatial patterns of urban nature in the Savanna Region
- Dr Bridget Bobadoye (Nigeria) – Rapid surveillance of re-emerging zoonotic diseases as bio-security threats along the African great green wall borderlines: Implications for one health approach in Africa.
- Dr Sivuyisiwe Situngu (South Africa) – Soil micro-organism response to global climate change drivers..
- Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa (Malawi) – Inclusive freshwater pollution monitoring using bacteria and fish-based biomarkers to determine ecosystem health.
Since its inception 4 years ago, the JWO Grant has supported groundbreaking African research programmes with the potential to significantly contribute to the advancement of environmental and allied sciences by identifying and addressing real-world issues across the continent.
The Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation team continue to build a first-class research entity that partners with national and international researchers to conduct cutting-edge research focused on the natural sciences ensuring practical and impactful outcomes. They are committed to further developing, expanding and promoting the growth of sustainable conservation programmes and networks throughout the African continent.