In 2009, he had a plane ticket to the United States and everything set as a young biologist to start a PhD on tropical Andean birds. However, Argentine biologist Ignacio “Kini” Roesler, decided to stay at home to investigate the dire situation of the Hooded Grebe and help it from extinction. Twelve years later, Kini won a Whitley Award for its work with the Patagonia Programme for the conservation of the vulnerable Patagonian bird.
Kini, from Aves Argentinas, and his team worked for years in the remote landscapes of Argentine Patagonia in order to successfully stabilize the population of its symbol, the Grebe. The work was centred on the protection of the little waterbird from its most pressing threats.
Invasive species, extractive industries and climate change has been changing the habitat of the Grebe were declining its population at alarming levels. Kini’s team managed to revert these changes in a decade by assigning guardians to the nest sites and installing artificial breeding sites.
Kini intends that the Hooded Grebe, Guardian of the Patagonian Steppe, work as an umbrella species. Thus, it will protect other endemic species of Patagonia. It is the “umbrella because by protecting it and managing its threats we are conserving an entire biome and many other endemic and/or threatened species,” Kini tweeted in January.
The Whitley Awards, often referred to by some as the 'green Oscars', are presented each year by the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), a UK-based charity that provides recognition, training and grants to support the work of nature conservation leaders across the Global South.
Sir David Attenborough, the trustee of the fund, narrated a two-minute emotive video presenting the work of Kini and the other winners of this year’s edition.
Roesler won the Whitley Award donated by The Frank Brake Charitable Trust and like the other six winners, his project will receive a £40,000 grant, plus training and contacts with NGOs and potential donors and partners.
With the award, Kini will train young scientists to conduct further research in his team, to save the Hooded Grebe and its environment.
The Hooded Grebe has one of the most complex courtship dances of all birds and has a large portion of unique evolutionary history and is 21st on the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) birds list.