Edinburgh zoo worker launches £20,000 fundraiser for rainforest conservation PhD programme

Maxine McNaughton hopes to raise £20,000.

Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 7:45 am

An Edinburgh Zoo worker is hoping to fundraise £20,000 for a conservation research trip to the Amazon rainforest.

Maxine McNaughton, from Slateford, has been offered a place on a PhD programme run by Suffolk University which will involve an extended research period monitoring animals in the Peruvian Amazon.

Fees for the programme, which begins in January 2020, are funded by a grant from the Disney Conservation Fund, but Ms McNaughton, from a working class background, does not have personal savings to pay for other costs like maintenance and travel to and from Peru.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Picture: Maxine McNaughton.

“Conservation is getting so much publicity at the moment with everyone wanting to be Greta Thunberg, but it’s still so hard to get funding,” Ms McNaughton said.

A GoFundMe page set up to plug the shortfall has raised £1,000 of Ms McNaughton’s £20,000 target, and she will host a fundraiser event at The Shandon pub on Slateford road this evening at 19.30pm.

“The research will have a real impact on native wildlife and communities in the Peruvian Amazon,” she said.

“The project will be on the ground working with local people, helping me to understand the challenges they face in their fight to survive in a now burning world.”

Picture: Maxine McNaughton.

Working alongside a specialist team of researchers and Maijuana indigenous people, Ms McNaughton will study the distribution of mammals in Peru using cameras and audio recorders.

The aim is to measure animal populations and work out realistic limits for local people hunting for food, in order to reduce the threat of extinction to these animals.

The species she will work with include jaguars, margays, tapirs, peccaries, deer, and red howler monkeys.

“I come from a working-class background, supported by a single mum, and am the first and only person in my family to go to university,” said Ms McNaughton, who has a BSc in Conservation Biology and Management from Stirling University and an MSc in Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation and Epidemiology from Glasgow University.

“I have worked throughout my life and academic career to support myself - I got my first job at BHS cafe on Princes Street a month after turning 16.

“Other jobs have included at the SSPCA, Blair Drummond Safari Park, and an ecological consultancy, and I now work selling memberships at Edinburgh Zoo.

“I have worked exceedingly hard to get where I am and to be offered this life-changing opportunity to make a difference in the field of conservation is amazing - I would be devastated if lack of funds took this away.”

“Conservation affects everyone around the world, and it’s nice to show that someone from a working class background in Edinburgh can really make a difference,” she said.

“I am ready to take on this challenge and find long-lasting solutions to biodiversity loss in one of the most species-rich corners of our planet.”