UC PhD skills contributing to conserving Nigerian Montane Forest

27 June 2022

#Philanthropy@UC Iveren Abiem’s homeland of Nigeria is set to benefit from all the knowledge and expertise she’s accumulated at the University of Canterbury (UC) over the past four years.

  • Montane Forest
Sustainable Development Goals 15 - Life on Land

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 - Life on Land

Iveren’s PhD research was based in Nigeria in association with the University of Canterbury (UC) Nigerian Montane Forest Project (NMFP). 

This biodiversity-conservation project is led by Iveren’s PhD supervisor, UC Associate Professor Hazel Chapman. It is partly funded by philanthropic donations from Chester Zoo in England and the A. G. Leventis Foundation.

Established in 2004, the project inspires excellence in research by training postgraduate and undergraduate students while empowering local communities through employment and education, with 36 full-time, local staff.  The research station is situated at 1600m elevation on the very edge of Ngel Nyaki forest. 

Graduating with a doctorate in Ecology, Iveren’s research focused on understanding how species diversity is changing within Nigeria’s rare and threatened montane forests. Part of this study involved managing the first census of Ngel Nyaki’s 20ha. Forest Global Earth Observatory Plot.

In the census, every stem in the plot is measured and every tree mapped. The  plot is one of around 45 such plots worldwide and one of only four in Africa. It links Ngel Nyaki forest into a global network of forest plots. The data collected contributes to international studies of forest ecology. For example, a recent Nature paper from this collaboration has shown that Afromontane forests, such as Ngel Nyaki,  store much higher carbon stocks than previously assumed.

“Africa is still under-represented in tropical forest research. Africa’s forests have received far less attention than those in Asia and the Americas despite contributing a carbon sink even higher than the Amazon,” Iveren says.

She’s now sharing her passion with students at the University of Jos in Nigeria.

Hazel Chapman says the skills Iveren has gained through her PhD will make a real contribution to  Nigerian conservation.

“Her research is exactly what Africa needs in today’s uncertainty surrounding climate change and the almost universal rapid loss of forest. “

Iveren’s passion comes from enjoying what she does, and the sense of fulfilment she receives in knowing she’s contributing to the attempted resolution of global problems.

“I feel that by putting myself out there, it may encourage that young girl who enjoys science to pursue her dream to become a scientist,” she says.

Back in Nigeria, Iveren wants to support research that will promote polices to improve the livelihoods of Africans and the environmental and climate challenges faced by their continent. She will also continue to work with the Nigerian Montane Forest Project, managing the ForestGEO plot.  

“I plan to use the skills I have acquired during my PhD to serve through teaching, training and mentoring as many students that I come across. If given the opportunity, I would also be willing to contribute to policymaking that would help protect forests in Nigeria and improve livelihoods.”

Abiem says UC was her ideal study environment.

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Media contact:

  • Email: media@canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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