UR aids con­ser­va­tion ef­fort

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - Metro2 - BY KARIN KAPSIDELIS

Stu­dents are help­ing Afghans de­velop pro­tected-species list

At 5 a.m. one day last month, a class of Uni­ver­sity of Rich­mond stu­dents con­vened to hear a com­mit­tee in Afghanista­n as­sess their work.

It wasn’t their grades that were at stake, but whether 20 en­dan­gered plants and an­i­mals would move closer to pro­tec­tion as the Afghan gov­ern­ment takes fledg­ling steps to con­serve a war-scarred en­vi­ron­ment.

This was the sec­ond se­mes­ter that UR stu­dents have helped the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety re­search and rec­om­mend trees, birds and mam­mals for in­clu­sion on a pro­tected-species list.

The stu­dents in ge­og­ra­phy pro­fes­sor David Sal­is­bury’s course on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment have col­lab­o­rated with McKen­zie John­son, who works for the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety in Kabul.

The UR stu­dents who have known John­son only through e-mail and video con­fer­ences will get a chance to meet her Jan. 19 when she speaks at UR’s third an­nual Global En­vi­ron­ment Speaker Se­ries.

The stu­dents’ work has laid a foun­da­tion for Afghanista­n to bet­ter man­age its nat­u­ral re­sources, said UR bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Peter Small­wood, who last sum­mer con­cluded an 18-month leave work­ing as the Afghanista­n coun­try di­rec­tor for the con­ser­va­tion so­ci­ety.

“They filled a very keen need,” he said of the stu­dents, who freed John­son to teach Afghan stu­dents to do the type of re­search UR pro­vided over the past two semesters.

But this was the last se­mes­ter the UR stu­dents will work on the project be­cause the species re­main­ing to be stud­ied are more ob­scure, Sal­is­bury said.

“It was a bit more of a chal­lenge this se­mes­ter,” he said, for stu­dents to find pub­lished re­search on stud­ies con­ducted be­fore war pushed sci­en­tists out of the coun­try.

Through an In­ter­net video con­fer­ence, Sal­is­bury’s stu­dents dis­cussed their find­ings with mem­bers of the Afghanista­n Wildlife Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee.

Six species— in­clud­ing two species of bat, an ea­gle and a fer­ret — were ap­proved by the com­mit­tee. But the com­mit­tee’s work is on­go­ing.

“We re­ally stress to stu­dents that this is very dif­fer­ent from any other as­sign­ment they’ll do at the uni­ver­sity,” Sal­is­bury said of the fol­low-up re­quired to see their species through the process. “It doesn’t fit in a se­mes­ter.”

McKenzie John­son, Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety third an­nual Global En­vi­ron­ment Speaker Se­ries 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19, Gottwald Sci­ence Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Rich­mond free

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