Upcoming 3rd Annual Biodiversity Field School brings together 40 participants from 10 countries


At least 40 participants from 10 countries will be in Rwanda for the 3rd annual Biodiversity Field School. The event which attracted students, early career researchers and senior researchers will be held from 21 August – 1 September 2023. It was organized by the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) in its effort to enhance knowledge accumulation and transfer concerning biodiversity in Rwanda and beyond.

Most of the global biodiversity is still unknown and far from being understood, yet research is biased taxonomically and by societal preferences and regions. In addition, there is a "research & knowledge - implementation" gap coupled with unparalleled loss of biodiversity and natural habitats, especially in Africa. Addressing these challenges remains crucial yet the capacity to do so remains low in many developing countries, including Africa. Biodiversity databases such as museums and herbaria collections play a vital role in biodiversity conservation but are mostly ignored in many countries.

Participants in previous Biodiversity Field School

Rwanda for instance has a national herbarium and several incipient zoological collections but still needs people to become interested in taxonomy and collections as well as information on how to create, maintain and use such collections for their research. Universities and research collections play a critical role in studying complex conservation problems, but in most African countries there is a deficiency of resources, expertise to fulfil these needs, as well as limited networking opportunities. Detailed knowledge about species and their environment, along with associated socio-economic issues, is urgently needed.

The aim of the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) at the University of Rwanda is to become a major hub for knowledge accumulation and transfer concerning biodiversity in Rwanda and the Albertine Rift. The annual Biodiversity Field School (Mind the Darwinian shortfalls- A graduate summer school on Biodiversity and Collection Management in East Africa) is a step to overcome these challenges.

The project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in Germany, and is a partnership between Senckenberg Biodiversity Institute, Germany, the African Parks in Rwanda, the Rwandan Development Board, and the CoEB at University of Rwanda. The funds are for three years, the first field school was held in 2021, and the last one under this funding will be held 21 August – 1 September 2023. Participants come from Rwanda, Uganda, DR Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya, and trainers are from Rwanda, Germany, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

The 2023 field school will involve 40 participants from students and early career researchers to senior researchers, and taxon groups to be studied include bats, mollusks, plants, freshwater aquatic invertebrates, pollinators, and amphibians and reptiles. Over the course of these field schools, new species and range extensions have been identified, over 45 students have been trained in taxonomy and collections management, durable partnerships have been developed, manuscripts and checklists are in preparation, and new information supports effective conservation management. In particular, the CoEB is committed to identifying biological indicators to support monitoring of restoration activities and climate adaptation interventions, and to support achievement of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets.

According to CoEB Director Prof Beth Kaplin, we cannot be effective at conservation planning and management if we do not know what biodiversity we have and where it is located. We invite any interested to come visit the natural history collections at University of Rwanda, Huye campus, CoEB.