Environmental Sciences professor Elise Granek has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for research in the Comoros archipelago. The research aims to examine the relationship between the marine and land environment with the social and economic realities of the communities living on the islands.
Environmental Sciences professor Elise Granek has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for research in the Comoros archipelago.
The research aims to examine the relationship between the marine and land environment with the social and economic realities of the communities living on the islands.
Granek’s research project will take the PSU professor halfway across the world to the Comoros Islands, a small grouping of islands located midway between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique.
There Granek and her colleagues will study multiple aspects of the local ecology, marine life and the socio-economic relations that they share with the communities of the islands. Granek said she will be examining the relationship that communities have with the resources they need.
“It’s a beautiful country,” Granek said, noting that the growing human population of the Comoros is placing a strain on local resources. “I think there is a real need for developing new strategies to better manage the resources so they prevent a collapse of their fisheries and their coral reefs.”
Currently, the population of the Comoros is estimated at just over 798,000 in an area of just 863 square miles, making the island nation one of the most densely populated nations in Africa.
Granek said the island of Anjouan, the second largest out of the four Comoros islands, has already seen the impact of strained natural resources, with the collapse of some if the island’s reefs.
Granek said she expects that by educating and engaging local island communities in conservation efforts, the communities will be more empowered–and thus more willing–to participate actively in conservation and management of island reefs.
“That is the key thing, because many projects the tendency is to look only from the naturally science ecological perspective, and figure out what should be the ideal circumstances,” said Associate Professor of Sociology at PSU Veronica Dujon. “The obstacle usually has been attempting to implement these without having consulted people, you will not get the buy in that you want.”
Dujon will be joining Granek to handle the socio-economic aspects of the study.
In addition, the researchers have gained partners on the islands to take part in the study. Aside from the 30 communities that will be involved, island locals Said Ahmada–an environmental scientist who will help on Grande Comore–and Mohamed Moutui will be helping on Anjouan island.
“Even though this is a specific project in a specific part of the world, there are likely to be implications on how we do resource management in a wider context in any part of the world,” Dujon said. “Because what we are looking at really, is declining resources and ecological systems.”
The newly won funds from Sea World and Busch Gardens are supplemental to a grant Granek was awarded last January from the National Geographic Society for $20,000 for the same Comoros Islands project.
This is not the first time Granek has been involved with the Comoros Islands. In 1994 she went there as a member of the Peace Corps. She returned in 1999 and 2000 to help with the establishment of a marine park, the Comoros’ first national park.