By Sam Ivande, APLORI, Jos, Nigeria
I received an invitation in February 2017 by the organisers of the MLSG symposium in Turku, Finland to be one of the plenary speakers at the symposium in August 2017. Through combined funding provided by the MLSG, BirdLife Netherlands and the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), I was able to attend the symposium and the EOU conference afterwards. Although the initial title for my invited talk was on “Coordinating bird research on a national and regional scale: a West African perspective”, I thought it would be important to put this within the context of the still obvious need to develop ornithological capacity within the region.
Drawing from personal experiences, from initially desiring a career as a Construction Engineer to the events and influences that eventually lead me towards a career path as a conservation ecologist and ornithologist, I hoped to communicate the fact that the journey to becoming an ornithologist in West Africa – and perhaps in most of Africa - is not quite clear cut. However, more young people continue to find themselves there. In Nigeria, and West Africa, APLORI’s over 10 years and still ongoing contribution to capacity building in the sub-region. It was worth highlighting that the Nigerian bird atlas project (NiBAP) which is one of the first attempts at country-wide mapping of birds in West Africa and with a mainly indigenous participation is clearly a testament to APLORI’s contribution to building ornithological capacity in Nigeria.
I was glad to have some very interesting and informative conversations after my talk, especially centred on the importance of this work for improving availability of data and knowledge about the winter ecology of Palearctic migrant species. It was also clearly encouraging to learn from the mainly European audience about the value of this kind of work, not just for Africa, but also for the European research community.
Listening to the very interesting plenaries and talks over the next three days of the EOU conference was another very interesting experience for me considering that this was my first opportunity to attend a big conference in Europe. My previous conference attendance have been to two Pan-African Ornithologists Congress (PAOC) Conferences within Africa and the Student Conference in Conservation Science (SCCS) in Cambridge. The plenaries by senior researchers were very inspiring, and listening to all the other talk on the research advances that have also been made in ornithology, especially from other PhDs and early career researchers was particularly very motivating for me. Indeed, it increased my desire and motivation to seek out collaborative opportunities for research and further development with very immediate results that include still ongoing conversations about a postdoctoral position.
For the EOU conference, I presented a poster about the Nigeria Bird Atlas Project and I had some very productive conversations while presenting this poster. One of these interactions with people from the Swiss Ornithological Institute (SOI) looks set to materialise into funding support for the Nigerian Bird Atlas project. My MLSG/EOU experience was thus a very productive and rewarding one and I am grateful once again to the MLSG, BirdLife Netherlands and APLORI for making it all possible.