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Changing The World From NZ To Nigeria

After graduating with a doctorate in Ecology, Iveren Abiem will return home to Nigeria, where she will share her knowledge and expertise with students at the University of Jos.

Iveren Abiem’s passion comes from enjoying what she does, and the sense of fulfilment she receives in knowing she’s contributing to the attempted resolution of global problems.

“I feel that by putting myself out there, it may encourage that young girl who enjoys science to pursue her dream to become a scientist,” she says.

Abiem has spent the last four years developing research into maintaining species diversity in tropical forests and managing the ForestGEO plot, in collaboration with the Nigerian Montane Forest Project.

A collaborative partnership between the University of Canterbury (UC), Nigerian Universities and other international partners, the Nigerian Montane Forest Project promotes a national and international commitment to the conservation of these unique natural landscapes.

Speaking about the importance of this work and her research, Abiem says, “Africa is still under-represented in tropical forest research. Africa’s forests have received far less attention than those in Asia and the America’s despite contributing a carbon sink even higher than the Amazon.”

Led by Abiem’s PhD supervisor, UC Associate Professor Hazel Chapman, The Nigerian Montane Forest project, established in 2004, inspires excellence in research by funding postgraduate students while empowering local communities through employment and education, with 36 full-time, local staff.

“A woman like Iveren will make a real difference to Nigeria,” Chapman says. “Her research is exactly what Africa needs in today’s uncertainty surrounding climate change.”

Chapman recently recommended Abiem for a L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award, noting her dedication to research and passion for furthering women’s study in Nigeria.

“Iveren is keen to drive for more inclusion of women in her department at the University of Jos. I observed first-hand the tenacity and determination needed from her to find financial support for her PhD, in contrast to several male colleagues – yet she never gave up.

“As a manager, she showed natural leadership, training and managing 10 staff under hard, physical conditions. Despite threats from insurgents during 2018 and 2019, Iveren remained undeterred and continued visiting the plot on a regular basis. Most others would have remained in Jos.”

Abiem shrugs off the praise, saying she was not particularly scared and was more concerned for the villagers she worked with.

Upon returning home, Abiem wants to support research that will promote polices to improve the livelihoods of Africans and the environmental and climate challenges faced by their continent. She will also continue to work with the Nigerian Montane Forest Project, managing the ForestGEO plot.

“I plan to use the skills I have acquired during my PhD to serve through teaching, training and mentoring as many students that I come across. If given the opportunity, I would also be willing to contribute to policymaking that would help protect forests in Nigeria and improve livelihoods.”

Although she’s excited to return to Nigeria, Abiem is sad to leave the home she has made in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

“I loved my time in Aotearoa and it will remain etched on my mind forever. UC was my ideal study environment, and I will miss it when I return to my home country after graduation.”

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