Maravilla Clemens ’16 and Alex Heisler ’16 won the Richard J. Borden Award for best conference paper after presenting their research, “Cultivating Conservation in the Lake Tana Basin: Implications of a New UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Model for Ecosystems and Livelihoods,” at the 2016 Society for Human Ecology Conference in Santa Ana, Calif., April 14.

Maravilla Clemens '16 (left) and Alexandra Heisler '16 with their award for best conference paper

Maravilla Clemens ’16 (left) and Alexandra Heisler ’16 with their award for best conference paper

Their study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to examine historical changes in land-use and riparian forest cover in the newly established Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve in northern Ethiopia. Contrasting declassified U.S. government aerial photographs from 1964 to 1967 with present-day U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellite imagery revealed widespread deforestation and riparian vegetation loss over the past 50 years.

Their findings add to the nascent literature on biosphere reserves in more-densely settled, fragmented forest landscapes. The paper began as a project in the environmental studies capstone course with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Travis Reynolds.

Clemens, of Oxnard, Calif., is an environmental policy major, and Heisler, of Montclair, N.J., is an environmental policy major and philosophy minor. For more on Reynolds’s and students’ work in Ethiopia, read Colby Magazine‘s “Into the Forests of Gondar.”