Much of what we learn – in the MPA field and in life in general – comes to us informally. We receive advice from a colleague, we figure out something ourselves, or we see what works through trial and error. This kind of knowledge can be invaluable. In our November issue, MPA News asked practitioners what they wished they had known when they got started in MPAs. We are continuing to ask that question.

This month’s response is from Arthur Tuda. Arthur is Head of Ecosystems and Landscape Conservation and Management at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Previously he served for five years as Assistant Director for Marine Protected Areas with KWS, and as a warden with Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve. He can be reached at

Practical training and experience are more important than formal education

By Arthur Tuda

As a graduate from university with a degree in Fisheries Sciences, I began work as an assistant warden in one of the MPAs in Kenya. Armed with extensive knowledge after four years at university, I thought I was quickly going to fix the many marine conservation problems I had read about.

The first lesson I learned was that not everybody was ready to accept my new school ideas. It dawned on me that most of my ideas had little to offer in terms of the real challenges managers faced in the MPA. Instead of dealing with marine ecological issues, for example, most of my time was spent resolving fishers’ conflicts and engaging with multiple stakeholders in my MPA. No previous training had prepared me for such encounters, and the diverse interests made decision-making complicated. I lacked the requisite competencies for good MPA management.

Although I had spent a great deal of time and investment in training in fisheries ecology, the skills that I learned on the job from MPA rangers were much more important. In many cases, these rangers did not have much formal training themselves. But they were highly skilled in the practical aspects of MPA management and in dealing with local social issues. In addition, the WIO-COMPAS certification program for MPA managers, which is run by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), helped me improve many of my competencies.