Like Mangrove Roots: Creating a Network of Collaborations in West Africa


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col·​lab·​o·​rate | \ kə-ˈla-bə-ˌrāt

to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor (Merriam-Webster)

the act of working together with other people or organizations to create or achieve something (Cambridge Dictionary)

From mangroves to fisheries to marine protected areas, the Gulf of California Marine Program prioritizes collaboration. We recognize that that is how you get results in environmental conservation to stick. By engaging with local stakeholders, decision makers, students, nongovernmental organizations, private sectors, and other researchers, you can achieve outcomes that are much larger than what a single entity could create alone. It’s the power of teamwork.

Thankfully, we aren’t the only ones with this mentality—after all, you need others who share this mentality and who agree in entering a collaboration with you in order to have a team. Such a  relationship is a two-way street.

This August, I had the great pleasure to take part in building new collaborations as part of the field team organized by Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to the mangroves of Côte d’Ivoire and Benin. Our roster included Dr. David Lagomasino of East Carolina University (ECU), Dr. Danielle Wood and Ufuoma Ovienmhada of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Master Students of West African Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (WABES) hosted at University Félix Houphouët Boigny, Ebuka Nwobi from Edinburgh University, Côte d’Ivoire Office of Parks, Côte d’Ivoire’s Office of Forestry Development, National Center of Remote Sensing (Centre National de Teledetection, CENATEL) of Benin, and Greenkeeper Africa.


Organization Type

Country Visited

  Scripps Institution of Oceanography,     University of California, San Diego   University   Côte d’Ivoire and Benin
  NASA Goddard Center   Government   Côte d’Ivoire and Benin
  East Carolina University   University   Côte d’Ivoire and Benin
  MIT   University   Côte d’Ivoire and Benin
  WABES, Félix Houphouët-Boigny   University   Intergovernmental,     University   Côte d’Ivoire
  Côte d’Ivoire Office of Parks   Government   Côte d’Ivoire
  Côte d’Ivoire’s Office of Forestry     Development   Government   Côte d’Ivoire
  CENATEL   Government   Benin
  Greenkeeper Africa   Private   Benin
Our field team in Benin on our way to our mangrove site. Photo by Ufuoma Ovienmhada.

In addition to gathering data in the field (link to NG blog), the expedition provided the opportunity to exchange knowledge among the individuals. For example, David Lagomasino collected soil cores and taught the rest of the team the methodology as well as the type of results that one would see. Such a tutorial was especially applicable to the Masters students that joined us on the expeditions—Moro Seidu and Prisca Keessy. For his Masters’ thesis, Moro will actually be collecting his own soil cores to assess the carbon sequestration potential of wetlands in Ghana.

Students and faculty from WABES collecting their first soil core with guidance from David Lagomasino. Photo by Astrid Hsu.

Likewise, I was able to share how we use drones to monitor mangroves with the entire team, and how such tools can be applied to broader ecological monitoring. I was able to teach Ufuoma Ovienmhada the complete pipeline of drone operations, and speak with her, Danielle Wood, and Greenkeeper Africa about potential applications to their own work with monitoring water hyacinth. Additionally, I had the great pleasure to provide a short demonstration of drone operations to the greater community of WABES at Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Côte d’Ivoire and answer their questions. Further, the drone imagery provides validation imagery for the work that Lola Fatoyinbo, David, and CENATEL are engaged in, monitoring mangrove coverage and extent with satellites.

Astrid giving a brief drone demonstration to the WABES community. Photo by David Lagomasino.

Participating in such a great exchange of knowledge among all these different stakeholders has certainly been a highlight of my career, and I am proud to further the mission of building collaborations that encourages efficiency and accuracy in conservation science and management.


Astrid Hsu
Research Associate at SIO. As a National Geographic Explorer and MAS graduate in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Astrid focuses on generating interdisciplinary solutions to marine conservation problems through science communications and collaborative research.

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