WEC Alumni in the World - Fangyuan Hua

Fangyuan Hua (WEC PhD 2013) feels very lucky to have her current position at the University of Cambridge, and it's not hard to see why. As a Newton International Fellow with the Conservation Science Group in the Department of Zoology, Dr. Hua is in prime territory for intellectual, academic, and professional cross-pollination. The aptly named David Attenborough Building where she's stationed serves as quarters for both academic departments and major conservation NGOs like BirdLife International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "The presence of a vibrant conservation research and practitioner community all in one place brings about a critical mass of dialogue, initiatives, and events," says Dr. Hua. "Exciting things happen almost daily, and it is not unusual to bump into renowned scientists in the field passing through."

At Cambridge, Dr. Hua is researching options for making biodiversity gains and minimizing biodiversity losses under contemporary land use change, particularly those related to agricultural and forestry production. "For the past three years, I have been looking at this topic under the context of China's state-sponsored reforestation and agricultural production," she says. "The reforestation part of my research has gradually evolved into a broad interest for ecosystem restoration in general - its biodiversity outcome as much as its broader policy and socioeconomic context." The project is an extension of her both her dissertation research and work as a postdoc at Princeton University.

Dr. Hua credits WEC for providing her with the training that would become the backbone of her conservation ecology work. "What rigorous ecological training I could have hoped for for my research career, I got it from WEC, and I got it well," she says. "The intensive fieldwork that was part of my training also provided me with an excellent foundation to manage my current research projects. The training I got during my Ph.D. program in grant writing constitutes another critical aspect of my maturity as a researcher." Dr. Hua's dissertation tested altered predator-prey interactions as a potential behavioral mechanism underlying the biodiversity impacts of selective logging. The project (Trait-mediated effects of predation risk: How does it influence forest bird-habitat relationships?) consisted of two components in two different study systems: Sumatra, Indonesia, and the longleaf pine forests of the southeastern US. She was advised by Dr. Katie Sieving.

Dr. Hua was initially drawn to WEC because of its international scope and reputation, which appealed to her as a Chinese student. She remembers a trip to Sumatra for dissertation research where this was reinforced: "I was visiting the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, and ran into a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientist in the lobby," she recalls. "After I introduced myself as a Ph.D. student from WEC, he smiled and commented, 'Yet another researcher from *that* department!'"

Read more about Dr. Hua's work at her website: http://hwamei.weebly.com/