Kim Reuter (PhD ’15, Bio): Using science to drive conservation in Africa
When it comes to conservation biology, Kim Reuter is a double
threat. The Conservation International (CI) biologist has
garnered worldwide media coverage for her research of the
world’s most endangered group of primates, the lemurs of
Madagascar—a continuation of her Temple doctoral research.
As CI’s director for natural capital accounting, the Nairobi-based
scientist also shows African nations how to accurately account
for, and to enhance, the true value of their natural assets.
Born in Germany, raised in England and then in Florida,
Reuter earned a BS in biology from Florida State University in
2009. Subsequently, her first field research job involved trekking
through the rain forests of Equatorial Guinea to study the impact
of illegal hunting and trade of monkeys. “I realized then that I
wanted to work at the nexus of conservation and human
livelihoods,” she says.
Awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship, she came
to CST’s Biology Department to pursue her doctorate in 2009.
“I was surrounded by people who were thinking big about big
problems, and you don’t get that at every school,” says Reuter,
who continues to publish joint research with two of her Temple
advisors, Associate Professor Eric Cordes and Assistant Professor
Brent Sewall. Her Temple experience, she adds, convinced her
that, “Science has to inform the work of conservation and for that
reason, scientists have to work in conservation organizations.”
Supported in part by the National Geographic Society, her
groundbreaking lemur research in Madagascar has concluded
that over a three-year period about 28,000 lemurs are held captive
as pets and hotel attractions. Some lemurs and other mammals
are also consumed as bushmeat, even in restaurants where
Reuters has, unknowingly, dined.
The extremely varied work invigorates her. “I’m 28 years old
and I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about the
things I do every day,” she says. “For example, I’m currently
organizing a workshop here in Nairobi on natural capital
accounting for delegations from 12 African nations, from Liberia
to eastern Africa and South Africa. If we’re successful, it could
have important implications for years to come.”
—Bruce E. Beans