“It helped me find myself and grow my passion”

How a TBA field course helped to launch Chaona’s conservation career with birds

Chaona Phiri, Amani 2013

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After attending a TBA course in Amani, Tanzania in July of 2013, I started my masters with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I actually received feedback on my application for the masters course during the TBA course.  I enrolled for the Biodiversity Wildlife and Ecosystem Health Programme – distance learning in September of 2013.

During the programme I was working for the BirdLife partner in Zambia (where am still working to date), conducting research on birds. The subject of my thesis was ‘Assessing factors influencing the distribution of the Zambian Barbet (Lybius chaplini) within its range in South-central Zambia’. The TBA course prepared me for this type of survey as I got to learn field survey techniques and statistical analysis which I used in my research. I completed my masters in November of 2017, by which time I was already working on several different bird species including piloting an initiative with farm owners to improve the conservation status of Vultures in Zambia. I am now just getting started with my PhD which is focused on an endemic parrot in Zambia.

Besides academic progress, TBA gave me the right boots to handle research using the ecosystem-based approach; it helped me find myself and grow my passion. Using birds as indicators, I have successfully managed at least 12 projects for my organisation.  And that success has not gone unnoticed: in 2017 I received two awards; one from National Geographic Society and another from British BirdFair through the Conservation Leadership Program (CLP).

I was then sponsored to attend the international training course where I met 23 amazing people within my age bracket, managing projects for conservation in their countries. I appreciated the CLP training course because it provided a very rare opportunity to be with people within my age group, with the same passion I have for biodiversity conservation and facing the same challenges that I face. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC4M-WfX8DI

Of course, raising funds for conservation is the biggest challenge but it’s worse when you are a young woman being asked to take charge of a team with so many males who are older than you. Your decisions are second-guessed all the time and you have to keep proving yourself. I enjoying seeing the shock on their faces when I do something they all thought I would fail to do!