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.
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.