Robert Bosch Junior Professorship

Dr. Hjalmar Kühl

Better Protecting Great Apes and Their Habitats

Great apes live in the tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. These regions are rich in natural resources. Mankind’s steadily growing local and global hunger for resources represents a significant threat to the survival of great apes’ habitats. Forests are being cleared and savannas turned into pastures and farmland. The construction of streets in forest regions is making the situation worse, since poachers, logging companies, mining companies, and industrial farming operations have easier access to the great apes’ living environments.

Efforts are being made to halt the uncontrolled destruction of these natural areas by awarding licenses to mine for raw materials and the establishment of so-called resource management areas (RMAs). Up until now, however, no method has existed to empirically analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of a particular protective measure.

As part of the Robert Bosch Junior Professorship 2014, Dr. Hjalmar Kühl wants to find new approaches to reduce the negative effects of the excessive use of natural resources in the great apes’ habitats. To do so, he will study RMAs as well as wood, mine, and plantation licenses and develop an evaluation system for this complex socioenvironmental structure. The goal is to develop management measures from this over the medium term that will lead to the increased environmental stability of these natural areas.

Dr. Kühl wants to combine evidence-based environmental protection with complexity science, the science of complex systems. Right now there is only a handful of research teams around the world that are pursuing this young yet extremely promising direction within the field of sustainability science. To ensure that the combination of these two disciplines is a success, Dr. Kühl will put together an interdisciplinary team of ecologists, economists, and other social scientists.

When carrying out his research project, Dr. Kühl will cooperate closely with environmental protection projects being carried out by governmental and nongovernmental institutions at the local and national levels. This includes initiatives such as the United Nations Environment Programme’s Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) or programs carried out by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Brief Profile

Dr. Hjalmar Kühl studied biology in Freiburg and Constance. He earned his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Leipzig University, writing his dissertation on the time-related and spatial dynamics in gorilla and chimpanzee populations. In order to complete this work, he spent a long period of time in different countries in central Africa. Together with his research group, Dr. Kühl developed various databases that are used internationally in the protection of great apes.

Within the scope of the Robert Bosch Junior Professorship, Dr. Kühl is going to establish a new research group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

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