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