Profile: Esteban Brenes-Mora, EDGE fellow

The EDGE of Existence programme invests in conservation at a grass-roots level by helping aspiring conservationists in developing countries to take the lead in researching and conserving their local EDGE species.

One of the most effective ways in which the EDGE of Existence programme is working to secure the future of EDGE species is by helping to build conservation capacity in regions in which they occur.

This is achieved though awarding two-year Fellowships to future conservation leaders - EDGE Fellows - working on poorly-known EDGE species.

Esteban Brenes-Mora is one of our current EDGE Fellows. We find out how he is Working for Wildlife.

Esteban Brenes-Mora is a conservation scientist currently working in Tapir Research

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I was born in Coronado a small town Northeast of San Jose, Costa Rica. I studied biology in the University of Costa Rica. I was raised in an average Costa Rican family where I had a lot of contact with nature. My experience of nature, my family, curiosity and watching TV shows like Jasques Cousteau and The Blue Planet have inspired me to learn about nature. After studying biology I wanted to be a statistician but I had talked with several mentors, including, Reuben Clements, a conservation biologist in Malaysia, who showed me that I can mix both disciplines and have an impact in conservation.

How did you hear about the EDGE Fellowship and what were you doing before you became an EDGE Fellow?

I heard about the EDGE fellowship through my mammology professor, Bernal Rodriguez and decided to apply. Before becoming an EDGE fellow I was working in Malaysia to work with RIMBA, a research group in Malaysia that research tigers and other animals.

Which animals or areas do you specialise in or work on? 

I work mostly with mammals, with a special interest in ungulates and large herbivores in general. I really like applying math and stats modelling with wildlife populations. Since I have been working in wildlife conservation I have become very interested in conservation management and working with communities. 

What is the focus of your EDGE Fellowship and what made you want to study in your current field?

The focus of my EDGE fellowship is tapir research in the Talamanca Mountains of Southern Costa Rica. Since I was a little kid my favourite animal was the tapir and I always wanted to study them. It seemed to be very difficult until a university professor, Bernal Rodriguez, pushed me to try and this project happened. Specifically I am studying the population ecology of Baird’s tapir in a road fragmented habitat. 

When I learned about the situation involving tapirs and road collisions in this area I was inspired to try and do something to mitigate this problem.

What is the best thing about your role?

I am able to work with my favourite animal, which fulfils a childhood dream, and I get to meet a lot of interesting, like-minded people from a variety of different fields. I also have the chance to explore some very remote areas where I can apply science that will have an impact on policy makers and the conservation of a species. 

Esteban Brenes-Mora in Costa Rica

Have there been any particular highlights during your fellowship so far?

I get to see a lot of wildlife! I enjoy every moment in the field and the spectacular landscape of the Talamanca Mountains. I feel fulfilled in knowing that I am living my life trying to leave a mark in the field of conservation. I also have to mention my work team: Cristina, Laurie, and the Tapanti and Quetzales National Park Rangers; they have showed me how the only way of achieving conservation objectives is through hard work and commitment. The EDGE Fellowships are aimed at providing early-career conservationists, biologists and zoologists with the funding and mentoring to help them get a foothold in their sector. 

How important do you think the Fellowships are to support conservation, especially local conservation? 

The EDGE fellowship is very important because it gives an opportunity to young biologists in particular. In my case it was a unique opportunity to launch my career as a conservation biologist and create a project around a species for which I was most passionate about. Before EDGE and the support from School of Biology of the University of Costa Rica and my mentors, studying tapirs was just a dream.The EDGE fellowship also provides support and guidance throughout the process, helping young biologists to quickly gain experience. 

You can also work for wildlife by becoming a Wildlife Champion - champion an area of our work and help secure a future for wildlife.