Saturday, August 10, 2013

A few photos of Kigoma, Lake Tanganyika, and chimp tracking

Notice how close we are to the baboons. 

The female named Golden.

Hello from Uganda!
These pictures are from our Study Abroad Trip in Kigoma. We were able to take a side trip for two days to Gombe National Park. Gombe National Park is the first reserve started by Dr. Jane Goodall and it is where she began to habituate the chimps.  Luckily, we were able to track in the afternoon upon arrival and early morning the following day. We were fortunate to have an exceptional track on both days. On the first day we followed Golden's family. Golden, who has a baby, met up with her two sisters' that also have young chimps. They sat with us for hours as they groomed, played, and ate. It was remarkable.
We were able to stay at Dr. Jane's homestead while we were there. The accomodations are rustic; it is an open air concrete structure with an out house. You can see her collection of chimp skeletons pictured above.
Lake Tanganyika also proved to be impressive. The second deepest lake in the world looked like an ocean.  It is clean, and not over fished, like Lake Victoria.
I also included my favorite picture of the Berry College students with the kids from Sanganigwa Orphanage. This photo was taken on our last night when we gave the children gifts and a donation for the school.
Enjoy and sorry for the delay! More field pictures to follow!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Getting settled and getting started with research in Uganda!

The first round of water quality data collection began in July. Above, my field assistant, Emily, and I are using some field equipment at Mabira Forest. Emily is currently a senior undergraduate student at Makerere University. 

A meeting with project coordinators, professors, and students at Makerere University.  I'm learning that lengthy formal meetings, welcoming events, and remarks are an integral part of the Ugandan culture. 

Hello from Uganda!
I shifted from Tanzania to Uganda during the third week of July. Julie and I found an apartment next to Julie's sister, who is concluding her Fulbright Research in East Africa.  The apartment was too far out of town, so we recently went on an apartment hunt and found a much cheaper, and better location that is more near the City Center and public transport. 

Every day life is challenging, dangerous, and rewarding.  Life here is hard. It takes an incredible amount of time to do anything.  The most simple of tasks can take days. For example, I had to print, sign, scan, and email a document back to the US.   This task that may have taken 10 minutes at home, took a week and several trips to town due to the many technological challenges that had to be overcome. Life here is slower, for sure, and I can say that after three months I still haven't adapted to the pace. 

I have met with the professors at Makerere University, and they have been most accomodating with lab/office space.  So far, I have taken on one graduating senior, Emily, who is pictured above in the field with me. She is vibrant, confident, intelligent, witty, eager, and well spoken.  I will be including an additional graduate student in my water quality research come September.  

I was able to get into the field twice already to capture the July and August signatures at each of the forest reserves.  Since my last visit in 2010,  I had forgotten about their independent beauty and uniqueness.  From the initial data sets, the water quality at each of the forest reserves is considerably lower than what I would have estimated.   All of the forests face pressures from human encroachment like deforestration, soil erosion, pesticide application,  and cattle use.  I'm hoping that the baseline data set that I'm collecting can be used to promote conservation and better land use. 

In addition to the water quality research, I will  begin in September to collect pioneering data on air quality in Kampala and Entebbe.  The air quality is so apparently poor, especially in the City Center, that I anticipate the results to be shocking.  In addition to the old cars that fill the streets, the commonplace burning of plastic and trash add a film of particulate matter over the horizon daily.  If you are in a taxi during traffic, for example, you are sure to leave weezing, lethargic, and with a wicked headache.  There are currently no air pollution regulations, standards, or policies in place for Uganda. I imagine the air is similar, or worse, to that before the Clean Air Act was implemented in the US. 

Lastly, the research for Mt Elgon is still pending. We are hoping to meet our colleagues in the field sometime in the Fall. The research permitting for Kenya will prove to be tricky, but hopefully it's nothing that a little bribe money can't take care of.

I'm having some trouble loading pictures onto my computer because of space.  Once this is resolved I will post more of the field work and the individual forest reserves.

All the best,
Dr. Jo

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A few photographs from Tanzania...

A Serengeti sunset.

A replacement for Rocky dog...

                                                                A few from Zanzibar.

                                                   Teaching geology in a primary school.

                                              A lesson on volcanoes at a secondary school.

                                                  The largest volcano in Africa- Kilimanjaro!
                                                                   Maasai Women.


                                                Learning to cook traditional Tanzanian food.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Standing on the shoulders of giants..

Hanna Jackson, pictured above, is one of my undergraduate geology students after a cave field trip that I ran for Environmental Geology.  

I am so excited to announce that Hanna was awarded an International Programs Research Award that will fully fund a water quality research project on Lake Victoria that we will be working on  together during the summer. Hanna Jackson will be participating in Trip 1: Geology of Tanzania- Serengeti/Kilimanjaro/Zanzibar Circuit and then leave for her research expedition in Uganda. 

Being a researcher is hard enough if the odds are in your favor.  The most recent statistics  reveal that in the field of geology less than 10% of women make it to a PhD; the amount is even smaller if you consider the percentage of those women who actually become tenured and permanent fixtures in geology departments.  I would not have become a researcher if it hadn't been for my colleague and dear friend, Dr. Mary Anne Holmes from University of Nebraska, giving me some positive encouragement during my Masters Degree program. And my research in Africa would only still be a dream without the help of Dr. Julie Pynn. I hope that  if we continue to support women in science that we can create a more balanced representation of women in the field of geology. Now, it is all up to Hanna to become a lifter and to share the dream with someone else....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Riots Happening in Mabira Forest Reserve

One of the forests (Mabira on the map to the left) that I will be studying has currently ungone hostile take over by neighboring sugar cane farmers. The Mabira Forest reserve is the largest of the four forest reserves at 32,000 hectares.  It is located east of Kampala and is a semi-deciduous forest with hills and valleys containing papyrus swamps.   Although a forest reserve since 1932, the Ugandan government and foreign developers have pushed plans to clear-cut of one-third of the land for a sugar cane plantation.  Although an on going battle, politic unrest has not occurred since 1997. In addition, the forest has been the site of illegal loggers. Fuel, needed for everyday life, is sparse in Uganda.  Large trees are often harvested and made into charcoal- a primary source of heat in Uganda. 
Finding the balance between preservation, sustainability, and human life continues to be complicated. I am hoping that the baseline data I collect, and the ideas about water quality that Julie communicates to the area youth and stake holders, with help highlight the need for green space and its conservation. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What Will You Be Doing In Africa?

Hello friends,
I've been asked by many to set up a blog to track my journey in Africa. Although I don't depart until May, I figured it would take me all of four months to figure out how this technology worked and that I might get started. For those that know me well I am not one to wait until the last minute to do things. This, a perfect example.
My research in Africa has stemmed from a friendship with my colleague Dr. Julie Pynn.  For the past decade Julie, a conservation psychologist,  has worked in East Africa. She conducts interesting research on youth development and relationships of people to the environment. Julie and I first struck up a relationship at the gym where we live in Rome, GA. I think it was when she figured out that I was a Yankee from Detroit that she was first clued into my coolness.  Julie knew that I had lead several study abroad trips to Iceland and had asked if I wanted to collaborate with her on a student trip to Italy. That trip ran during the Summer of 2010. The following year she invited me to co-teach another study abroad trip to Tanzania.  Prior to that invitation I had never expected to visit Africa so soon in my life. I jumped at the chance. Julie also suggested that I add to a research project she began during her Fulbright looking at biodiversity of forests in Uganda. With her help, I was able to put together a small internal grant that allowed me to spend two weeks collecting water quality data in Uganda. That data provided the background of the research I am about to embark upon.
So what will I be doing?  The first part of the trip will be a study abroad trip to Tanzania where we will go on a safari in the Serengeti, visit the largest volcano in Africa- Mt. Kilimanjaro  and then visit an island called Zanzibar where we will focus on coastal processes. After that trip concludes, another group of Berry College students will meet us in Moshi for two weeks. After the student groups leave, Julie and I will be headed to Uganda where we will be working on research for our National Geographic Society Conservation Trust Grant and for my Fulbright Research Scholarship. The focus of our research is to look at four forest reserves outside of the capital city, Kampala. These forest reserves were first designated in 1992. Since then, the population of Uganda has grown by 20% per year. The forests are quickly being destroyed as population encroaches. Although scientists have looked at the biodiversity of these forests, they have not looked at any of the river systems within the forest reserves. This is important because they are part of the Lake Victoria watershed. (Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world). In fact, other than the Nile River, little research has been conducted on river systems within Uganda. I will be collecting data that will be applied to what is called a Water Quality Index. There are nine variables (temp, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, fecal coliforms, etc.) that have weighted values. Using this system one number can be developed to communicate water quality. For example, a value of 99 means excellent water quality or 50 means poor. Once we have this monthly value for each forest, Julie will then use the WQI value to communicate ecosystem health to the locals and stakeholders.  I am hopeful that with my research team of graduate students from Makerere University that we will be able to visit each of the four forest reserves once a month for a year. This baseline data will then help to indicate long term environmental degradation or improvement.
We have so much to do before we leave. Although I've traveled internationally several times, I have not moved to a country for such an extended time. For now, I will keep adding to my to-do list.
Let the count down begin!

Reflecting on past trips...

 The above three pictures are from the last trip to Africa in Summer 2011.