Jacob Willie

Research areas

Conservation science | Primatology

Responsibilities

I provide scientific leadership for the Antwerp ZOO research program in Cameroon within the framework of 'Projet Grands Singes' (PGS). Specifically, I design research projects, including masters and PhDs; train and mentor research staff and students; supervise the implementation of research projects; write grant proposals and scientific publications; disseminate PGS results in scientific conferences; and foster partnerships and collaborative research efforts with other organizations.

Research interests

My research is focused on fundamental and applied topics that are relevant to biodiversity conservation in the wild. I aim to understand the influences of environmental and anthropogenic factors on species and ecosystems in order to provide science-based evidence that informs natural resource management and promotes sustainability. Species of concern belong to six taxonomic guilds, comprising great apes, elephants, monkeys, ungulates, rodents, and large frugivorous birds. Investigations are conducted in Afrotropical forests. Research themes include animal, plant and habitat ecology, studies on bushmeat and plant resource exploitation, socioeconomic studies, evaluation of anthropogenic influences, and research techniques in conservation. My interest in primatology is centered on the ecology and behavior (feeding, nesting, tool use, and ranging) of wild chimpanzees, gorillas, and arboreal monkeys.

Brief biography

I completed a five-year study program (master of engineering) in forestry and wildlife at the University of Dschang, Cameroon. I initially joined PGS in Cameroon in March 2006 as a master’s student and studied the impact of village hunting on duikers at the northern periphery of the Dja Reserve. After graduating from the University of Dschang in March 2007, I immediately returned to PGS as a volunteer where I implemented ecological survey studies, collected, processed and analyzed data, conducted training workshops with local communities, and wrote a report summarizing research results. My progressively responsible experience culminated in the role of Research Coordinator in March 2009. In addition, I got registered at Ghent University, Belgium, as a PhD student. From 2007 to 2011, I collected a substantial amount of data, part of which were used for my PhD. I conducted field work in Cameroon until 2011, and then moved to Belgium, where I finalized and defended my PhD thesis in November 2012. For my PhD, I studied the ecological drivers of understory herbaceous plants in tropical forest settings and the use of these plants by western lowland gorillas. From late 2012 to late 2018, I have split my time between Belgium and Africa. During that time I have conducted additional field work in Cameroon and DR Congo. I am now primarily based in Belgium where I keep fulfilling my responsibilities as Research Coordinator.

Extra activities

I am also affiliated at Ghent University as Research Associate.

Key publications

Willie, J., Tagg, N., Lens, L., 2018. Diversity and community composition of herbaceous plants in different habitat types in south‐east Cameroon. African Journal of Ecology 56, 312-322.

Tédonzong, L.R.D., Willie, J., Keuko, A.M.P., Kuenbou, J.K., Njotah, G., Tchamba, M.N., Tagg, N., Lens, L., 2018. Using abundance and habitat variables to identify high conservation value areas for threatened mammals. Biodiversity and Conservation 27, 1115-1137.

Ávila, E., Tagg, N., Willie, J., Mbohli, D., Farfán, M.Á., Vargas, J.M., Bonat, W.H., Dupain, J., Epanda, M.A., Luyten, I., Tedonzong, L., Peeters, M., Fa, J.E., 2017. Interpreting long-term trends in bushmeat harvest in southeast Cameroon. Acta Oecologica. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2017.09.007

Kühl, H.S., Kalan, A.K., Arandjelovic, M.,...., Willie, J., Wittig, R.M., Zuberbuehler, K., Boesch, C., 2016. Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing. Scientific Reports 6, 22219.

Tagg, N., Willie, J., Duarte, J., Petre, C.A., Fa, J.E., 2015. Conservation research presence protects: a case study of great ape abundance in the Dja region, Cameroon. Animal Conservation 18, 489-498.

Tagg, N., Willie, J., Duarte, J., Petre, C.A., Fa, J.E., 2015. Conservation research presence protects: a case study of great ape abundance in the Dja region, Cameroon. Animal Conservation 18, 489-498.

Tagg, N., Willie, J., 2013. The Influence of Transect Use by Local People and Reuse of Transects for Repeated Surveys on Nesting in Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and Central Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in Southeast Cameroon. International Journal of Primatology 34, 554-570.

Tagg, N., Willie, J., Petre, C.A., Haggis, O., 2013. Ground Night Nesting in Chimpanzees: New Insights from Central Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) in South-East Cameroon. Folia Primatologica 84, 362-383.

Willie, J., De la Peña, E., Tagg, N., Lens, L., 2013. Effects of abiotic factors on herbaceous plant community structure: a case study in southeast Cameroon. In: Herbaceous Plants: Cultivation Methods, Grazing and Environmental Impacts (Ed. F. Wallner). Nova Science Publishers, New York. ISBN 978-1-62618-729-0.

Willie, J., Petre, C.A., Tagg, N., Lens, L., 2013. Density of herbaceous plants and distribution of western gorillas in different habitat types in south‐east Cameroon. African Journal of Ecology 51, 111-121.