I became personally motivated to make a difference in biodiversity conservation and to better the livelihood of the people neighboring the parks from events I witnessed and participated in over the years. With respect to biodiversity, I have often stood on the edge of a protected area and to the back of me was a rich, vibrant ecosystem often brimming with the primates I study, while on the other side was an often nearly naked landscape of over-grazed pasture land (Costa Rica) or a mosaic of active and abandoned cropland (Uganda).
I strongly believe that one of the most effective means of promoting conservation is by linking ecosystem and human health through public education and by training the next generation of academics and practitioners. As a result, I am very active in public communication through public lectures, news and radio interviews, TV appearances, film projects (including a full length movie on my research), and especially in my activities with the National Geographic Society. I have also tried to engage the local community to illustrate that Kibale is valuable to them in a number of ways: helping turn the simple field station into a world class station capable of hosting courses of 40 international students and 30 researchers at the same time, working with Richard Wrangham to establish a chimpanzee ecotourism program, promoting very small scale ecotourism projects around crater lakes (an approach adopted by at least a dozen local communities on the shores of crater lakes), collaborating with others to build local schools, sponsoring the education of over 20 children a year, establishing a local clinic associated with the park, creating a mobile clinic (an ambulance from Canada) to provide health care, family planning, and conservation education to all of the communities around the 795 km2 park and promoting the training, and subsequent employment of many people to act as field assistants to foreign researchers and field courses.
For Scientific Editing see Michael Lawes