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Two visiting international scholars traveled thousands of miles to advance their research at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh by drawing on the expertise and resources available in the geography department.

Kaisa Raatikainen, a doctoral student from the University of Jyvaskyla, worked on her research analysis with Elizabeth Barron, assistant professor of geography and urban planning and environmental studies, before returning to Finland in June.

Aniko Polo-Akpisso, a doctoral student from Togo, Africa, is working with UW Oshkosh’s Mamadou Coulibaly, associate professor of geographic information systems and water resources, until September.

Raatikainen’s study involves discovering the most critical factors affecting the quality of traditional rural biotope management in her country. She is looking at sustainability and better management of these rural lands—which are diverse and species-rich “hot spots”—through ecological, social and economic perspectives. Raatikainen said as a biologist/ecologist, she was interested in working with Barron on the social science aspects of her study.

Barron said, “I am supervising the social science component of her dissertation, helping her with study design, implementation, analysis, and writing. We are working together because they do not have this expertise at her university in Finland, and I have worked previously with her primary supervisor, who knows my work and felt I would be a good fit for Kaisa’s project.”

Polo-Akipisso’s research involves the ecological characteristics of the African savannah elephant, which is considered a vulnerable species. He is working to model habitat suitability for elephant migration.

At UWO, Polo-Akipisso said he has access to “tools and mentorship” with the top GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software and the guidance of Coulibaly

“I met Aniko a year ago at the world’s largest GIS conference in San Diego. He was there as a winner of an award. The elite international education program he is part of does not yet provide a solid GIS support. That is why I am assisting him with the data processing aspect of his dissertation using GIS and Remote Sensing techniques,” Coulibaly explained. “Upon presenting his project to the geography department, he also benefited from suggestions and recommendation from other professors.”

The collaboration is going well.

“A paper was accepted for publication in Annual Research & Review in Biology, and we are now working on the final phase of data analysis which should result in a susceptibility model for elephant siting,” he said.

Coulibaly said the partnership also has led to a better working relationship with scholars at the University Felix Houphouet Boigny in Cote d’Ivoire and the opportunity to serve on another doctoral committee.

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