Monday, April 7, 2014

The National University of Equatorial Guinea Honors American Researcher for her Contributions to Biodiversity Conservation in the Country

Researcher worked on the island for over 20 years

The National University of Equatorial Guinea (UNGE) recently honored Dr. Gail Hearn, Professor and Director of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program at Drexel University, with a gold medal for her dedication to the conservation and management of biodiversity on the Island of Bioko.

During the award ceremony earlier this year, Carlos Nze Nsuga, UNGE Rector, praised Dr. Hearn’s work in leading Bioko Island’s biodiversity protection program. Dr. Hearn has worked with UNGE since 1997. “Dr. Hearn has directed the program that has allowed the biodiversity of Equatorial Guinea to be known worldwide. Thanks to her, we have conducted research and have found four new species of frogs and butterflies, amongst others,” said Rector Nze Nsuga.

Dr. Hearn started her journey toward the conservation of biodiversity on the island at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. She founded the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program in partnership with UNGE, aimed at promoting the conservation of Bioko Island’s wildlife through self-sustaining programs in education, research and conservation. 

“We are very proud of all the work the people and the government of Equatorial Guinea have done in recent years, and we have high hopes that within a very few years no more primates in Bioko will be endangered,” said Dr. Hearn.

Dr. Hear said that Bioko Island was a unique and rich environment.  “My best memory of Equatorial Guinea lies in the southern forests of the island of Bioko, which remain as they were a thousand years ago. With its trees, birds, monkeys, turtles, and these are resources that make Equatorial Guinea unique despite being geographically small. I hope that Equatorial Guinea makes an effort to preserve this great biodiversity wealth, even export it to assist in the economy of the developing country.”

The educational and conservation efforts of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program have expanded considerable since 1986. UNGE and Drexel University's Study Abroad Office lead programs during spring and fall semesters.

During her time on Bioko Island, Dr. Hearn’s research has focused on the population decline of primate species on the island due to bushmeat hunting, the island’s biogeography, wildlife, monkeys, conservation challenges, and marine turtles to name a few.

Mark Asquino, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea joined Dr. Hearn at the award ceremony.