On May 17, Gao — who will return to Yale this fall to pursue a doctoral degree — was named the winner of the 2016 Marsh Award for Terrestrial Conservation Leadership
from the Marsh Christian Trust. The award, which is offered in partnership with Fauna & Flora International, recognizes individuals or organizations that make a significant contribution to sustainable biodiversity at a local level. The award includes a prize of £4,000.
Last week, Gao was also named one of the National Geographic Society’s 2016 Emerging Explorers
, an honor that recognizes young scientists, conservationists, artists, and activists who are improving the world through “unconventional thinking and innovations.” The award comes with a $10,000 prize to aid further research and exploration.
While completing his Master’s degree at F&ES, Gao studied how the Chinese market for ivory — and China’s increasing presence in Africa — have impacted the conservation of African elephants
, and how different stakeholders within the trade chain view these factors. In recognition of this groundbreaking research, he was awarded a 2013 Andrew Sabin International Environmental Fellowship which, in addition to tuition support, provided $20,000 to Gao to help him return to his home country or region to pursue his conservation work.
For the past two years he was executive director of the Everest Snow Leopard Conservation Center, which is dedicated to protecting snow leopards in the Qomolangma (Mount Everest) National Nature Reserve on the border of China and Nepal. He is also a research affiliate with the Yale Large Carnivore Group, a group of Yale affiliates and partners that aims to strengthen the coexistence between humans and carnivores in all parts of the world.