Fiona "Boo" Maisels
Official Title: Ecological Monitoring Coordinator, West Central Africa
“Wildlife conservation is enormously rewarding. You are constantly amazed and delighted by what you see - it might be an eagle feeding its young high in a tree, it might be ants carrying termites home from a hunting expedition, it might be an orchid flower shaped like a bee. Every day there is something that makes you gasp. And, underlying all this amazement and curiosity is the knowledge that you can do something about saving these things.”
Photo copyright 2006 by Karin von Loebenstein
As a child, Boo was always out and about looking at bugs, birds, and animals in the countryside behind where she lived. She always enjoyed animals, especially the horses she would ride. By the time Boo was about seven, she knew she wanted to work with animals. Then, at some point in high school, she realized wildlife was in danger. After reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and George Schaller's early books, she decided she wanted to work to save wildlife, probably in Africa.
Boo studied biology and geography in high school. After she graduated, she went to college, where she concentrated on the wildlife side of biology, joined the biology club, and participated in university expeditions to the tropics. She eventually earned a Ph.D. and started working in Africa. First, Boo worked in Lopé National Park in Gabon. After some years working in DRC, Congo, Gabon (again) and Cameroon (including, for WCS, in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo), she has now returned to live in Lopé again, and helps sites in Gabon, Congo, DRC, and Cameroon monitor their wildlife.
Monitoring wildlife involves looking at where animals are, how many there are, whether their numbers are going up or down, and whether they are still in the places they used to be- or not, and why. Is it because of hunting? Logging? Forest loss? Boo helps African biologists learn how to find these things out by organizing training courses, working with them in the field and back in the Park headquarters. She produces written guidelines to help survey teams carry out their work in the same way. She also works with many other conservation scientists to improve survey and monitoring methods in the forests of Central Africa, which is exciting and interesting!
Living in a very wild and untouched place, Boo knows that she is making a difference. The things she sees around her every day—monkeys, elephants, amazing birds—are surviving because of the work she does.