Tuesday 12 January 2016

Connecting the dots in my CIRCLE research.

By Esther Ekua Amoako, University For Development Studies 
Cohort 1 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow 

Dr Amoako spent her fellowship year at  University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Here, she reflects on her time on the CIRCLE Programme.

On 28th of January, 2015 I left Tamale in the Northern region of Ghana, where I work and live with my family to the Centre for Climate Change Studies (CCCS), University of Dar es salaam, Tanzania. This was my first time travelling to the East. Early in the morning I was greeted in Kiswahili, a language I skipped years ago when I had admission to read Political Science and Kiswahili at the University of Ghana.

This was the beginning of the 11 months journey into my research career away from home. It has been one of the best, working in Ghana and Tanzania.  Coming back to Ghana for data collection in March, I worked with research assistants from the University for Development Studies (My home institution), Savanna Agricultural Institute (SARI), and the Mole National Park, Ghana. I had the opportunity to work with a number of people from the office of the CCCS, the Geography department, Botany department and even crossing over to the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Kitulangalo forest in Morogoro, Tanzania. Most of these personalities were experts and professors in their own field, some directly related to my field of research others not directly. I had to work with some research assistants in the field data collection, with plant ecologist and technicians to help identify tree species in the Guinea Savanna and the Miombo woodlands of Ghana and Tanzania respectively. I needed to work with laboratory technicians from the SARI, Ghana and Forestry and Nature Conservation, SUA, Tanzania for soil sampling and preparation of the soils for laboratory analysis, seed bank germination. In the Kitulangalo forest I worked with a forest technician who assisted with the identification of tree species in Kiswahili before it was translated into the scientific names. I am glad that the process of soil preparation and analysis was used as practical training for three female students from the Tanzania Technical Institute.
During the period under review, I had the opportunity to make presentations of my research in a workshop organized by CCCS with the other CIRCLE fellows and PhD students and two international conferences organized by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) and the Association of Fire Ecology (AFE), in Manchester, UK and San Antonio Texas, US respectively. I was privileged to receive partial travel support from the UNU-LRT, Iceland for the SER conference and also the second recipient of the Mike Da Luz Student Travel Award for a research that has Potential of Contributing to the Wildland Fire Community. The award was given by the AFE on the basis that there is much use of fire in the savannas of Africa which has enormous impact on ecosystems and climate change but with very little research on fire. This is a great motivation and encouragement to me to continue conducting research in fire and ecosystems management. I received the Award through the efforts of my mentor at my home institution.

I am in the process of submitting two manuscripts for my study. The research is also being upgraded for my PhD studies at Rhodes University, South Africa for which I just been selected for a fellowship support from the Organization for Women Scientist in Developing and Least Developed Countries (OSWD).
Through it all, I have learnt that networks are very important. At every stage of a scientific research one needs the support of individuals, groups, communities and institutions. This can only be achieved through building good relationships and effective communication. There are processes you can never skip but you definitely have to work with people and institutions to achieve them.  In these networks, you learn from the knowledge and experiences of experts and you have to also share and impart knowledge because you are the expert of your research. You can hardly do it alone. There is always a need for networking and collaboration.

The year has been a very long one with a lot of activities and travelling.  I am now back home here in Tamale, Ghana. I am very grateful to CIRCLE for the funding and research exposure which has enhanced my visibility as a researcher and my research. This has fulfilled the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the fellowship and my career development.


Esther Ekua Amoako

Esther's home institution is the University For Development Studies and her host institution for the CIRCLE visiting fellowship has been the University of Dar es Salaam.

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