All citizens have a civic responsibility and duty to serve those around them. I believe strongly that researchers in academic positions at public institutions have an added responsibility to do so, given the nature of their work (fundamental or applied research), their use of public grants to fund research, their standing in society, and their education and skill-set. As such, my philosophy on serving the scientific and broader community rests on three approaches: skills transfer; volunteering in scientific and civic capacities; producing research and development products for public and private use.
Skills & technology transfer
I seek to create continuing education opportunities for students, colleagues, and the general public, that are not related to credit-bearing courses within a university’s established curriculum. Via these free opportunities, I am able to teach people about my fields of expertise and am able to transfer skills and technology to them.
I have achieved this in several ways in the past, including teaching short courses on GPS proficiency to staff of the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (anti-poaching officers, wildlife patrols), presenting a two-day GIS workshop to the staff of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (Carnivore Conservation Group), presenting a two-day workshop on statistics to faculty and graduate students of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria, presenting a four-day seminar on the use of the R statistical software and language for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech, and presenting a one-day seminar on home range analysis for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.
I also promote the transfer of skills and technology by mentoring young adults, which I have done extensively in northern Botswana. For the School for International Training, I provided field supervision and mentorship to nine students, helping each to conduct independent monthlong ecological field research projects. I also mentored 65 trainees as part of a community development initiative. In northern Limpopo, I also taught basic literacy in English and Afrikaans to staff of the Mogalakwena River Lodge.
Finally, I seek to transfer skills and technology to public and private enterprises through my conservation-related research. Effective conservation work relies upon close collaboration with stakeholders. I have 12 years of experience conducting research independently and within larger teams on conservation-related issues throughout South Africa, and in Botswana, Tanzania, and the United States of America. During this time I have worked closely with conservation stakeholders of all kinds, including local communities, private landowners, private game reserves, provincial & national parks, independent and university-affiliated researchers, non-government and not-for-profit conservation organisations, and public conservation organisations. In all of these collaborations I have sought to transfer knowledge and skills to the people I have teamed up with.
As part of my outreach philosophy, I like to volunteer in both scientific and civic capacities. Volunteering is an excellent way to serve either the scientific community or a local and regional community, by offering my expertise. This service is often simply scientific in nature, but usually contributes towards some social equity or environmental goal.
From a scientific perspective, I regularly review journal manuscripts. I am also a member of several national and international professional societies. I try to attend the conferences and meetings of these societies to present my work on a regular basis. I also volunteer on academic committees where possible. I was invited to sit on the advisory board of the Mogalakwena Research Centre (northern Limpopo Province), which I co-founded in March 2006. I now volunteer my services to this advisory board, which oversees the development of the research centre into a nationally- and internationally-recognised field research centre.
In a civic capacity, I have volunteered on social projects such as at the Phakalemasa HIV/AIDS Centre in Kazungula, Botswana, where I helped a community group to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, and I helped with activity clubs for children affected by HIV/AIDS. I have volunteered on conservation projects such as for the United States Forest Service as a Wildland Fire Fighter and for BirdLife Botswana. My volunteer contribution to BirdLife Botswana was varied, but included conservation research, conservation monitoring, conservation awareness and education campaigns, and running or administering a regional branch of the organisation.
Research products for public use
The final approach that I take towards outreach is to create products for consumption in the public and private sectors. This work has involved two primary avenues. The first is creating actual products or tools (software and computer code) for free public and private use that aid in research and conservation. The second avenue is the broadscale dissemination of research findings to the broader community.
Of all the software (open-source freeware) and code that I have created, the product with the most impact has been the ABODE freeware, which I wrote and freely distributed in 2004. This software enables users to perform complex kernel density estimation (primarily used for wildlife home range analysis) in ArcGIS. It has been used and cited in numerous scientific publications in the last ten years. I have maintained the code as open-source, allowing users to modify and distribute it or incorporate it into other products. I have also provided detailed support and help to approximately 50 users (mostly graduate students, faculty members and independent wildlife researchers) in this time.
Since 2004 I have also maintained various personal websites for hosting these freeware and code projects, as well as free digital copies of user manuals and my scientific manuscripts (usually pre-publication proofs). In addition to this, I have disseminated research findings through numerous social media platforms including LinkedIn, academia.edu, ResearchGate, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Steller and personal blogs. Beyond invited talks that I have given in university settings and presentations at professional meetings, I have also been invited to talk in non-academic settings. These talks, and some of my popular press articles are good opportunities to share information with the public.