With time flying by we’ve already completed half of the Frankfurt Spring School 2018 programme. Lets take a look back on what we’ve been up to in week 2.

We began the week with a conclusion to our planning programme. Katjuscha Dörfel and Katharina Schmidt, professionals from WWF Germany, gave us a crash course on the “Open Conservation Standards”, a planning framework designed specifically for usage in conservation. The emphasis was that the ability to learn, share and adapt is essential for successful conservation.

We also took in presentations from our six ambitious KfW Foundation Scholars. If you missed that, you can check it out by clicking here!

Tuesday and Wednesday zoned in on the world of human resources, an often overlooked but critical component of conservation project management. We journeyed to KfW Bank where Uwe Klug and Claudia Volk shared with us their years of experience. Then, with Alina Vennekötter and Lisa Dapprich of KPMG, we studied the importance of “social styles”, how certain types of people are likely to react in a work environment. A continuous theme throughout these sessions was flexibility, be it in how you lead a team, approach a member of a funding organisation or act amongst teams of colleagues. To round Wednesday off, Michael Brombacher of Frankfurt Zoological Society taught our students how to recruit a team, and even provided some cheeky tips on how to navigate the application process for a job in conservation.

Next up was our lecture series on Thursday. A chance to take in the research from Goethe University’s most prestigious academics, and an important time to reflect on how science and conservation can colloborate in achieving their goals.

Friday took an interesting detour from our schedule. Originally it was planned that Rob Thompson would share his knowledge of time and conflict management, but caught off-guard by illness and with the United Kingdom ground to a halt by a few inches of snow, he was regrettably unable to join us this time. We hope you get well soon Rob!

Instead, we adventured over to the city of Wiesbaden, to explore the State Museum for Art and Nature. In particular, a special exhibition on the world of Fungi, guided by world-renowned mycologist and exhibition co-curator, Professor Meike Piepenbring.

You’ve heard it from us, but what did our students think? We asked Zsófia Puskás for her opinions on the week.

Blog 07 – ZsofiaPuskasSpringSchool – Ben Evans“Well, we came to the end of the second week and the first half of the Spring School has already passed. This week had great diversity of topics compared to the first week. Therefore, it is hard to define one as my favourite as I liked all of them. It was great to learn about a different approach to planning (Open Standard) and to get to know many institutions working in nature conservation like WWF, KfW and Goethe University. I much enjoyed our Wednesday program. I learned more about myself, how I (unconsciously) react and how I should act to people of other personality types. I really appreciate that we have gotten an insight into human resources in a practical way and from both sides: the employer, which is important for the future as a project manager and as an employee, the situation which some of us are facing recently. I was disappointed when I learnt that we could not continue with the topic of soft skills due to Rob Thompson’s unfortunate absence, though the visit of the fungi exhibition in Wiesbaden was a great compensation. I´m looking forward to the next week, especially the excursion to Kellerwald- Edersee National Park, I hope that better weather conditions will finally make it “Spring” School ?”

Indeed, with an exciting excursion coming up this week, and an in-depth look into finances, intercultural competence and workshops, Frankfurt Spring School 2018 shows no sign of winding down!

A whole day of our Frankfurt Spring School programme is dedicated to a series of lectures from internationally renowned Professors of Biological Sciences at Goethe University, Frankfurt. Many of our Frankfurt Spring School students are very familiar with the processes of science, but this experience provides some time to reflect on the connections between active scientific research and conservation strategy.

It is doubtless that the world-leading research presented today has great implications for conservation strategy and management, however, it is an all too common observation that the worlds of academia and practical conservation do not overlap as often as they perhaps should.
Why is this? Is it simply a lack of interest and clear communication between the professionals of their respective fields, or is the issue a tad more complex?

To better understand the problem, we asked those that have operated across the blurred lines between these two professions.

A participant of Frankfurt Spring School 2018, Dr Claudia Hermes of the University of Freiburg, provided us with her thoughts:

“In academic research, so much knowledge about threatened species and ecosystems is generated, but it meets a dead end in scientific journals and never makes it out of the ivory tower. Yet these scientific results yield so much information that can be crucial for the conservation of species and ecosystems. However, in order to translate scientific results into a conservation project, scientists would have to engage with conservation practitioners. But here the problem arises. There are just not many meeting points between science and conservation.

So far, I have always been willing to blame the scientific world for this gap. Conservation projects do not provide great scientific merits – mostly, their output cannot be published in high-ranked journals. However, more and more I get the impression that the scientists are alone not responsible, and that conservationists also contribute to the gap by not wanting to engage with scientists.

I did a PhD thesis in conservation biology, where I investigated the responses of endemic species in Ecuador to climate and land-use change. Especially, I focused on a little bird called El Oro Tapaculo, which is now on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss. From my results, I could derive detailed conservation recommendations. But now what? Just knowing how the El Oro Tapaculo might be saved per se does not change its fate: They might go extinct soon if the recommendations are not put into practice. And this is just one example; the same applies for many other young researchers and their study species.

Due to my doctoral studies, I am often being branded as overqualified by conservation practitioners. I came to Frankfurt to learn some of their methods, because I hope that this might help bridging the gap. Let’s not just stand there and watch the El Oro Tapaculo and so many other species being driven to extinction, just because scientists and conservationists do not reach an agreement. In my opinion, the biodiversity crisis we are facing now does not allow for disputes over competences or information. Joining forces can make a change.”


Professor Thomas Mueller of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Institute (BiK-F), and Goethe University Frankfurt, has carried out decades of research on the movement of migratory animals in the Mongolian Steppe and the effect of human development on this ecosystem. His research has great ramifications for further scientific study and applied conservation.

He told us that: “It first needs to be stated that this is not an omnipresent issue, a lot of NGO’s do great research. A good example are the Mongolian institutions leading the push for conservation of the Eastern steppe ecosystem, which take their direction from employees holding doctorates attained at prestigious international universities. However, there are indeed underlying problems and these are in-part communication based. What the conservation community needs is not necessarily what scientists do. Scientists go into a project area, collect their data, and take it with them. While the vast majority of scientists are sympathetic to the outcome of conservation efforts, ultimately there is no primary benefit for them to engage with conservation, as the currency of a scientist is the publication of academic papers. In the conservation community, the feeling is that more direct action is required to tackle conservation challenges, an end that the study-focussed research will not achieve.

What’s needed are essential researchers – field ecologists – to become more embedded within the conservation community. NGO’s should consider employing scientists to carry out the research required for the success of conservation progress, while allowing them the freedom to publish academic papers. This would cover some ground in satisfying the overall ambitions of the NGO and personal career goals of their academic employees.

From a scientific perspective, you do not become a professor because your research impacts conservation, you need a successful career of high-impact scientific study. Perhaps such research can shift to become more conservation orientated. Already, there are good incentives from national German funders for research to be inter-disciplinary. To attain funding, you need the involvement of alternative conservation stakeholders.

Overall, the issue is not the end of the world, but between scientists and conservationists, more appreciation for each other is required.”


Professor Meike Piepenbring, an expert mycologist of the Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Goethe University Frankfurt, added her input:

“During the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity in Rio de Janeiro, fungi were not mentioned once, and as a result were branded “the orphans of Rio”.  Fungi, plants, and other lesser known organisms form the basis of ecosystems, and are well studied by academics, but are often ignored in conservation efforts. Of course, conservation requires funding, and “exciting” animals are what generate funding. We therefore need public engagement regarding lesser known forms of life, and subsequent stakeholder involvement to make a difference in the short term. In the long-term, conservationists aware of these issues are what will solve the problem.”

Despite these challenges, the future looks bright.

Evidence that academics and conservationists are actively collaborating in the world is not too hard to find.
Efforts to conserve the critically endangered Saiga antelope are built from a continuous channel of discussion between NGO’s and a number of international research institutions and universities. As we saw today, the work of Professor Georg Zizka and his team, on the habitat mapping of Frankfurt, is essential in driving conservation of the surprisingly diverse city wildlife.

To top it off, our Frankfurt Spring School students are taking the knowledge of these challenges with them into the world of conservation. With them leading the fight, there’s a great chance this gap will seem a lot smaller before long!

Amongst our 30 Frankfurt Spring School students are six KfW Foundation scholars, early career conservationists from key project areas scattered across the globe. They’ve each travelled to Frankfurt carrying the dream of an ambitious conservation project for an area dear to their hearts. For some these plans will become a reality after Frankfurt Spring School 2018 comes to a close.

The KfW Foundation aims to “encourage pioneering ideas, to create a diverse economy, environment, society and culture and to take responsibility for the world we live in.”

To help meet this objective, the KfW Foundation will generously fund three of our scholarship student’s proposed conservation projects. After a month of Frankfurt Spring School activities, each scholar will have the chance to enrich their project proposals with their freshly gained knowledge, before presenting their plans to the KfW Foundation committee that will decide who’s projects will receive the funding.

We asked each of our students “what are you hoping to gain from the Frankfurt Spring School and KfW Foundation Scholarship Programme”.

Joyce Mungure – TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks Authority)
“I’m here to gain knowledge and skills on planning and managing conservation projects as well as proposal writing. Coming from a developing country such as Tanzania, Africa, we still have a need for helping in the development of the local economy especially in areas around our protected areas. Project planning and management will help a great deal in planning projects that would have minimal impact on the environment but also a positive contribution to the local livelihood.”

Muluken Abayneh – The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority
“I hope I will have a better knowledge of the project planning and management skill on the implementation of conservation-related projects which have a positive impact on my work now and also for the future.
My project is about livestock reduction in Bale Mountains National Park by doing artificial insemination on the surrounding local districts, which will improve the production yield of milk so the local people tend to have small number of productive cattle rather than having much more unproductive cattle which drives them to the park for grazing, which results in destruction.
Being part of KfW Foundation scholarship helps me to set up a clear project plan which will be important for easily implementing and also improves my skills in conservation project management, so it will be helpful for me for my next steps in conservation work!”

Kevin Ibanez – Frankfurt Zoological Society – Peru
“With this course I plan to increase the knowledge I have about project and personal management, improving my interactions with field partners, park guards and volunteers. What I will have learned in the course will be instantly applied in boosting my job performance by improving trimestral reports, writing proposals for supporting BSNP, replicating the information to other FZS projects leaders and proper planning for the implementation of new initiatives.
Finally, I believe FZS Peru will be greatly benefitted from my participation in the course. I am not only committed in continuing to make conservation count in Peru with this organization for all the years I may be allowed, but I plan to be a permanent support for everything that could be required in project matters, especially the fundraising, that is one of the key activities for the FZS dynamic fulfillment of conservation initiatives in Peru.”

Tinh Nguyen Thi – Frankfurt Zoological Society – Vietnam
“I wish to build my knowledge and skills in the CPM including: project planning, budgeting, financial management, evaluation in order to run effective conservation activities in Kon Ka Kinh National Park, Vietnam. Additionally, I would like to get advice and learning from experienced trainers as well as work with participants from other countries.”

Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa – Madagascar National Parks
“I am here to improve my technical conservation project management ability and to learn more about how to build a management project, particularly, budgeting the project. Also, to find a better way to conserve our beautiful biodiversity in Madagascar and help to manage my institution Madagascar National Parks in its mission through exchange with other participants and professors.”

Jennifer Montoya Lopez – Reserva de Producción de Fauna Marino Costera Puntilla de Santa Elena – Ecuador.
“”I hope to expand my knowledge with new tools for the development of conservation projects, and in this way improve the management of marine mammals in my work area. That is why my project purpose is to define actions for the management of the habitat of the dolphin community of Puntilla de Santa Elena Reserve. And in this way, strengthen the management of the protected area, as well as the capacities of park rangers in the field of biodiversity and natural resources management.”

But what are the consequences of success?

The opportunity that 3 of our scholars will get is an invaluable one. There is no better example of this than the achievements of Roxana Rojas, a recipient of the 2017 Frankfurt Spring School KfW Foundation Scholarship.
With her hard-earned funding, Roxana is carrying out crucial conservation work in Peru, with a goal of achieving the development of local communities and protection for the vulnerable Andean Bear.

How did the Frankfurt Spring School Progromme and KfW Foundation Scholarship help you?

“Frankfurt Spring School was very useful for me in different aspects, in a professional and personal way. On the one hand, I developed more professional skills that now I’m applying as a project coordinator (project design and monitoring, budget administration, human resources, personnel management and personal skills). Also, it was very interesting to know other perspectives of conservation efforts (from students, professionals and researchers), this let me understand that every type of support is necessary for wildlife conservation, ‘outside’ work is just as important as field work.
On the other hand, personally the Frankfurt Spring School programme taught me the necessity of understanding other realities and perspectives of life, that in the end influenced our professional work. Having the opportunity to experience Goethe University, Natural Museums, Kellerwald-Edersee National Park and Frankfurt city was very comforting and inspiring.

In conclusion, Frankfurt Spring School let me realize that my work in conservation is very valuable, and the efforts we do every day is very considerable for researches and professional in conservation. With developed skills during those weeks in Frankfurt, now I feel more confident as a professional to do a good job and continue working in Andean bear conservation.”

How was the funding you received used in your projects in South America?

“The immediate plan after Frankfurt Spring School was to develop our project (which finishes in July 2018), also to promote our project in international sceneries (bulletins in English, presentations in Ecuador and Colombia), and to develop our relationship between national institutions and look for more grants. Work in Andean bear is taking nowadays an important role in conservation efforts in Peru, leading the topic and has been the first example of attempting to tackle human-bear conflict.”

We wish all the best to this year’s KfW Foundation Scholars and thank them for the great contribution they’ve made to the 2018 Frankfurt Spring School experience.

With the first week of the 2018 Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management already behind us, we talked to two of our students, Claudia Hermes and Zsófia Puskás, to hear about why our students are here and what they’ve learnt so far.

What is your background prior to arriving at Spring School 2018?

Claudia: “I come from Freiburg, where I finished my PhD thesis last year, working on nature conservation in Ecuador.”

Zsófia: “I come from Vienna, I studied wildlife ecology and game management and finished my master thesis last year which was about wild boar population dynamics and management.”

What are your motivations for attending Spring School 2018? Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to gain?

Claudia: “I came to the Spring School to gain some insights into how a conservation project is actually run. So far, I have been involved in carrying out research on conservation problems, but I am wondering what all my scientific results are actually worth if they are not applied in an actual conservation project. I hope that the skills I am going to learn at the Spring School help me to set up practical projects to conserve biodiversity, which hopefully contribute to making a change.”

Zsófia: “I applied for the Spring School on Conservation Project Management, because I am motivated to do something for nature conservation. This Spring School is a great opportunity to be more competent and improve my chances to find a job in nature conservation.”

How did you find the first week of this year’s event?

Claudia: “The module on project planning was seriously great. Martin and Nick are great teachers. I sometimes came across things like problem trees and logical frameworks which I had never really understood before, and after this module I not only understand them, but I’m also able to create them myself!”

Zsófia: “This module made so much clearer what I have done wrong in the past because it has never been taught. I found it really great not just giving us the theory of “how to make it” but asking us to actively do the task in the real time. We challenged our minds to think logically and worked in a group to find out what the problems and solutions were. Learning by doing is the best practice anyway and I really enjoyed it.”


Thanks to Martin Davies, Nick Folkard and all of our students for a fantastic first week! After a well earned rest we’ll get right into week two.

With a combined half century of experience in conservation project management, planning and financing, Martin Davies and Nick Folkard are very much at home amongst the prestigious roster of our Spring School facilitators.

In his 37 years at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Martin became an expert in project planning and finance acquisition, utilising the “logical framework” approach to find success. His passion for teaching led him to start his own company dedicated to the training of aspiring conservationists.  During his career Martin frequently worked with Michael Brombacher, present day head of Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Europe department. It was this friendship that brought Martin to the 2017 Frankfurt Spring School, where he was rated highly by students for his enthusiasm and teaching style. Despite falling from a roof and breaking his leg just a month ago, there’s no stopping Martin, he’s back again this year.

Nick Folkard took the helm of the Project Development and Support Unit at the RSPB in 2003 and has since ensured the triumph of the society’s numerous international efforts. Like Martin, he loves to guide the next generation of conservation project managers through the maze of project planning. With his years of experience and two working legs, Nick’s contribution to this year’s Spring School is invaluable.

We’re already halfway through an intense four-day course in which Nick and Martin are getting our students hands on with the logical framework method of planning. They believe that engagement and teamwork are essential for a rich learning experience. With a wall of flash cards to drive discussion, it’s guaranteed that everyone’s ideas are shared and that nobody is snoozing in their seat by the end of the day.

When asked “What would you most like students to take away from their time with you at Frankfurt Spring School 2018?”, Martin said that in conservation, if you can be clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it, then you’re significantly more likely to find success. Clarity and succinctness are essential in influencing others and achieving the funding needed to execute your plan, and in turn will make getting support for the next project much easier.
Nick stresses that the logical framework is a wonderful tool but ultimately just a means to an end, not the end itself. In your work, it’s so important not to lose sight of the true end: the conservation. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll do just fine.

2017 saw the great success of the first ever Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management. 24 students and young researchers from various European nations, as well as six international KfW Foundation scholarship holders from Guyana, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru and Zimbabwe participated in the month-long event. A few of our students gave us their thoughts following graduation:

Katrin Hohwieler (Wien): The Conservation Project Management Spring School was a once in a lifetime experience for me. The four weeks were full of exciting topics, presented by people who have been working in the field and know what is important. It was incredibly well organized and if I could, I’d do it again!
Abhinaya Pathak (Nepal): It is the best platform to learn diverse subject matter efficiently in short time and in interactive ambiance from multiple stakeholders
Tessa Schardt (Frankfurt): I achieved the skills to bring my biological knowledge into the real world – putting practical use to a theoretical background, getting introduced to a very broad and complex topic via diverse approaches and different points of view.

With many speakers and partner organisations returning this year, as well as some new faces, we can’t wait to begin.

This weekend, 24 aspiring conservationists from around the globe will arrive for the 2018 Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management, a month-long series of talks, seminars, interactive group sessions and expeditions regarding the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the world of conservation.

Experts from world-leading conservation, biological and financial institutions and organisations will take to the stage, sharing their years of experiences from rich, diverse career histories with our Spring School students.

Throughout the month this blog will be regularly updated with stories about the Spring School proceedings and all those involved, both students and facilitators.

Join us for the 2018 Spring School adventure, it’s going to be an exciting one.