Biomedical Sciences

Ecosystem Experience

Chaona tells her us about her experience undertaking research in Zambia with the Commonwealth Scholarship.

After completing my Bachelors degree at the University of Zambia in 2012, I was in full time employment within 3 months. That left no time to think about further studies that involved being full time in school. So I googled online programs for ecology and biodiversity and a few hits came up including the Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health (BWEH) course at Edinburgh.

The outline looked good and I thought it would work for me but I was not sure how I would pay the fees, so I checked out the funding tab on the home page and came across the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship.

From the onset, I knew this was the type of course for me because leaving full time employment was not an option. During the programme I was working for the BirdLife partner in Zambia (where I am still working to date), conducting research on birds.

The subject of my thesis was ‘Assessing factors influencing the distribution of the Zambian Barbet- Lybius chaplini within its range in South-central Zambia’. Which was a part of a project that was running in my organisation and I was leading on the project.

That allowed me to integrate work and schools as I identify my research topic and decided on it myself. The summer school was awesome to get me well placed for statistical analysis on my thesis and lucky for me, my scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission covered one summer – I attended one in my second year.

One challenge that almost lead to disaster was the lack of guaranteed internet access – I was so behind with discussion boards and lectures. I could do assignments offline but it’s the class work that suffered especially on modules where material was given in video format. But I managed in the end and even got to visit Edinburgh when I went for graduation – amazing experience.

Besides academic progress, BWEH gave me the right boots to handle research using the ecosystem-based approach; I am now managing 7 ecosystem-based projects for organisation.

And that success has not gone unnoticed; in 2017 I got 2 awards; 1 from National Geographic Society and another from British BirdFair through the conservation leadership program (CLP). 

Chaona chatting to BirdLife International (YouTube)