David Macdonald celebrates a remarkable achievement for former WildCRU Panther, Tafadzwa Shumbu

May 21, 2019

Tafadzwa was a successful student on WildCRU’s Recanati-Kaplan Postgraduate Diploma. When he left us he returned to a post with Painted Dog Research Trust continuing to refine the project he had developed as part of his course requirements. Joining forces with WildCRU affiliate Bob Montgomery from Michigan University, Tadadzwa led a team that co-authored a paper published in 2018 by the African Journal of Wildlife Research. That was a notable achievement in itself, but now we celebrate that this paper has won the 2019 Fairall Award for the best paper in the African Journal of Wildlife Research led by a student author.

So what was it all about? African wild dogs. The paper was entitled African wild dog habitat use modelling using telemetry data and citizen scientist sightings: are the results comparable. It analyses how sightings recorded by the general public can be practically used as a substitute, or to complement, GPS data, in modelling African wild dog habitat selection. The result is, happily, that both data sources yield comparable predictions of habitat selection patterns. The study thus encourages the use of data collected by citizen scientists for similar analyses, and makes the point that this can be much cheaper than telemetry, and also circumvents risks associated with collaring study animals.

The award is presented by the Southern African Wildlife Management Association (SAWMA), recognising the contribution of up and coming students to science and biodiversity conservation. The award is named in recognition to the service that Dr Neil Fairall gave to both SAWMA and the African Journal of Wildlife Research.