Suggested Research Topics

We encourage post graduate students to develop research projects with us and we suggest topics below. In every case, we encourage a focus on the implications for conservation and protected area management in the Albertine Rift (Bwindi, Mgahinga, Rwenzori, Semliki, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks, and Echuya and other Forest Reserves) and surrounding regions.  All studies should attempt to develop practical recommendations for action where possible.  All studies should aim to achieve an adequate standard for one or more peer-reviewed journal article.

Note:  ITFC had funding  from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as well as from USAID through the WCS led initiative ‘WILD West’ to support specific Masters' study projects. A total of 9 students won competitive scholarships between 2009 and 2011. For 2011/12 ITFC does not have scholarship funding available. We still welcome proposals and suggestions for studies but are unlikely to be able to offer more assistance than accommodation and academic/logistical support. Those with their own funding may submit proposals for our consideration at any time.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supported research at ITFC around the following themes:

HUMAN POPULATION

1.   Human population trends and reliance on natural resources for livelihoods around the protected area(s).  Ideally this would be related to location and proximity to the protected areas.  Suggested data for study include emigration-immigration (who, where, when and why); historical movements of people in and out of the areas around the park; census data; aerial photographs; interviews. We welcome more work on this topic

2.   The above may also be considered in the light of land values and markets: variation with proximity to the park and other factors, livelihoods and income.

3.   Fuel demand.  Current needs, trends and future possibilities and implications (wood, charcoal etc).  Not taken up

BIOMASS and CARBON

4.   The carbon content in different vegetation types and locations. We would welcome basic inventories of biomass within protected areas and other sites.  This could also be an assessment or improvement of various methods. These approaches are valuable for establishing a basis for buying and selling carbon. (One MSc project completed but scope for more)

5.   Mapping of carbon values (and potential loss) across specific landscapes: forests, farms, swamps, drained swamps, high altitude peat lands. We welcome more work on this topic

ALTITUDINAL ZONATION as a proxy for CLIMATE CHANGE

6.   Determining factors of vegetation distribution in Bwindi or Rwenzori. (Ongoing studies)

7.   Intensive survey of high altitude specialist vegetation species in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Echuya Forest Reserve – identification of vulnerable species. We welcome more work on this topic

8.   The distribution of plant characteristics with altitude.  E.g. can leaf form be used to predict vegetation-climate relationships in Bwindi (or elsewhere)? We welcome more work on this topic

VEGETATION ECOLOGY

9.   Monitoring habitat recovery (natural and assisted) in formerly encroached areas on the lower slopes of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.  This project would be largely based on a re-assessment of some plots established over a decade ago. Specific funds may become available to support this.  

10. There is also an opportunity to help re-measure seven one-ha forest plots in Rabongo Forest (in Murchison Falls National Park).  This would be a good basis for assessing vegetation change over 18 years in this forest.  ITFC would help supervise this project. (Ongoing MSc project)

11. What are the long term implications of invasive exotic plant species in Semuliki National Park and what control measures are warranted? (Ongoing MSc project)

12. *An investigation of the distribution and impact of parasitic plants in the forest canopy of Bwindi.(Ongoing MSc project) 

13. Clarifying the ecological reasons why many areas of Bwindi are dominated by herbaceous vegetation.  What determines the tree-herb balance? Not yet taken up

ENTOMOLOGY

14. The distribution of mosquito species and/or black-flies in the region.  Where are the breeding sites and how are these influenced by site conditions and anthropogenic factors?  Not yet taken up

15. Ecological characterization of Bwindi's endemic butterflies and their food plants(distributions and implications). Not yet taken up

16. Plants and their pollinators – which plants depend on which animals?  Suggestions would include to examine the pollinator assemblages in the forests and the selected plant species that depend on them (this could focus on valued resource species and other plants such as gorilla food plants).   Not yet taken up

17. An investigation of moths and other nocturnal insects in BINP: an investigation of location, weather and seasonal influences based on trapping. 

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