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MSSE grad helps researchers reduce human-animal conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa

August 22, 2007
Huroye Scott

To some students, the goal of academic projects is to receive a top grade. But for recent CSE graduate Huroye Scott (M.S.S.E. '07), his objective was to help improve life for the people and ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa through a project called Savannas Forever.

Savannas Forever is non-profit group associated with the University of Minnesota that works with private and public sector agencies, like hunting companies, the Tanzanian government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help protect people and wildlife in Tanzania. The goal of the group is to create a certification system for hunting companies to help control hunting, protecting the people from animal attacks and animals from over-hunting.

The project staff is made up of a collaborative team of researchers, economists, and scientists. Scott became involved in the project in March of 2006, while working as a Senior Data Architect at United Health Group and completing his MSSE degree. He said he came on board because University Ecology Professor Craig Packer needed some help with data profiling and data selection issues. "Above all, it had to do with wildlife conservation," Scott said. "I've never worked in this area before and I thought it would be interesting."

Scott said the issue the group is working to improve is very important, as it affects the livelihood of the people in this area. He explained that problems arise when villagers and animals live in the same area. The animals are trying to feed themselves by eating crops and sometimes villagers, while the villagers are gathering animal meat (also known as bush meat) to eat and sell.

Scott said that data analysis is the key to mitigating this issue, because there is a correlation between protein consumption (how much meat villagers eat) and household income. He said the group is trying to measure if a lower household income equals more consumption of bush meat. By measuring this, the agencies working to help with this issue can step in with social programs "By looking at the data, we can make a very good analysis to help them in the process," he said.

Scott said to help in data analysis he has created a database, set to be finished this month. He also helped prep students for data collection and helped with programming to organize the data collected. Scott said there have been many challenges in this work. A lot of the data analyses with the researchers in Tanzania had to be conducted through chat rooms and e-mails, so Scott said the spotty and dated Internet access posed a problem.

Although he has already graduated, Scott said he will continue working on the project as needed. He said the group is doing essential work to identifying the problem and help for a speedier solution. "The thing that brings me happiness is that I contribute to the environment and the livelihood of people."