The Navigator

The Navigator

Philip Nyhus directs the Chinese government to the places where tigers may once again roam free.

By Ruth Jacobs


Nyhus also is involved in securing financing for the project, which he considers a primary challenge. This is an expensive endeavor that has received support from many sources already. Currently Nyhus and Tilson, along with their colleague Thomas Dahmer, a Hong Kong-based consultant, and others, are working with Gijsbert (Bart) Nollen of International Consultancy Europe, a firm that helps develop, fund, and implement sustainability projects, to secure the funds necessary to continue the travel and research the project demands. (Ultimately, the reintroduction would be funded in partnership with the government of China.) “We are serving as sort of principal scientific advisors,” Nyhus said, “but, as this project is growing, we’re bringing more and more people along.”

And as the scope expands, Nyhus remains at the core. “In many ways he’s like the glue to our project,” said Tilson. 

GIS Students
Courtney Larson '08 and Charles (Jeff) Carroll '08 work on maps of China in the GIS lab.
Photo by Tom Bollier '11

Nyhus, who jokingly calls himself an “interdisciplinariast,” maintains focus on the detailed endeavor but relishes the larger implications, namely the role of this project in promoting biodiversity conservation in China. Tigers may be the primary reason for this effort, but Nyhus also expects the project to aid in conservation of other threatened plant and animal species. “There’s a rapid and growing nature conservation ethic … in China that wasn’t there, and we think that the tiger could serve as sort of an additional lever to help encourage this,” he said. “And as more and more Chinese are becoming educated, as more and more are living in urban areas, I think the same kind of thing that happened here in the United States in the Fifties and Sixties—where we have basically a growth of a wildlife conservation ethic and wildlife laws—is happening in China.”

This could have far-reaching effects. “[This] could potentially serve, I think, as a motivator to encourage China as a nation to become a positive source of conservation in China and Asia,” he said.

If so, the environmental future of the world’s most populous continent will have been shaped by the work of student researchers on Mayflower Hill and their navigator.

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  • On November 16, 2008, Annie Juxin Swenson wrote:
    Hi I am Annie. I am 10. Guess what I'm from China!!!! My big Sis is from Hunan Province. I bet you think I am young but I have a hobby of watching, and looking up endangered animals. When I was in China a few years ago my mom brought me to a panda reserve. I got to hold and play with some of the worlds cutest animals. The Great panda as well as the red panda. It showed me how much we need them and they need us. When I was looking though my mail I saw the cover of the Colby mag. and I told my mom I had to comunicate with the person who did it it all. At school i was the only person who wanted to expand the numbers of the endangerd animals. When I read it I had hope that someday all animals will be off the list.