Member Profile

Meet Dr. Jacqueline N. Karithi, CEO, El-Koony Center, Kenya

J KariithiI am a Kenyan interdisciplinary environmental scientist who is passionate about tourism, conservation, and development issues. I gained interest in nature and the environment at a very young age, while traveling with family during the holidays. These moments sparked my interest to pursue a professional career in environmental science. By the end of my undergraduate studies, I developed a specific interest to explore the nexus of conservation and human impact and interventions.

A few years later, I completed my PhD in Environmental and Geographical Science from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, with a focus on Nature-based Tourism on the Mount Elgon ecosystem. At the start of my postdoctoral research at Princeton University, I focused on two specific areas: Reconciling livelihoods for community stakeholders in protected areas and Climate Resilient Agriculture as a biodiversity conservation mechanism for small-holder maize farmers in the Mount Elgon region. These research topics culminated in a detailed case study research analysis on various stakeholder groups in the Mount Elgon ecosystem in Kenya. This spurred my interest to focus my career on decision science having identified through my field experiences that applied science was essential to creating definitive change in all anthropogenic activities particularly in high biodiversity regions.

Thereafter, I began to develop the idea of establishing a landscape focused research center which was named, El-Koony Center, and launched in 2020. The El-Koony Center serves as a multi-purpose center, focusing on scientific research while providing professional and vocational training for community stakeholders in the Mount Elgon region.

I am a strong advocate for pursuing scientific research through an anthropocentric approach to create maximum impact on local communities. My work with El-Koony center has impacted the lives of the local population of the Mount Elgon region through various applied science projects that enhance livelihood opportunities for local communities such as the Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) project. This project has worked mainly with women farmers to recognize their input as the primary labor force in the region.

Additionally, I am currently working with female Masters and PhD students under my mentorship and thus connected with the MTAWA network to engage in their activities.  My dream for the center is to popularize decision science and make it the norm for those pursuing scientific careers to think about impact in a direct and meaningful way.

“We need to develop a bioeconomy strategy for ecosystems and human well-being through applied science and developmental interventions” – Dr. Jacqueline N. Karithi

Member Profile

Meet Our Mentors: Dr. Mary A. Opiyo

Mary Opiyo
Dr. Mary A. Opiyo

Dr. Mary Opiyo is an Aquaculture Research Scientist at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute – Sagana Centre, Kenya.  Her every day work involves working in sustainable aquaculture projects dealing with broodstock development, seed production (Monosex tilapia and African Catfish), fish health management and fish nutrition.  She has 10 years of research experience, and project coordination in the freshwater aquaculture. She recently finalized her PhD in Fisheries Science from Kenyatta University and her thesis focused on the use of dietary probiotics in enhancing growth and immunity of Nile tilapia cultured in low input ponds. She came about this topic after several studies previously done indicated presence of pathogenic bacteria in low input ponds. Her PhD study gives solutions to production of safe and quality fish from low input ponds by smallholder farmers in rural areas because of high cost of feeds. Dr. Opiyo would like to encourage upcoming scientists/ PhD students, saying that with passion they can pursue their career/academic goal.  A PhD program requires a lot of time dedicated for research, which needs patience to get reliable results. Constant consultations with supervisors help a lot in project design and progression in data collection. Additionally, consultations with experts in the field help get ideas on carrying out laboratory work and data analysis leading to a smooth PhD journey.

Member Profile

Meet Our Mentors: Dr. Esther Mosase

mosase 1t
Dr. Esther Mosase
Dr. Esther Mosase recently obtained her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering at South Dakota State University. Her dissertation work focused on modelling water availability, risk and resilience in the Limpopo River Basin, a semi-arid basin in Southern Africa. Esther’s PhD work was supported by the Schlumberger Foundation, Faculty for the Future (FFTF) program which sponsors women in Science and Engineering, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) through the Botswana Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF), and Botswana Embassy in the United States.
Esther received her Master’s in Agricultural Engineering from Botswana College of Agriculture (Botswana). Thereafter, she worked as a junior lecturer at the BIUST in Botswana before starting her PhD. Esther is currently working part time as a Staff Research Associate (SRA II) at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Esther is looking forward to continuing contributing to research and science-based information in water resources including water quality improvement and impact of climate change on water resources. As a product of the Schlumberger Foundation FFTF program, Esther looks forward to continuing empowering girls/women to pursue Science and Engineering fields.
Member Profile

Meet Our Mentees: Pamela Mugisha

Pamela Mugisha
Mrs. Mugisha Pamela recently joined Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi to pursue studies leading to a PHD in Geospatial Computing Sciences. Mrs. Mugisha is passionate about water and hydrology and wishes to use remote sensing to study the effect of direct stormwater discharge to oceans in growing coastal cities.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural engineering from Makerere University, Uganda and an Msc. degree in Hydroscience and engineering from Technical University, Dresden, Germany.


Member Profile

Meet Our Mentors: Dr. Betsy Gekonge

Dr. Betsy Gekonge
Dr. Betsy Gekonge was born and raised in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya in East Africa.  She initially came to the United States to pursue a college education (Hamilton College, Clinton NY and Pennsylvania State University, University Park PA) and has since established a robust career working as a Clinical Scientist at Pfizer, Inc where she is contributing to the development of novel vaccines to help prevent pneumococcal disease.  Prior to her current role, Betsy spent several years working in the Montaner Laboratory at the Wistar Institute working to understand the response of a subset of immune cells (monocytes/macrophages) to HIV-1 infection, and three years working in antiviral drug development at Merck & Co Inc. Betsy joined MTAWA in 2016 as a mentor, and with the support and guidance of MTAWA sistren established an incredible mentor-mentee relationship (now friendship) with her mentee who in the fall semester of 2017 successfully enrolled in the Department of Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Riverside. When not busy poring over clinical documents, Betsy enjoys volunteering to various causes, hiking and traveling with her children.