Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson is a medical anthropologist and conservationist. She is also a published scientific illustrator and doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences at Stony Brook University. As such, she works to communicate science through art, research and resolve human-wildlife conflict and provide humanitarian aid.

Thompson conducts her research in villages within the dry forests and salt-water floodplains of Western Madagascar. There she works to understand the social, cultural and economic factors that drive rural people to poach animals, both for profit and subsistence. Thompson believes that providing a voice for marginalized native populations is a vital part of conservation both in Madagascar and around the world. Her work is part conservation biology and part advocacy. Her research allows her to understand the priorities of local people and wildlife populations; her art helps her communicate this information to wider audiences, from Malagasy villagers to American millennials alike. 

Additionally, Thompson is the founder and executive director of the Amani Foundation, which benefits and runs Amani Children’s Home in Mto wa Mbu, a town in northern Tanzania. Home to nearly 50 children, this award-winning children’s home serves as an extension of the social welfare department and community a resource center. As a 2017 Safina Center “Kalpana Chawla ‘Launchpad’ Fellow,” Thompson began an educational program at the home, blending science lessons with art to teach children about local ecosystems and their own role in conservation. Thompson also established the first public library in Mto wa Mbu and developed a “traveling projector program” that brought science documentaries and educational films–mostly about local wildlife–to remote Maasai villages across the Moduli District. Her educational programs are now being carried out by Tanzanian wildlife management volunteers.

As a Fellow this year, Kate plans to continue to use illustration and design to make nature education accessible across language and educational barriers. Both in Madagascar and Tanzania, language and literacy can be a major barrier to sharing scientific knowledge. Published wildlife guides and materials tend to be in the language of the tourists (French and English, respectively). Thompson plans to refine her abilities as an illustrator and work with local translators to design art and identification guides that inform, inspire, and instill an appreciation for wildlife and the will to conserve it.

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Amani Children’s Home

Notable works, coverage and accomplishments

(cover photo and headshot: Tanzania. Courtesy Kate Thompson)