McCluskey Fellow Brings Governance-Focused Approach to Wildlife Conservation to YSE
After nearly a decade facilitating partnerships in gorilla conservation in Rwanda, Anna Behm Masozera spent the last year at YSE as the Dorothy S. McCluskey Visiting Fellow in Conservation, a role that welcomes practitioners — particularly women from or working in developing countries — to the School.
Studying horticulture and urban forestry in college, Anna Behm Masozera always knew her career would include “some kind of science or ecology.” Spending a decade on gorilla conservation in Rwanda, however, was a bit unexpected.
“That shift was not intentional,” says Masozera, who moved to the country with her husband, a Rwandan, whom she met while completing her master’s degree at the University of Florida.
What she found in Rwanda when she arrived almost two decades ago was a small but densely populated nation transforming rapidly. Putting on her ecological hat, Masozera supported ongoing efforts to protect the natural parts of Rwanda, in ecosystems where people played the biggest role.
“Even though I was shifting my focus from urban to rural areas, there were common themes. How do people collaborate with each other? How are decisions made, and how does that impact the natural part of the system?”
Masozera brought these ideas to the Yale School of the Environment this academic year as the Dorothy S. McCluskey Visiting Fellow in Conservation, a role that welcomes conservation practitioners — particularly women from or working in developing countries — to spend a semester at the School. The Fellowship recipient can pursue independent research, enhance collaborations between YSE and environmental organizations, and expand professional training opportunities for students.
Previous Fellows have included Frances Beinecke ’71 BA, ’74 MFS, the former executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the late Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Beginning in 2013, Masozera served as the director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, an initiative borne out of the Mountain Gorilla Project founded by YSE lecturers Amy Vedder and Bill Weber. The IGCP maintains a unique partnership with several international conservation organizations, including Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and World Wildlife Fund, with the goal of protecting the endangered mountain gorilla.
While the ultimate goal of IGCP is conservation, Masozera’s biggest role was facilitating the relationships between multiple organizations — “conservation diplomacy,” she calls it. It required navigating through different layers of governance, public and private sectors, and often across international borders to achieve the overarching conservation goals.
In recent years, Masozera’s relationship-building work resulted in critical surveys of mountain gorilla populations, completed collaboratively by 10 different groups. The findings of the surveys improved the mountain gorilla’s status in 2018 from “critically endangered” to “endangered.”
“To collect all of that information was extraordinary,” says Masozera. “But to show the growth of the populations over 10, 20, and 30 years — that was really extraordinary. It’s a part of my work that I’m really grateful to have participated in.”
In her time as McCluskey Fellow, Masozera has taken the opportunity to reengage in teaching and research, while also reflecting on the work she’s done with a unique new perspective. She connected with Luke Sanford, assistant professor of environmental policy and governance at YSE, who introduced her to foundational and current scholarly works on trans-boundary cooperation.
She also worked one-on-one with five YSE students during the academic year, including Jacqueline Buonfiglio ’22 MESc, with whom she developed a capstone course, “Wildlife Ecolabelling for Tourism and Consumer Products.” In that course, Masozera used her experience from working with the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, an organization that protects threatened wildlife while contributing to economic development — which, coincidentally enough, was co-founded by Julie Stein ’00 MEM.
The career threads that tie her to YSE and that led her to the School are not lost on her, Masozera says. Though the field of wildlife conservation seems large, the overall goals intimately connect people — across sectors and boundaries, from Rwanda to New Haven and across the globe.
And perhaps nobody knows that better than Anna Behm Masozera.
Photo by Neil Ever Osborne: Anna Behm Masozera in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park with a staff member from a partner organization in the transboundary efforts for the conservation of the endangered mountain gorilla.