The two field schools newly approved by the Volkswagen Foundation in January 2021 are based on a network of African and German partnerships initiated by previous field schools (Malawi/Uganda 2009-2014, Tanzania/Kenya 2010/2011), also funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. For the first time, the field schools are now being designed and run by former African participants who had chosen a career path in the “aquatic sciences” and related fields, and who have since completed their doctorates and became in some cases lecturers or professors at their home institutions, in Malawi, the DR Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. These personal success stories form the basis for a new generation of committed scientists who are now working as lecturers in the field schools. The project, which is based at the chair of Prof. Friedemann Schrenk, is carried out together with them and administered by Dr. Stefan Schmid (ZIAF). The schools are organized in collaoration with colleagues from Gießen and Tübingen University. The African partners are the University of Zomba and the CMCK in Malawi, the University of Kisangani, DR of Congo, the University of Dar es Salam, Tanzania and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.
Freshwaters and their flora and fauna are in crisis worldwide. Fundamental drivers of their decline are increasing human activities due to population growth, increasing industrialisation and the consumption of natural resources. As a result, current rates of decline of freshwater species are twice those of marine and terrestrial life. However, these ecosystems are of global importance and provide resources on which the livelihoods of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa depend, unlike in Europe.
However, African universities lack experts in addressing the multiple challenges to better protect aquatic biodiversity. The field schools will teach a wide range of methods that will enable young researchers to conduct excellent research in their own countries. Through joint research with international partners, these methods and approaches will generate new perspectives for research for the benefit of better management of African waters in the long term.
The project can rely on an extensive infrastructure in northern Malawi, such as the Luromo Peninsula Research Station equipped with the help of the Senckenberg Research Institute, the Cultural and Museum Centre Karonga (CMCK) and Radio Dinosaur, which communicates the activities in local languages to a broad public.
Due to the Coronas situation, the first school will start in June 2022, followed by the second in October 2023.