Around the time that Bob and Vidal were striving to learn more about ebony propagation, a random phone call in Cameroon would lead to a meeting with the ideal people to help them: Dr. Thomas Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Congo Basin Institute.
Tom is the founding director of the Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. Tom has spent more than 35 years in Cameroon researching tropical rainforests. He helped to create the Congo Basin Institute (CBI), a multi-institution forest and agroforestry research center that was formed to address sub-Saharan Africa’s pressing environmental and developmental challenges. Located in Yaoundé, the CBI campus is home to several research institutions, which include UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research (CTR) and Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES); the International Bilingual Academy/High Institute of Environmental Science (IBAY SUP); and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture — Cameroon (IITA).