People

Senior Leadership

Dr. Gail Hearn, Co-Director

Dr. Hearn started BBPP in 1998 to protect Bioko's primate species. Her current research focuses on the population decline of primate species on Bioko Island due to bushmeat hunting. A professor in the Department of Biology at Drexel University, she received her bachelor's degree from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in protein biology from the Rockefeller University. She joined Drexel University in 2007.

Dr. Katy Gonder, Co-Director

Dr. Gonder is an associate professor of biology at Drexel University. Her research is focused on examining the history of the Gulf of Guinea and Congo Basin rainforests, which are among the most important centers of biological diversity in the world. Currently, Dr. Gonder’s research can be divided into three major programmatic areas focused on: (1) understanding spatial patterns of biodiversity across Central Africa; (2) inferring the underlying evolutionary and ecological processes that generate the rich biodiversity of the region; and (3) helping to inform conservation strategies for the region that recognize and integrate evolutionary pattern and process. While the bulk of her research to date has emphasized primates–especially chimpanzees–the research is not taxon bound. Her research group is currently pursing research in a range of tropical vertebrates, with the explicit aim of improving biodiversity prediction and conservation in central Africa, a region that is undergoing rapid climatic and demographic change. Dr. Gonder has worked in central Africa for nearly twenty years, primarily in Cameroon and Nigeria, and more recently, in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. She has co-hosted a number of international technical workshops in central Africa, and serves as a member of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group (Section on Great Apes).

Dr. Shaya Honarvar, Associate Director

Dr. Shaya Honarvar is a conservation biologist who has worked on Bioko Island since 2008. Shaya completed her M.Sc. in 2004 at the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. in 2007 at Drexel University, working on the nesting ecology of olive ridley marine turtles in Central America. Her current research focuses on population dynamics of marine turtles nesting on Bioko and on physiological and ecological aspects of gas exchange of their eggs. The research team she manages comprises 6-10 volunteers working in a remote camp for 5 months each year, as well as over 30 local field assistants. Shaya has started two ongoing conservation projects on Bioko. The Drill Project is a conservation initiative focused on producing a wildlife documentary on the endangered drill monkey, as well as collecting behavioral data for this species. She also established the Bioko Heirloom, a micro-enterprising project helping local women of small villages handcraft jewelry from indigenous materials.

Dr. Drew T. Cronin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Drew Cronin is a conservation biologist whose main research interests include primate ecology and conservation, and the drivers and dynamics of bushmeat consumption. Drew first traveled to Bioko as a undergraduate student in 2005, and after completing his bachelor’s degree at Arcadia University, he then served as the Resident Director for the Bioko Study Abroad Program from 2007 to 2008. Drew received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Drexel University focusing on patterns of bushmeat consumption and the effect of hunting on primate populations. Drew currently serves on the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Africa Section and the Conservation Committee for the International Primatological Society.

Dr. David Fernandez, Postdoctoral Research Associate, In-Country Program Manager

Dr. David Fernandez is a biological anthropologist specializing in primate behavioral ecology. His main interests include female reproductive strategies, intersexual conflict, reproductive endocrinology and primate conservation. David received his Bachelor’s Degree (Licenciatura) in Animal Biology at Universidad de Alcalá (Spain). After graduation, he worked for BBPP as a research advisor and co-leader of the annual Caldera Expedition from 2002 to 2005. David received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Stony Brook University, New York.

Dr. Grainne Michelle McCabe, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Moka Wildlife Center Director

Dr. Grainne McCabe is a biological anthropologist specializing in primate behavior and ecology. Her research focuses on the reproductive ecology of wild monkeys in both Costa Rica and Tanzania using an integrative approach combining behavioral, ecological, nutritional, endocrinological and parasitological data to gain a better understanding of the factors impacting reproductive success. Grainne received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her M.A. from the University of Calgary, Canada, in Primatology.

Sally Vickland, Program Coordinator

Sally Vickland joined BBPP in 2007. With a background in administration and fluency in both Spanish and English, she coordinates with UNGE and manages BBPP's activities on Bioko Island.

Affiliated Faculty

Jose Manuel Esara Echube, Dean of UNGE School of Environmental Studies

Esara has been with BBPP since its inception in 1998 as a facilitator of on-island operations. He now also assists with the study abroad program. At UNGE, he is Dean of the School of Environmental Studies.

Dr. Maximilliano Fero Meñé, Vice-Dean of UNGE School of Environmental Studies

Dr. Maximiliano Fero Meñé first became involved with the BBPP in 2003, when he worked as Assistant Lecturer of Biological Research Methods in the Arcadia University Study Abroad Program. Shortly after completion of his B.A. he was appointed in 2002 as Academic Secretary of the Forestry School, and from 2005-present he is the Vice Dean of the Environmental School at UNGE. From 2008-2012 he pursue an advanced degree, completing in 2009 a MSc. in Conservation Biology and in 2012 he presented his PhD. Thesis in Biology with a major in Botany. Maxi is doing research in the project Flora of Equatorial Guinea and he contributing actively in the protection of the biodiversity of Bioko and Equatorial Guinea in general.

Faustino Anda Esono, UNGE School of Environmental Studies

Faustino has a degree in Environmental Studies from UNGE and is currently a professor there in the School of Environmental Studies. Faustino has been a research assistant with the Moaba turtle research project, participated in numerous Caldera Expeditions, and now helps oversee UNGE undergraduate field experiences.

Eusebio Ondo Nguema Nfuma, UNGE School of Environmental Studies

Eusebio has degree in Agronomics from UNGE and is currently finishing up a second degree in Environmental Studies while also studying Law. He works at UNGE as the secretary of the Department of the Biodiversity and Conservation of the Environment. Eusebio participated twice on the annual Caldera Expedition, and served during two semesters as the UNGE faculty member in-residence during the Field Research in Tropical Ecology Course taught by Dr. Tom Butynski at the Moka Wildlife Center.

Miguel Angel Ela Mba, UNGE School of Environmental Studies

Ela Mba received a 2006 master's degree in environmental education from Arcadia University with the help of a Chevron Texaco Corp. scholarship. He has since returned to UNGE where he teaches courses in the School of Environmental Studies. He was among the first UNGE professors to participate in the annual Caldera Expedition and has been a regular participant since then (2000-2004; 2007-2009).

Dr. Michael O’Connor, Drexel University Biology Department

Mitoha Ondo o Ayekaba, Drexel Study Abroad Professor

Mitoha Ondo o Ayekaba received a B.A. in Business Administration from the Palma Business School in Mallorca, Spain, a B.A. in International Economics from Vic University in Barcelona, Spain, as well as a Master of the Arts in Police Studies (MAPS) from the University of Washington-Bothell in 2009. After studying in Spain and the United States, Mitoha has since returned to his home country of Equatorial Guinea where he is a prolific writer and works as the business coordinator at Marathon Oil.

Students

Patrick McLaughlin, Ph.D. Candidate

Patrick majored in Biology and Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence, where he developed an interest in ecological field research and sustainable development. He was awarded a University Fellowship and The Crowell Summer Award in Field Biology, allowing him to pursue independent research in the Bahamas where he studied juvenile fish populations, spawning aggregations, and long-range larval dispersal. As a senior, Patrick studied at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, focusing on conservation, culture, and development in East Africa. In 2006, Patrick participated in the Mongol Rally, a charity car rally across the 10,000 mile expanse from England to Mongolia to raise money for impoverished communities in Africa and Asia. He has worked as a marine ecology instructor in the Florida Keys, a fisheries technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in Vermont, a snow-coach guide and naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, and as director of the environmental education program for the Grand Teton Lodge Company. He currently works during the summer for National Geographic Student Expeditions, having led programs in Australia in 2009 and Bar Harbor, ME in 2010. In 2011, he will lead NG expeditions in Montana and New Zealand. In January of 2009, Patrick began working as a research assistant for the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP) in Equatorial Guinea (West Africa), studying the endemic and endangered primates of Bioko Island’s volcanic calderas. Patrick later joined the BBPP to pursue his Ph.D. in Environmental Science through Drexel University with BBPP director and Drexel professor Dr. Gail Hearn.

Demetrio Bocuma Meñe, Ph.D. Candidate

Demetrio’s first involvement with the BPPP was as a participant in the fall 2006 study abroad program on Bioko, where he conducted research on the medicinal uses of the plants of Bioko Island. In January 2007, he began working for the BBPP as manager of the BBPP/UNGE computer lab at UNGE and bushmeat market data entry. In September 2007, Demetrio was promoted within the organization to the role of Assistant Manager of the Moka Wildlife Center. As Assistant Manager, he helped coordinate all the different activities that take place at or around the center. In 2009, he was promoted again and was made the manager of the Moka Wildlife Center. Since the summer of 2008, he has been traveling back and forth to the United States to improve his English knowledge at Drexel University’s English Language Center on a BBPP scholarship. Most recently, Demetrio was granted another opportunity from the BBPP, this time to continue his studies as a student in the Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program at Drexel University, where he has been since August 2010.

Paul Sesink Clee, Ph.D. Student

Paul is a Ph.D. student studying with Dr. Mary Katherine Gonder at Drexel University. Paul completed his Masters research on ecological niche modeling of suitable habitat for chimpanzee populations in Cameroon and Nigeria as well as their niche evolution under threat of climate change. In addition to Cameroon, Paul has extensive fieldwork experience in South Africa’s Kruger National Park where he completed his undergraduate thesis and worked as a safari/field guide. He is now working in Cameroon and Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea with Dr. Gonder studying the ecology of various diseases and is also assisting with the chimpanzee study and plant common garden experiment for this project.

Miguel Angel Perez Perez, Research Assistant

Miki was a participant on the 2013 Gran Caldera Expedition. His research focuses on tropical plants and has done extensive collection and identification in order to deposit specimens in the main herbaria around the world. Miki studied Biology in Mexico and worked at the Botany Department of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia. He hopes to pursue a PhD in Environmental Sciences.

Yasmin Dee Serajfar, Master's Student

Yasmin is a Master's student studying with Dr. Gail Hearn. She earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Tampa, where she developed an interest in ecology and morphology. Her undergraduate research was a discrimination study of two African monitor lizard species, along with an invasive population study of these lizards. Her research was focused on the tooth and morphology of these monitor lizards as well as the impact of founder populations and differences in mechanical advantage between the species. She is presently in the process of publishing her findings. While a student at Drexel, Yasmin also works at the Philadelphia Zoo part-time. Currently, she is in the process of developing her thesis work at Drexel University, where she plans to do fieldwork on Bioko Island.

Student Life

David Montgomery, Resident Director

Following David’s graduation from Grinnell College in 2010, he spent a year coordinating the environmental education activities for Gobabeb, a research station in the Namib Desert of Namibia. He has worked on Bioko as the Resident Director for Drexel University’s study abroad program in tropical biodiversity and conservation since January 2012. David is a certified Wilderness First Responder, an accomplished long distance runner, and once rode his bicycle across the U.S.

Heidi Rader, Student Coordinator

Heidi began studying the sea turtles of Bioko Island in 2004 while working on her master’s degree in Environmental Education from Arcadia University. She continues to work with the sea turtles as a research assistant for BBPP. Heidi also lends her support with the Drexel study abroad program on Bioko Island and is active in BBPP’s community outreach program. She participated in the annual Caldera expedition in 2006, 2008, and in 2010.

Advisors

Kathy King, MEGI Liason & Drexel Study Abroad Professor

Kathy arrived in Malabo in 2010 to accompany her husband in his expatriate assignment. Immediately, she became involved with the BBPP and the Study Abroad Program as a guest lecturer on “The Economics of the Oil Industry.” Beginning in Fall 2011 she will teach the course “Society and the Environment” attended by both American and Equatoguinean university students.

Mary Johnson, MEGI Mom (and Liaison)

Mary Johnson (with her husband Pete) served as the official MEGI-Mom for more than 2 years. Her support services ranged from comforting sick study abroad students to comforting disgruntled BBPP leadership, all served up with great Tex-Mex food and Oklahoma hospitality. Mary is pictured here with Moka guide Esteban Mualeri.

Jennifer Seale, Advisor and Editor

Although she no longer lives in Malabo, Jennifer advises and supports BBPP in a number of ways. She participated in the 2005 Caldera expedition, and managed the Moraka Playa Camp during the 2008 Caldera expedition. Recently, she has been editing the reports of students and scientists working with BBPP to achieve a uniform style and greater accessibility.

Bioko Heirloom Project

Amy Stoltzfus

Amy has shared interests in fine arts and fashion design. During her studies in Fashion Marketing, she co-produced the “Relief for Haiti Fashion Show 2010” event, following her New York Rep work for Australian childrenswear company “The Scoop”. Amy was introduced to Bioko Heirloom and BBPP through Shaya Honarvar’s vision for a self-sustaining micro-enterprise that employs and supports the women of Ureca. Amy designed among the women and promoted concepts that involved traditional aspects known to them with new applications shared with them. While in Bioko, Amy worked for the people to gain familiarity with the Urecano work and now continues these efforts in the states.

Kendall Fleming

Kendall is a Florida native currently studying at Drexel University for a Bachelors of Science in the Fashion Design program. In her Sophomore year she was introduced to the Bioko Heirloom project and pursued being a part of it. She works behind the scenes on production and marketing of the Bioko Heirloom project.

Other Researchers

Reginaldo Aguilar Biacho, Research Associate

Reginaldo collects bushmeat market data, and has worked for the BBPP since 2001.

Halle Choi, Research Assistant

Halle has been involved with the BBPP since 2012 and is currently assisting with bushmeat data anaylsis and updating the range maps for Bioko's primate species.

BBPP Alumni

Dr. Jake Owens, Drexel University

Jake joined the BBPP in late 2007, coming as a participant on the 2008 Caldera Expedition. In 2008, Jake worked as the Manager of the Moka Wildlife Center, and later that year, began work on his doctoral research under Dr. Gail Hearn. He received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Drexel University in 2013 focusing on the ecology of the Bioko drill monkey (Mandrillus leucophaeus). In his tenure with the BBPP, Jake also helped to run a number of Gran Caldera Expeditions and taught numerous field courses for Bioko study abroad students. Jake is currently a Assitant Professor with Sichuan University at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding working on a captive-reared panda reintroduction project.

Elliott Chiu, M.S., Drexel University

Elliott completed his M.S. in Environmental Science while simultaneously completing his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Drexel University in 2013. Elliott's master’s thesis research focused on the feeding ecology of two chameleon species on Bioko Island. Elliott is currently pursuing his DVM/Ph.D. at Colorado State University.