Graduate Student Spotlight

Dr. Aby-Sene Harper

Aby 1Why did you choose the RPTS Department at Texas A&M University?

My masters advisor had recommended Texas A&M University among other universities. At that time, I was interested in tourism as a strategy for rural development and biodiversity conservation in African countries. The RPTS department had a significant number of prominent faculty members in sustainable tourism, ecotourism and community development. Today, I am very pleased with my decision to pursue my Ph.D. in the RPTS department at Texas A&M. During my time here, I became part of a great community of scholars in RPTS and in the Applied Biodiversity Science program. I am also thankful for the amazing friends who have made my time in College Station so great.

What is your favorite destination? Why?

My favorite destination is my father’s farm in his native village of Sidibougou in Senegal. There is no other place where I am more at peace than there. What makes it even more special is the lovely sound of the birds that cradle me every morning.

What projects were you involved with? 

I worked on a few projects with my advisor, Dr. Matarrita. However, I was mostly involved in my own research.  My dissertation focused on the outcomes and prospects of the integrated management plans of two national parks, one in Senegal and another in Mauritania. I also studied the livelihoods of the local people in the area. The purpose of this project was to better understand how their livelihoods can effectively be integrated in the resource management strategies of the protected areas for long-term biodiversity conservation and the well-being of local communities.

Aby 2What are some of your past experiences in this field?

Prior to this project, my experiences in this field (rural development and natural resource management) were mostly personal. I spent most of my life in West Africa (Senegal, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana). During that time, my family and I traveled to rural communities and visited national parks along the way. These were profound and transformative experiences for myself. My involvement in this field as an applied researcher started while I was working with a cooperative of organic farmers in Chalatenango, El Salvador.  Moreover, for my masters, I studied the impacts of tourism development on the Gullah community of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

What do you like most about Bryan/College Station, TX?

It’s hard to tell you what I like the most in BCS, but I can tell you for sure who I like the most: The wonderful office ladies in our RPTS department J They make my time in   B/CS, Texas so special!!

 

 

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