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Credit WWF Sebastian Castaneda

Image courtesy of WWF - Sebastian Castaneda

University of Exeter postgraduate receives prestigious fellowship from the WWF

An Exeter Student has been awarded a prestigious fellowship to further her research into the threats river dolphins face from fisheries and infrastructure in the Peruvian Amazon.

Biological sciences postgraduate, Elizabeth Campbell, who is based at the University’s Penryn Campus and conducts her research in Peru, has received the WWF 2018 Russell E. Train Fellowship (EFN).

The award, which runs for three years, gives Elizabeth almost $27,000 per year to fund her crucial research into river dolphin populations, their natural habitats, and the threats they face.

Elizabeth said: “We know that some of these threats include interactions with fisheries, either direct for use as bait or indirect as bycatch, as well as infrastructure in the Amazon (dams and hydro ways) and contamination from mining. As the population and resource demand increases, these threats are steadily rising.

“I applied for the fellowship because I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do my research on and I knew that I wanted to create baseline information for Peru’s biodiversity. WWF-EFN gave me an opportunity to design my research topics and implement them with their financial support.”

Elizabeth’s study also aims to determine fishery interactions of aquatic mammals, which are listed as protected species under Peruvian law or international agreements. By having a better understanding of these events, Elizabeth will be able to work towards identifying and implementing improved conservation measures. Alternative methodologies such as Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) and molecular techniques, coupled with traditional distance sampling methods, will be used to produce this information.

The research will be carried out with the Peruvian non-profit group Pro Delphinus, with guidance from University of Exeter’s Professor Brendan Godley.

Elizabeth is one of 10 recipients from 6 different countries to receive the fellowship, each working on key conservation issues. From a huge range of applicants, candidates were selected for their innovative proposals, merit-based history and commitment to conservation.

The EFN fellowship was created to honour the late Russell E. Train, the founder, president, and chairman of the board of WWF-US. Its purpose is to support passionate conservationists from target countries conduct key research and obtain their advanced degrees.

You can find out more about the fellowship on the WFF website.

Date: 11 October 2018

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