The MLSG was able to fund six students/early career researchers to attend the PAOC15 in Victoria Falls in November 2022. These are their accounts of the experience.
By Samuel Boakye Yiadom (University of Ghana)
At long last, the much anticipated and awaited 15th edition of the Pan-African Ornithological Congress took place from the 21st to the 25th November 2022, with about 300 attendees from 60 countries from Africa, Europe, America and Asia converging at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. PAOC15 was scheduled to take place two years ago, but was postponed due to Covid19. For the past 2 years, I had waited eagerly for this congress with its promise of new ideas and opportunities for early career ornithologists like myself. I yearned to attend an in-person congress like the PAOC after attending a number of virtual conferences. This is because virtual conferences provided limited opportunities in terms of meeting and interacting in person, cutting-edge researchers, students and early career ornithologists to share and exchange ideas. Again, different time zones and poor internet connections made attendance to those virtual conferences a bit of a challenge for me.
It was a great privilege and honour to have received a slot to present in the symposium ‘Integrating science, policy and development to address unsustainable land use linked to African-Eurasian migrant landbird declines’. My presentation was titled, “Arrival time and habitat preference of migratory birds in a peri-urban area in northern Ghana”, which was culled from my undergraduate dissertation at the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment, University for Development Studies (UDS). The study shed light on the species of migratory birds that inhabited the African wintering grounds alongside their Resident counterparts during the winter. It also documented the arrival times of the migrants and provided insights into habitat preferences of the various species.
Having been provided with this opportunity was an eye-opener after learning about the innumerable contributions ornithologists make towards biodiversity conservation and the opportunities available to them. Even though I am scoffed at as a student-ornithologist yet, I’m convinced that I have a mission to accomplish and with continuous and relentless effort, I will be able to conscientise Ghanaians through education and research on the need to conserve the birds and biodiversity in general to make the earth a better place for all, with support from benevolent individuals and organisations such as the MLSG and IBCP.
I’ve also learned from professionals at the congress, that to be a successful ornithologist, I must stay focused, keep a positive energy and be devoted to nature and birds. The opportunity I had to attend the PAOC15 will go a long way to impact the younger generation and my colleague students positively. Such programmes are in themselves a great motivation, as they also provide a chance to meet new people and establish new relationships, exchange ideas and also learn from what other people are doing in other parts of the world. In my case, it allowed me to travel outside my home country for the first time and gain some entirely new perspectives!
Again, aside the science aspect of the congress, we had a day off to go for excursions where I had the privilege to tour on the Zambesi River in the morning with a group of nature enthusiasts and researchers. We followed up on our river tour with a visit to the “Vulture restaurant” at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, where vultures are given supplementary food every day at 1pm where the birds gather in anticipation of their free lunch! In the afternoon, we headed to Victoria Falls National Park and, in the evening, we were treated to a Boma Dance where we enjoyed traditional songs, dance and culture.
All these experience gives me a huge sigh of relief since there are individuals and organisations willing to help, support, guide and mentor devote student-ornithologists achieve their goals and objectives in the area of conservation.
On this note, I would like to thank the Migrant Landbird Study Group and the International Bird Conservation Partnership for enabling me to travel from Ghana to attend the PAOC. I really appreciate your support.