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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Oriole Wagstaff: Wild game in Southern Africa dissertation research project

Wild game in Southern Africa
The research I carried out for my dissertation was by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have always been interested in the services humans utilise from nature and our dependence on them, particularly regarding food security. I was therefore delighted at the prospect of focusing my dissertation around this area of research.

The team in Malawi

Attaining Sustainable Services From Ecosystems Through Trade-Off Scenarios (ASSETS) is an international project led by lecturers at Southampton project that aims to quantify the links between ecosystem services and food security at the forest-agricultural interface for the rural poor. ASSETS is funded by ESPA, a research programme focussing on Ecosystem Services through Poverty Alleviation. Over the past 6 months I have been fortunate enough to work on a research project with ASSETS and ESPA based on ecosystem services in Malawi. Over the summer I spent a month collecting data and working with the incredibly supportive team at LEAD, based with the University of Malawi.

My research focuses on the availability of game: wild animals that provide a source of food, and how this ecosystem service has changed and may continue to do so in the future. Using Participatory Rural Appraisals I collected data in Malawian villages on game availability and harvesting. This data will feed into models depicting a variety of scenarios to forecast future dependence on and availability of game, with reference to climate, policy and harvesting rates. My field work in Malawi shaped my academic focus in addition to providing a unique experience alongside fellow students and researchers within Malawi. The opportunity to research in Malawi and as a team was incredible. Fuelling my passion for understanding the interactions between humans and their environment, my dissertation has confirmed my pursuit of studying environmental science. This research supports projects carried out by ASSETS and ESPA on a wider scale, and has given me the opportunity to contribute to a greater body of research to progress into a future where ecosystem services may alleviate challenges not succumb to them.

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