Erin Vogel, a professor of anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a $995,500 federal grant that will expand a unique partnership between Rutgers and a major Indonesian university.
The grant, provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will help develop an academic exchange program between Rutgers and Universitas Nasional (UNAS) in Jakarta. The partnership will involve strengthening the curriculum in the biological sciences at UNAS, in part through a series of field projects on the island of Borneo involving scientific study of orangutans, habitat protection, and forest conservation.
The funds will provide the opportunity for underprivileged Indonesian undergraduate and graduate students to conduct research in collaboration with Rutgers’ doctoral students. And the grant will also open up opportunities for study abroad or international service learning projects for Rutgers students.
“I am excited to be able to expand the partnership we have established with UNAS and to deepen our fruitful collaboration,” Vogel said. “This award will provide us with the ability to expand the academic offerings available to our undergraduates and graduate students and provide opportunities for Rutgers-UNAS faculty and students to work together and explore new avenues of research.”
The grant reflects a joint effort by Vogel and Anthropology Professor Robert Scott and three faculty members from the Biology Department at UNAS with whom Vogel has been collaborating since 2004.
The award was made through USAID’s Supporting Universities to Partner Across the Pacific initiative, and provides for three years of collaboration with the intent of making it sustainable into the future.
The educational benefits of the project may also have a long term impact on the environment, Vogel said. The tropical forests of Indonesia, especially those in the region that includes Borneo, are one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world
But deforestation is threatening these unprotected areas.
“If the current rate of deforestation continues unabated, experts have predicted that viable, wild populations of Bornean orangutans will be extinct within the next century,” Vogel said.
She said the grant can contribute to an overall strengthening of intellectual and physical capacity in the life sciences in Indonesia to effectively address the issue.
“Our central goal is to create a partnership that will increase the quality of and access to education, training, and research opportunities while promoting the conservation of orangutans and their critical habitats,” Vogel said.
Joanna Regulska, Vice President for International and Global Affairs, said the project is a significant addition to Rutgers' global profile.
"This award demonstrates the global nature of Rutgers University," said Regulska, who oversees the Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs. "Indonesia is one of the university’s strategic focus countries in our efforts to extend our global reach and UNAS has been a strong partner in the country as our faculty, students, and staff develop and grow deeper relationships through research and teaching."