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.
Wildlife documentary producer Mea Trenor is one of our current EDGE Fellows. We find out how she is Working for Wildlife.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and I still live in South Africa. I've loved nature and animals for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't always going to be my career. I spent many years in the publishing and advertising industries but in 2010 I felt the need to change my path. So I quit my job as magazine editor and started studying zoology. Things snowballed from there and before I knew it I was enrolled in a MSc programme and heading to Costa Rica for EDGE Conservation Tools training!
How did you hear about the Edge Fellowship?
I was already busy with my BSc Honours degree in Conservation Biology when my supervisor told me about the EDGE programme and that we have an EDGE amphibian in our area, which would provide the perfect MSc research project. I studied hard, had a lot of support during the application stages and believed it was meant to be.
Which animals or areas do you specialise in or work on?
Currently my work focuses on amphibians; the conservation of endangered frogs of South Africa to be more precise. I have worked in marine biology before at South Africa's leading aquarium, where the rehabilitation of sea turtles grew into a bit of a passion for me. I don't think I would ever want to be working on just one species or field - there's too much to see and learn. I'd love to work with bats next.
What is the focus of your EDGE Fellowship and what made you want to study in your current field?
My EDGE Fellowship focuses on the conservation of the endangered Mistbelt Chirping Frog. The project is multi-faceted with research, conservation and social science aspects. We aim to guide conservation actions for the species through updated ecological data that will feed into management practices for the forestry industry (the frog occurs within patches of grassland and indigenous forest that are surrounded by pine plantations). Furthermore we are embarking on an environmental education drive surrounding the plight of South Africa's frogs and what we all can do to help.
We aim to guide conservation actions for the species through updated ecological data that will feed into management practices for the forestry industry
What is the best thing about your job?
For me the best thing about working in conservation as well as in the documentary production industry, is that I get to make a difference. Sometimes it's directly by perhaps securing land for an endangered species, and sometimes it's as simple, yet impactful as changing someone's mind about frogs, or about nature conservation. If I can inspire a handful of people to effect changes in their lives for the better of the natural world, then I will be happy.
Have there been any particular highlights during your Fellowship so far?
Well firstly just the opportunity and privilege that comes with being awarded a Fellowship is a highlight for me! And the Conservation Tools training course in Costa Rica was life-changing. I got to meet fabulous people with great ideas, I learnt so much and all of this happened in the heart of the Central American jungle.
But as I am gearing up for the field season and about to embark on some great educational visits, I am sure many more highlights will follow!
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?
It's very important! I cannot even begin to explain the difference it makes to have the backing of a respectable name in conservation when you deal with professionals that are involved in your project. And to have a real budget to work with makes such a difference as well. Not to mention the support of experts at your fingertips. I definitely would not be able to achieve what I have and still plan to without the Fellowship. It's an incredible learning experience.
For a young conservation scientist, the Fellowship is not just a grant; it is hands-on experience and guidance to bring your conservation dreams and goals to life!
You can also work for wildlife by becoming a Wildlife Champion - champion an area of our work and help ensure a future for wildlife.