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International Women’s Day: Women on the EDGE

By on March 8, 2012 in EDGE Fellows, EDGE Updates, News, Uncategorized, ZSL

All around the world, women have long played a leading role in environmental protection and conservation. Among the earliest conservationists was Harriet Hemenway, who in 1896 worked to defend birds from being slaughtered for their plumes’ use in fashion. Now there are many organisations which have created opportunities to connect young girls and women to the environment through education and interaction, such as the Audubon Foundation and the WWF.

Carly Waterman


The success of the EDGE of Existence Programme has often been down to the hard work of the many women involved. In 2007, Carly Waterman set up the programme at the ZSL, where she campaigns for evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered (EDGE) species. She oversees all EDGE research, conservation and capacity building initiatives, from developing new priority lists through to initiating targeted conservation projects for those species in most urgent need of conservation attention. She is also overseeing the expansion of the EDGE approach to additional taxonomic groups, including birds, corals, sharks and gymnosperms (conifers and cycads).

One more important person to mention is Dr Kate Jones, whose research is focused on the evolution of mammal biodiversity, understanding the processes that drive past and present patterns to predict the future. Kate was part of the team that put together the “super-tree” of all mammals, from which the ED part of the EDGE score is calculated.

The EDGE Programme also supports early-career conservationists from developing countries, known as ‘EDGE Fellows’, and so far we have had Grace Wambui-Ngaruiya, Piyathip Piyapan and Maria Copa to represent the female population. Cath Lawson is the manager of the EDGE Fellows Programme, and she supports all the fellows with the help they need while conducting their projects.

Grace Wambui-Ngaruiya in action

Grace conducted a survey of the status and population size (presence, distribution and abundance) of EDGE mammal number 46, the Golden-rumped elephant shrew in the poorly known Boni and Dodori coastal forests of northern Kenya. She also gathered extensive data on the threat processes impacting the habitats and sengi populations in the region.

Piyathip Piyapan

Piyathip completed her EDGE Fellowship in Thailand, December 2008, in which she carried out research on roost selection behaviour and threats to bumblebee bats in Sai Yak National Park. The results of this study will help to inform an in situ management strategy for the species, currently ranked as number 53 on the EDGE mammals list.


Maria Copa conducting an interview


Maria began the project “Chinchillas in Bolivia” in 2009 with the support of the EDGE Fellows Programme. She wanted to find remaining populations of short-tailed chinchillas in Bolivian territory, which supplemented her role as a consultant to monitor and manage wildlife in Bolivia.



One of EDGE’s main aims is to encourage scientists and supporters to connect with each other and share ideas and knowledge. Why not set up a free online profile on our Community, where you can learn about what others are doing for EDGE? Or set up your own discussion topic in our Forum?

Happy International Women’s Day!