UR graduate takes a lead to inspire youth to pursue research


Raymond Umazekabiri graduated in 2018 from Botany and Conservation option, Biology Department at the College of Science and Technology. Since graduation, he has been working at the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity (CoEB) and he was able to upgrade his undergraduate dissertation into a research project which eventually got funded.

Raymond (left) and his field assistant calibrating temperature data

Raymond is passionate in the field of plant taxonomy and systematic, ecology and ecosystem services, as well as collection management. He is a National Geographic Explorer since August, 2019 through his Early Career Grant awarded from National Geographic Society (NGS) where he is exploring the diversity, abundance and host relationships of mistletoe species along elevation gradient in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda. He also coordinated the National Herbarium of Rwanda Upgrading and Digitizing project at CoEB funded by SEP2D/IRD in France since it started and later, he has been appointed as Herbarium Assistant and continues to work with the specimens, data entry, and trainings on data portal management.

He assisted a project entitled “ozone monitoring and its impact on crop yields in rural area of Rwanda” by collaboration with CoEB and a researcher from Centre of Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in UK where he was responsible for setting up ozone diffusion tubes and gathering data, and sending it to UK partners for laboratory analysis. He was also responsible for planting local beans and detecting ozone injuries while growing. He became a 2nd prize winner in Conversion on Conservation (CoC) poster competition in 2018 and awarded a membership in Society for Conservation Biology (SCB). He also assisted Scientists from Emory University, USA to measure soil trace gases in maize plantations and participatory surveys with farmers to see how they do agriculture and the challenges they face related to climate change. Raymond is involved in different research project proposal writing in CoEB and mentors interns and undergraduate students who come to work in the herbarium. He recently started a Masters Degree program at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany in Biodiversity and Collection Management.

His research project title is “Diversity, Abundance, Host Relationship of Mistletoe Along Elevational Gradient in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda”. The research aims to assess mistletoe diversity, abundance, distribution, and interaction with host plant species, and to determine infection intensity of mistletoe species in Nyungwe National Park along an elevational gradient and also it will provide a starting point for modeling vegetation dynamics and climate change effects in Nyungwe National Park.
The results are expected to be used for studies focusing on the relationship between mistletoes and herbivores, frugivores, pollinators, and seed dispersers throughout the elevational range, as well as distribution shifts related to climate change.

Story by Joseline Barakagwira, CoEB staff