Our International Team
Doug Cavener, PhD, is a geneticist and evolutionary biologist and professor of biology at Penn State University and Adjunct Professor of Life Sciences at Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania. He led an international team to sequence the giraffe genome for the first time, which was published in Nature Communications in 2016. Recently Doug initiated two collaborative projects with Wild Nature Institute to map the genes responsible for spot-pattern variation in Masai giraffes and to conduct a large-scale population/demographic genetic study of Masai giraffes in the Tarangire-Manyara and Serengeti ecosystems. In addition to data obtained from Masai giraffes in Tanzania, the spot-pattern genetic project includes collaboration and data from Masai giraffe in North American zoos. These projects build on our Masai giraffe spot-pattern and population biology projects in northern Tanzania. By incorporating genetic analysis into these projects, we hope to provide a deeper understanding of giraffe biology and conservation.
George Lohay, PhD, is a post-doctoral researcher at Pennsylvania State University. He hails from Singida in central Tanzania. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Uganda Martyrs University, a B.Sc. in Wildlife Science and Conservation from the University of Dar es Salaam, and a PhD in Biology from Pennsylvania State University. He studied diet and habitat use of yellow-headed dwarf geckos in Dar es Salaam, and worked for 3 years as a research assistant with the world-renowned Serengeti Lion Project. His PhD examined historical and contemporary genetic connectivity of African savanna elephants in Tanzania. George is working in partnership with Wild Nature Institute to develop techniques to non-invasively collect DNA from giraffe dung for a variety of genetic studies, including establishing pedigrees for giraffe in the Tarangire Ecosystem, and understanding historical and current gene flow across giraffe populations in Tanzania.
Meshak Daudi, Philip Ferdinand, and James Madeli have been conducting Wild Nature Institute's seasonal photographic capture-recapture surveys for giraffes in the Tarangire-Manyara study area since November 2018. The all-Tanzanian crew refer to themselves as "Team Alpha." Meshak has been driving for researchers throughout Tanzania for more than a decade. Philip and James are both 2017 graduates in Wildlife Science and Conservation from the University of Dar es Salaam.
Matana Levi is pursuing his Master's degree in Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. Matana is from the Sengerema-Mwanza region of Tanzania, and has worked as a research assistant on studies of ashy red colobus monkeys in western Tanzania and birds in the Amani Nature Reserve. He received his B.Sc. degree in Wildlife Science and Conservation in 2015 from the University of Dar es Salaam. For his Master's project he is studying the foraging ecology of giraffes in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem in partnership with the Wild Nature Institute.
Emmanuel Andrew Kimaro ("Nima") is a resident of Arusha, Tanzania. In addition to driving "Team Alpha" during photographic capture-recapture giraffe surveys in the Tarangire-Manyara study area, Nima works as a driver and vehicle mechanic for various safari companies. He is also assisting Dr. George Lohay with giraffe dung collection in the Tarangire-Manyara and Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystems and Arusha National Park.
David Brown, MS, is a biologist and conservationist. As a WNI Education Associate, David helps develop environmental education projects to create sustained and meaningful conservation awareness of giraffes, elephants, and other species. His science and nature writing has appeared in Mongabay.com, National Geographic Kids, Highlights Magazine, and in the interpretive programs of several zoos, aquariums, and nature centers. As a biologist he studied giraffe speciation and its causes across Africa using population genetics and cockatoo evolution using molecular systematics. He has studied the ecology of Amazon parrots in Guatemala, and helped conduct botanical surveys and other biological assessments across Southern California.
Megan Strauss, PhD, is an ecologist and conservationist with a background in animal behavior and wildlife population biology. She has studied the social behavior of captive chimpanzees, assisted a prairie dog conservation program, and completed a PhD on factors limiting giraffe population growth in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Megan is a WNI Research Associate, contributing to articles on giraffe demography and conservation. Also a WNI Education Associate, Megan has created and illustrated Swahili-language activity books that engage young Tanzanian students with their local flora and fauna, and is developing a Guide to Careers in the Environmental Industry in Tanzania. She also provides graphic design support for WNI’s environmental education program.
Irina Clavadetscher is a Swiss doctoral student at University of Zürich's Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, working on a degree in veterinary medicine. Irina's project, in partnership with Wild Nature Institute, is to develop a body condition scoring system for giraffes, and compare scores of captive giraffes with wild giraffes from our Tarangire Ecosystem study area using photographs. Her project will provide wildlife scientists and veterinarians with an important tool for monitoring the health of giraffes.
Nicholas James hails from Sydney, Australia. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology and geosciences from Wollongong University, Australia and a Master of Science degree from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He worked on research and conservation projects around the world studying plants, bats, Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys, and chimpanzees. Currently Nicholas is obtaining a Master’s degree in environmental sciences with the population ecology research group at the University of Zürich. He is analyzing an eight-year data set collected by the Wild Nature Institute on the ungulate species in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem as part of the TUNGO program. In particular, he is interested in the key environmental requirements for each species. This information will be vital in managing and conserving these populations.
Lise Levy worked for 32 years as a high school biology teacher and 7th grade environmental science teacher in the United States. Her passion is connecting life science concepts with everyday circumstances to help make science more relatable to students. Lise earned numerous awards for her teaching including Outstanding Biology Teacher in 1994 from the National Association of Biology Teachers; All-Star Educator in 1997 from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with The University of Pittsburgh; Tandy Technology Scholars Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998 from the Tandy Corporation with Texas Christian University; and Outstanding Conservation Teacher in 1999 from the Washington County Conservation District. Lise is WNI’s Education Consultant, and she develops lesson plans for primary and secondary schools and coordinates teacher training and distribution of environmental education materials in schools, community centers, and orphanages in Tanzania.
Carmen Mauk is a board member of the Wild Nature Institute and a communications specialist. She studied organizational transformation and has led large non-profit organizations working for positive social change. She is coordinating our public relations efforts, especially our Celebrating Africa's Giants environmental education campaign.
Kin Morandi is a Master's student in animal behavior in the University of Zürich's Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies. She is using photographs of giraffe spot patterns to investigate potential functions of spots and the influence of spot patterns on social behavior. This project is part of Wild Nature Institute's "Seeing Spots" project in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and the University of Zürich. Kin is from the Ticino region of Switzerland and received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Zürich.