Prestigious awards for Aber graduate’s rainforest research

Jasper Kenter

Jasper Kenter

01 July 2011

Aberystwyth alumnus and former IBERS student Jasper Kenter has recently won two prestigious European awards for his research in the Solomon Islands, a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean. The prizes include the first ‘European spotlight on student research award’ by the Society for Conservation Biology, and a prize from the European Society for Ecological Economics for best student paper. Jasper’s paper on valuing Solomon Islands rainforests was also recently published in the scientific journal Global Environmental Change, one of the top journals in environmental studies.

Jasper graduated from Aberystwyth in 2010 with a first class degree in countryside conservation. Since then he has started a PhD in ecological economics and environmental sustainability at the University of Aberdeen. His ongoing research looks at why nature is important to people, and the economic benefits that nature brings, such as clean water, healthy soil, food and building materials. With support of his lecturers at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Jasper developed a new method for establishing these economic benefits.

“Jasper’s research is highly innovative,” says Professor Martin Dieterich from the German University of Hohenheim, European president of the Society for Conservation Biology. “It has potentially remarkable implications for nature conservation and human development in the Solomon Islands.”

“Rainforests in the Solomon Islands have one of the highest number of rare and unique plants and animals in the world, but they are threatened by logging, mining and an increase in the growth of cash crops such as cocoa and oil palms,” explains Jasper.
“Local people have a sophisticated knowledge of their environment but at the same time they are challenged by the many changes happening. To manage forests sustainably we need research and development projects that involve and engage local people and respects traditional culture. That is what my research did, but it is still very rare for economic and ecological studies to take this approach.

“The methods that Jasper has developed help to address many problems that researchers have faced in valuing nature,” states IBERS lecturer Mike Christie. “They have also provided some very useful insights into the benefits that indigenous people of the Solomon Islands attain from the forests in which they live. This information has been translated into management options that will hopefully secure the future sustainable use of the forest.  What is very impressive about Jasper's research is that it was undertaken as part of his under graduate studies here in Aberystwyth and that he won the two awards in competition with post graduate students who can spend three years on their research projects. The fact that he has won both prizes from both a nature conservation and an economic society shows the wide appeal of his findings. I am sure these will not be the last awards that he will win!”