Prof. Romulus Abila

Specialization: Ecologist

Mobile Number: +254 754455581, E-Mail Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I obtained an honours BSc. in Biological Sciences and an MSc in Ecology from Moi University, Kenya in 1992 and 1995 respectively and a PhD in ecological genetics from Maseno University, Kenya / Universitaat Konstanz, Germany in 2005 undertaking through a German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD) scholarship. My PhD focused on the role of Lake Victoria satellite lakes in the conservation of Lake Victoria cichlid fish genetic diversity.

Since 1993, I have carried out sustained ecological research in wetland ecosystems conservation for sustainable development and fisheries population genetics research that has incorporated local communities and students as integral partners in research. I have worked mainly in the Yala swamp wetland, Kenya’s biggest freshwater wetland.  To date, I have attracted 15 national and international research grant funding including the BP Conservation Programme, The Ibaraki Kasumigaura Prize, Rufford Small Grant, the COMSTECH – TWAS Joint Research Grant, the Kenya National Council for Science and Technology (Kenya/South Africa Collaborative Research Grant  (Grant No. SAK/2NDCALL/34), the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE), the British Ecological Society Grant for Scientists in Africa and the National Geographic Society (NGS) Explorers Grant. We are currently awaiting final response from the National Research Fund (NRF) for an interdisciplinary research grant submitted in February 2018. At Maasai Mara University I work with students and members of local communities in training on environmental sustainability and in tree planting and Narok town cleaning exercises as part of the Universities’ community engagement and outreach programmes.

I am the PI of the ongoing NGS research Mapping flow of ecosystem services, land use and harnessing of ecosystem services for environmental conservation and socio-economic transformation in the Yala swamp wetland, Kenya. The project aims at assessing the flow of ecosystem services, determining local indicators of climate change impacts (LCCI), developing and implementing a local community-driven and owned sustainable development programme and management plan based on knowledge of ecological status and biodiversity and harnessing the ecosystem services of the Yala swamp wetland.


  1. April 2018: Awarded the National Geographic Society (NGS) (Grant No. 422C – 18) for the research project Mapping flow of ecosystem services, land use and harnessing of ecosystem service for socio-economic development and transformation in the Yala swamp wetland, Kenya.Value of grant US $ 30,000.
  2. November 2015: Awarded the British Ecological Society Ecologists in Africa award ( Grant No. 5663/6707) for the research project Assessment of the genetic status of the naturalized rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss,Walbaum) in the anthropogenically impacted Mount Kenya drainage system. Value of grant    £ 8,000.
  3. 2014: Obtained the South Eastern Kenya University award in recognition of research grant awards 2013-2014 (Certificate awarded and 5000/- cash).
  4. 2013:   AwardedThe Netherlands Fellowship Programme to undertake the 3-week training course International Training of Trainers on Integrated Water Resources Management. Wageningen UR, Netherlands, 27th May – 14th June 2013. Value of grant    € 6,121
  5. 2012: Awarded TheCOMSTECH – TWAS Joint Research Grant Programmes for the research project Genetic diversity in the commercially exploited Lake Victoria ‘sardine’ Rastrineobola argentea (Teleostei, Cyprinidae), (Pellegrin, 1904) in Lake Victoria. Value of grant $13,500
  6. 2012: Awarded (together with other members of the School of Water Resources, Science and Technology) the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity development in Higher Education (NICHE) Programme for the project capacityBuilding to deliver competent human resources in integrated water resource management and aquaculture for equitable and sustainable livelihoods in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands and beyond. Project NICHE/KEN/158. Value of grant €1.3M
  7. 2011: Awarded the Kenya National Council for Science and Technology (Kenya/South Africa Collaborative Research Grant) )Grant No. SAK/2NDCALL/34) to undertake research on genetic diversity and Population structure of the African Catfish, Clarias gariepinus(Burchell 1822, Teleostei, clariidae) in Kenya and South Africa. Value of grant Ksh. 1.5M
  8. 2011: Awarded the Rufford Small Grant by Rufford Foundation (Grant No. 9875 – 1) to undertake research on biodiversity and the role of ‘dryland wetlands’ in semi-arid Mikuyuni – Mwitasyano river catchment in South Eastern Kenya as a source of livelihood’. Value of grant £ 6,000
  9. 2011: Awarded (together with other members of the School of Water Resources, Science and Technology) the Science, Technology and Innovation research grant by the Kenya National Council of Science and Technology to undertake research on ‘Promotion of surface runoff and rainwater harvesting for application in Aquaculture and horticulture development in Kitui District, Kenya’. Value of grant Ksh. 7M
  10. 2010: Awarded theSouth Eastern University College Competitive Research Grant to undertake research on ‘Bacterial analysis of shallow wells water within Kitui Municipality’. Value of grant Ksh. 300,000
  11. 2008: Awarded the swiss National Science Foundation/Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation Preparatory Grant (Grant No 1Z69Z0_123732)to visit the University of Basel to prepare a grant proposal for the ‘Research Partnership with Developing Countries call for proposals’.
  12. 2006: Awarded the British Ecological Society (BES) Small Projects Ecological Grants (SPEG) ( BES Grant No 945/1175)to undertake preliminary studies on the conservation genetics of endangered tilapia fishes from Lake Victoria at the University of Hull, UK. Value of grant £ 2,500
  13. 2005: Awarded The Ibaraki Kasumigaura Prize for the outstanding content of paper on lake conservation presented during the 11thWorld Lake Conference in Nairobi.   Value of grant JPY 300,000
  14. 2002: Awarded the DAAD Research Visit Fellowship to undertake9 months of training/research in evolutionary molecular biology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. (PKZ No. A/02/20914).
  15. 1997: Awarded the BP Conservation ProgrammeAward to undertake Socio-economic research in the Yala swamp wetlands. Value of grant £ 3,000 


Articles in Refereed Journals

  1. E. Barasa, S. Mdyogolo, R. Abila, J. P. Grobler, R. A. Skilton, M. N. Njahira, E. J. Chemoiwa, O. G. Dangasuk, B. Kaunda-Arara and E. Verheyen (2017)   Genetic diversity and population structure of the African catfish, Clarias gariepinus Burchell 1822) in Kenya: implication for conservation and aquaculture. Belgian Journal of Zoology147 (2): 105 – 127.,  
  2.  Chemoiwa E.J.; Abila, R, Njenga, E.W. and Barasa, J ( 2017) Morphological Characterization and Relationship between Morphometric Parameters and Standard Length in Barbus altianalis (Boulenger, 1904) Populations in Lake Victoria Drainage Basin, Kenya.  Annual Research & Review in Biology, 14(5): 1-11, 2017; Article no.ARRB.31984. ISSN: 2347-565X, NLM ID: 101632869
  3. Abila, R. al. (2016). Oil extraction imperils Africa’s Great Lakes. Science,354 (6312), 561-562.
  4. E. Barasa, R. Abila, J. P. Grobler, M. Agaba, E. J. Chemoiwa and B. Kaunda-Arara (2016) High genetic diversity, population structure and evolutionary change in Clariid catfishes of Yala swamp: Evidence from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Fish Biology, 89(3): 2557 - 2570. doi:10.1111/jfb.13150,,  
  5. J. Paul Grobler, Sinobongo Ndyogolo, James Barasa, Romulus Abila, and Andre F.J. Schlemmer (2015)   Genetic identification of invasive walking catfish C. batrachusintermingled with  African catfish C. gariepinusin South Africa. African Journal of Wildlife Research 45(1): 55–62 (April 2015)
  6. J. E. Barasa,R. Abila, P. J. Grobler, G. O. Dangasuk, M. Njahira and B.K. Arara ( 2014) Genetic diversity and gene flow in Clarias gariepinus from Lakes Victoria and Kanyaboli, Kenya.African Journal of Aquatic Science. 39(3): 287–293
  7. Nthenge A and R. Abila(2014) Dammed and Damned? Consequences of large scale land-use changes on the environment, livelihood and food security in the Yala swamp ecosystem, Kenya, East Africa. Int. Jnl. Adv. Res., 2(3), 1 – 13. ISSN 2320 – 9186.
  8. E. J. Chemoiwa, R. Abila, A. Macdonald, J. Lamb, E. Njenga, J. E. Barasa ( 2013) Genetic diversity and population structure of the endangered Ripon Barbel, Barbus altanialis(Boulenger, 1900) in Lake Victoria catchment, Kenya based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. J. Appl. Ichthyol. 29(2013), 1225 - 1233. doi: 10.1111/jai.12313.,
  9. Abila R, Muthangya M, Mutuku E, Mutati K, Munguti M, Musyoka CM (2012) Physicochemical and bacteriological quality assessment of shallow wells in Kitui town, Kenya. Env. Sci. Wat. Res 1 (2) 27 – 33.,
  10. Abila R(2011) Preliminary gut content and dentition analysis reveal subtle resource partitioning and feeding adaptations within a haplochromine cichlid community of a Lake Victoria satellite lake.  Afr. Jnl. Env. Sc. Tech. Vol. 5(6), pp. 457 – 463. June 2011.,
  11. Paul O. Angienda, Hyuk Je Lee, Kathryn R. Elmer, Romulus Abila, Eliud N. Waindi and Axel Meyer (2011).Genetic structure and gene flow in an endangered native tilapia fish (Oreochromis esculentus) compared to invasive Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Yala swamp, East Africa. Conservation Genetics.12:243–255.  DOI 10.1007/s10592-010-0136-2.,
  12. Abila, R, Walter Salzburger,Millicent F. Ndonga , Dickson Otieno Owiti, Marta Barluenga and Axel Meyer (2008)The role of the Yala swamp lakes in the conservation of Lake Victoria basin haplochromine cichlids: evidence from genetic and trophic ecology studies. Lakes and Reservoirs: Research Management13, 95 – 104. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1770.2008.00366.x,).
  13. Abila, R (2005)Biodiversity and sustainable management of a tropical wetland lake ecosystem: A case study of Lake Kanyaboli, Kenya. FWU – Water Resources Publications3, 1- 11. Cited by Wikipedia
  14. Abila, R, Marta Barluenga, Johanness Engelken, Axel Meyer and Walter Salzburger (2004)  Population –structure and genetic diversity in a haplochromine cichlid of a satellite lake of Lake Victoria.   Molecular Ecology(2004).13, 2589 –
  15. Romulus Abila (2002). Utilization and economic valuation of the Yala swamp wetland, Kenya. In: Gawler, M. (Ed.). Best practices in participatory management. Proceedings of a workshop held at the 2ndInternational Conference on Wetlands and Development, Dakar, Senegal.Wetlands International. PP96 – 104.  IUCN – WWF Publications No 65 Wageningen, The Netherlands.ISBN 90 -1882 – 0084.  ( Available online at:

 Scientific Reports and International Conference Proceedings

  1. Romulus Abila (May 2015)Profile of biological and physical resources of the Chyulu Hills. A consultancy reporttoAfrica Waste and Environment Management Centre, Nairobi for the consultancyKenya Water Towers Agency: development of Community Development Action Plans for Chyulu water towers.
  2. Romulus Abila (July 2014) Development of the environmental monitoring programmes in relation to solid waste to protect the environment.A consultancy report to Africa Waste and Environment Management Centre, Nairobi for the consultancy Provision of Consultancy Services for Review of Kisumu Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (KISWAMP) For Kisumu City.
  3. Romulus Abila et al., (2014)  Kenya- Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Aquaculture Sector Labour Market Needs Assessment. Reported of Labour Markets Needs Assessment conducted in collaboration with Q –Point, Netherlands, March 2014.
  4. Romulus Abila (2012)  Biodiversity and the Role of ‘Dryland Wetlands’ in Semi-Arid Mikuyuni – Mwitasyano River Catchment in South Eastern Kenya as a Source of Livelihood. Report submitted to Rufford Small Grant. April 2012. Available at:
  5. DAAD alumni expert seminar "Integrated Watershed Management for Sustainable Natural Resource Management and Conflict Resolution "Mbale, Uganda, 04th April 2011 to 14th April 2011. Report available at
  6. Romulus Abila, Angienda P.O. and Musyoka C.M. (2011)Harnessing the environmental services and promoting community-based conservation in the Lake Kanyaboli reserve for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Proceedings of the Bondo University College and Cape Peninsula University of Technology Joint Workshop on Food Security.
  7. Romulus Abila (2008)Are satellite lakes of Lake Victoria refuges for ‘lost’ tilapia genetic resources?. A Small Ecological Project Grant Report to the British Ecological Society.GrantNo.945/1175.,
  8. Romulus Abila (1998)An evaluation of community utilization, conservation and perception of a Kenyan wetland: A case study of the Yala swamp.Report Submitted to the BP Conservation Programme, UK.

Presentations in popular media

  1. Conservation of Akara Hills – Lake Kanyaboli ecosystem: A documentary video
  2. Abila, R (2015) Conservation of the Yala swamp wetland for sustainable development.