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Scholarship recipients in Africa

Below is the list of 2023 scholarship recipients.

Lailah Gifty Akita

Lailah Gifty Akita holds a PhD in Natural Science with a specialisation in paleoecology from Friedrich Schiller University and International Max Planck Research School for Biogeochemical Cycles, Jena, Germany.

She is a Lecturer at the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana. Dr. Akita’s research interests include Benthic ecology, pollution ecology, and paleo-ecology. She seeks to understand aquatic ecosystem changes using multiple indicators, including biological, biochemical, and microfossil approaches.

Her current research focuses on "Microfossil Approach for the Study of Environmental changes in Tropical Estuaries and Lagoons (MASETEL)", which she has won a travel grant from Past Global Changes (PAGES), Inter-Africa Mobility Research Fellowship for African early-career scientists studying past global changes.

The PAGES fellowship will support Dr. Akita’s travel to the Université Félix Houphouët- Boigny de Cocody (UFR, STRM), Côte d'Ivoire. The host supervisor is Professor Soro Nagnin (The UFR STRM, director). She will be working in collaboration with Dr. Yao N'goran Jean-Paul, who is paleo-scientist (UFR STRM) from Côte d'Ivoire.

Olugbenga Alebiosu Awardee 2023
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Olugbenga Alebiosu is a lecturer in the Department of Botany, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He holds a PhD (Palynology and Paleobotany) in the Department of Botany, University of Lagos, Nigeria. As an early career academic and research enthusiast, he is contributing mainly to research areas in Paleoecology, Aerobiology, Palynology, Palaeobotany, Pollen allergenicity studies, Quaternary Rainforest Dynamics, and Ecosystem Restoration.

Olugbenga is keenly interested in reconstructing paleoecological conditions of terrestrial ecosystems and some environmentally significant areas. At the University of Lagos, Nigeria, his Ph.D. thesis involved large-scale monitoring of atmospheric pollen levels and allergenicity of dominant aerospora in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The aerobiological study advanced the knowledge and awareness of pollen allergens and their consequent allergic conditions in biogeographical areas of the tropics. He has published several peer-reviewed articles in globally recognized scientific journals and books to his credit.

During the PAGES Inter-Africa Mobility Research Fellowship Program, he will work with Professor Marion Bamford at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, to identify paleoenvironmental dynamics and make deductions about the causation of paleo-events, including human fires and vegetation decline, as well as the nature of paleo-depositional and woody plants being explored by humans during the charring in Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria. From these, the role of changing trait landscape on ecosystem functioning and carbon storage, as well as its complex interactions with people's livelihoods at the study site, will also be inferred.

Larba Hubert Balima Awardee 2023

Larba Hubert Balima holds a PhD in Plant Biology and Ecology with a specialization in Climate Change and Biodiversity from the University Felix Houphouët-Boigny (Cote d’Ivoire). He is a junior Lecturer in the department of Life and Earth Science from the Institut of Science and Technology (IST / ENS), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He is also a research assistant in the Laboratory of Plant Biology and Ecology at the University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Burkina Faso.

His research interest is focused on ecological niche modeling, tree ring analysis (or dendrochronology), and quantitative wood anatomy, which are new research fields in West Africa. The research aims to assess the long-term ecological responses of savanna ecosystems and trees to changing environmental conditions in West Africa, a hotspot region for both anthropogenic pressure and climate change.

In his previous works funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the West African Science Service Centre on Climate and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) program, Mr. Balima found negative impacts of land use and climate on carbon sequestration, tree growth and stand dynamics. He also assessed the impacts of climate change on the geographic distribution of useful woody species, identified savanna ring-forming trees, and assessed their growth rates. For his current research under the frame of PAGES mobility grant, Mr. Balima aims to investigate climate-growth relationships and reconstruct past climatic trends using tree rings as a proxy. This work will be conducted in Copperbelt University (Zambia) in collaboration with Prof. Doc. Justine Ngoma.

Décio Muianga Awardee 2023
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Décio Muianga is a Mozambican archaeologist with a Master's degree in Archaeology and rock art Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). He has worked since 2008 as an assistant lecturer of archaeology in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University Eduardo Mondlane (Maputo, Mozambique). Later in 2016 nominated as Head of the Archaeology Unit at the same institution. Additionally, since 2012 working as a researcher at Kaleidoscopio (Public Policy and Culture), an independent institute based in Maputo. Also, as a team coordinator and researcher for archaeology, cultural, and heritage impact assessments and elaborated heritage management plans in different projects in Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. He has also been involved in disseminating cultural heritage, mounting archaeological exhibitions in Museums, and tour-guiding museums and archaeological sites.

He gained extensive knowledge of surveying, mapping, recording, and excavating sites with rock paintings, ceramics, and microlithic stone tools while completing his master's research project, using archaeological, historical, anthropological, physics and chemistry for the analysis and interpretation of the prehistoric data.

In 2020, he was appointed as a Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute for the Scientific Advisory Board of the Commission for the Archaeology of Non-European Cultures.
Currently working on the PhD focused on the Stone Age, Rock Art, Historical Ecology and Heritage Management of southern Mozambique, and Archaeology from the University Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique) and University of Uppsala (Department of Archaeology and Ancient History), Sweden. Also, part of the doctoral research includes analysis of archaeological artifacts such as lithics and ceramics (XRF and mineralogical characterization), phytoliths, soil DNA, charcoal/burnt bone dating, and OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) chronological dating.

The mobility grant will be used to work on the lithic analysis from the archaeological excavations from southern Mozambique with Dr. Tim Forssman at the University of Mpumalanga (Mbombela city, Mpumalanga province in South Africa) and also to compare the same samples with collections from South Africa. This will allow us to investigate and understand the main features of stone production within the Pleistocene and Holocene in the southeast section of Southern Africa.

> Fellowship report

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Dr. Eyob Gebrehiwot Gebregeorgis is a researcher in Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute, Ethiopia. He obtained his PhD in Biological Sciences from Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland. His research interest covers the topics of Dendroclimatology, Soil Science and Quantitative Wood Anatomy. His research publications focused mainly on detecting palaeoclimatic signals from tree rings. He has published a denroanatomical analysis software ( which enabled intra-annual dendroclimatology in the tropical Africa.
His current research on intra-annual paleoclimatic reconstruction of the central Ethiopian highlands from tracheids earned him the PAGES mobility grant in which he will be working at the Research Center of the National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research (INERA)- Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo.