Network development fits the bill

Evgeniy Murnakhov, August 2012

It is me 3

Evgeniy Murnakhov has been working at the Strizh Ecological Centre in west Siberia since it opened in 2006 and, although his role involves undertaking a variety of activities, his main focus is on the conservation of the Endangered white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) which is threatened locally by poaching and habitat deterioration caused by draining of wetlands.

Before starting work at the centre, Evgeniy was based in Kazakhstan and worked under Maxim Koshkin on a CLP-funded project on water birds. Having gained an understanding of what was required to conduct a CLP project, Evgeniy recruited a Russian team and successfully applied for a CLP Future Conservationist award in 2006 which resulted in the identification of key sites for white-headed ducks and sociable lapwings in western Siberia. Not only did the team achieve all of their objectives for this project, but whilst in Novosibirk they were thrilled to encounter a little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) which was the first observation of the species in that region for several decades.

The CLP has three tiers of project funding ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 and, as part of his fundraising plan, Evgeniy wanted to take advantage of applying for each project in quick succession. A $25,000 Follow-up project was soon underway which was complimented by CLP’s top Conservation Leadership Award in 2010.

'It was necessary that we further developed the project quickly, but it was also an opportunity for professional growth as three of our team members got the chance to attend the CLP international training course.' explains Evgeniy.

To date, these projects have greatly expanded knowledge on white-headed duck ecology and brought its conservation plight to the attention of the public and duck hunters. The team’s work has also led to the drafting of a local conservation action plan and establishment of a national working group for white-headed duck conservation in Russia which has been approved by BirdLife International and the Russian Bird Conservation Union.

Evgeniy’s next plan is to continue working with the Governor of Tomsk province, the Head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the Association of NGOs for Tomsk to develop a system of 46 protected natural territories across Russia and create economic incentives which will take white-headed duck conservation in a new direction.

After nearly seven years of CLP funding and support Evgeniy points out that the skills learned on-the-job have been as important as those learned at the international training courses.

'During the projects financed by CLP, I learned how to work with the team and how to guide them; how to set and achieve goals and tasks in my work, to interact with different target groups and communicate environmental ideas to them; shape ideas into projects…'

Along the way, there were also some valuable lessons in preparing for field trips in boggy conditions too as Evgeniy reminisces.

'During a field trip to the barren steppe around Lake Kulumdinskaya back in 2009 we decided to take a short cut through a salt marsh. This proved to be a big mistake! Our car got stuck in the mud for 10 hours! We had no wooden planks to help us out, there were no trees in the steppe, and no villages within 10 km. After exhausting all attempts to dig the car out I set out in search of help and within 2km came across a wooden street toilet. I couldn’t understand why it was there in the middle of nowhere, but it was there! So we "borrowed" the planks of the toilet, wedged them under the wheels of the car and drove out of the salt marsh. Since that day we always take small logs on our expeditions!'

Through his CLP projects and work at Strizh Ecological Centre, Evgeniy has built up a good network of contacts and network development is something which he is keen to promote, especially to early career conservationists.

'If you are just starting to develop experience, skills and knowledge in the environment sphere, search for like-minded people among professionals, don’t be shy to take advice from them and expand your partnership links'.

The CLP also encourages network development amongst CLP alumni and the wider conservation community. CLP alumni can join up to the exclusive NING social network to take advantage of CLP grants and training opportunities. And everyone is welcome to join our Facebook page which is the best way of keeping up to date with all the latest CLP news, calls for funding applications and research results.

If CLP alumni are interested in learning more about Evgeniy and his team’s work, or are interesting in undertaking a learning exchange in stakeholder relations (particularly with business, government and the public), project development and team management please email the CLP.