DR post

So I know I’m really behind on this blog and for that I apologize.

First off, I’ll be catching up whenever I can, but to explain why I am so behind let me go into the basics of DR.

First off DR stands for directed research.  There were 3 projects, determining habitat quality for large mammals, determining the importance of incentives in conservation and mapping animal migration corridors through a group ranch surrounding a national park.

I chose the third and got it.  17 other people did as well, only 11 were accepted.  Go us!

Its a good group, lots of fun people and we work really well together.

So in a nutshell, I go out with a guide and a KWS guard (read: a man who can use a machine gun against elephants and buffalo lawfully).  Then we go to villages, schools, roads and any place we see wildlife and take a GPS point there.  We are going to map out half of an entire group ranch which is around 700 km sq.  That’s a lot of km sq.  anyways…

Its been really fun, on this DR i have:

met over 100 maasai including incredibly cute children.

Learned basic maasai words like hello (sopa), thank you (ashe oleng), and goodbye (sere).

Chased giraffes for over a kilometer.

Seen many dung beetles of various species.

Stood on top of a pile of dung 3 feet high (its the floor of bomas sometimes).

Eaten many peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

Been surrounded by 88 wildebeest with my driver asleep in the car 300m away.  That was fun.  Wildebeest will not charge humans in groups, but if spooked that can be kinda dangerous.

Seen gerenuk with 20 meters of me (no pictures for this one though).

Fallen in love with carrots.

Gotten a sunburn, ring tan, and magnificent farmers tan.

Finally, I have seen a cheetah, but not while I was on foot.  Still CHEETAH!  we are the only group to have seen a cheetah this semester.  It got on a tree.  so yeah.  CHEETAH.

done.

Have fun.

And yes I can receive emails, so if you have it email me, if not ask for it…

-S

I love you all and will see you soon.

p.s. I’m going to paris from Dec 11 to Dec 17 so that will be fun.  YAY!

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Obama

yeah buddy!

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Post Tsavo, Exams and NPS

Alright, its been around 3 weeks since I updated and for that I apologize. Many of you haven’t been able to hear about my semester. But I have my schedule in hand and will write down all that I have been doing. If I mention a name, you can look them up on the SFS website…

So I’ll just go in chronological order…

The 15th and 16th were just class, nothing too terribly interesting occurred. On the 17th, we went to Olosoito in the morning and Loitokitok in the afternoon. Olosoito was the hill we visited the first week. While there Patrick was stalked by a hyena, though it was scared off when we accidentally knocked some rocks down the hill. Loitokitok was fun; we just wandered around the town and then went to a bar. It was a lot of fun and I met some locals in town and talked to them about conservation strategies in the region.

On the 18th I had community service, on that day we planted trees with highschool students and planted tomato crops for the neary town. However, none of the mzungus were allowed to do any work, so we just sat around and watched African highschoolers do our work for us. I picked a really shy kid to partner with and that was a mistake. Most questions he just responded to with “Yes” and if he responded with more than that he wouldn’t speak loudly enough for me to understand (Damn you drumming). My highschooler had a crush on Haley because everytime I lent him my camera he would take pictures of her (badly angled). She found it very flattering I think. Other students had interesting interactions with the African students. Siena was asked about American sex practices and skeeved out by her partner. Manuel’s partner was very boisterous (like manny himself). After that we went back to camp, but got stuck in a giant hole in the road. I have pictures. We had to drive around the hole through farm fields. WOOO.

Exams were the next few days. Exams are hell. 3 in one day. Ugh. I had a giant hand cramp.

I managed to survive by joining a study group and we just crammed for 3 days straight. Again, 4.5 hours of exams in one sitting. SFS can be cruel at times.

The next day we left for NPS and got introduced to the site. Its beautiful here. Green and rainy, its so much nicer than KBC. The proximity to Nairobi is cool because we have slightly different sets of animals around us like Kongoni and Rhinos!  The first we were there I shaved a girls head down to a mohawk and shaved my beard down to a goatee.  The picture was before it got cleaned up a little…

Shaved first night of NPS

Our first day was a non-program day. We went to a grocery store in the morning and I split a wheel of cheese with my friend Mary. It was amazing. Dutch cheese. Gouda. Yum… After that ostrich farm. I rode an ostrich and ate an ostrich burger. The burger was pretty good, filled with onions and peppers. It came with delicious chips. It was also 3 birthdays, so we all pitched in to get them as drunk as possible (It worked…). About the ostrich ride. The bird was kind of worn down but he was more than strong enough to support my weight. I got videos and lots of pictures.

The next few days consisted primarily of classes and hanging out at KBC doing homework. One class consisted of practicing controlled burns. So we had cans filled with ½ diesel ½ petrol to set a plot on fire. We also had giant rubber mop/brooms to beat the fire out with. It was awesome.

We also went to Nairobi national park where I saw rhinos in the wild (not at a lodge). I also briefly saw a cheetah in cage, which will probably be my only cheetah of the entire trip. But not to worry, I’ve seen wild dogs. While we were at Nairobi np I got some chicken fingers, nothing like homes.

Because of the large amount of work I have (3 essays, 1 identification chart consisting of around 40 mammals and a final) I’m going to talk about expedition to Lake Nakuru later. But hopefully this keeps ya’ll interested for a while! Sorry for the delay.

Keep leaving me comments!

Family and friends, hope you enjoyed Halloween and hopefully your candidate wins the election.

S- I love you and miss you bunches, I’ll see you in Paris.

Kwaheri

-Spenser

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Tsavo and Beyond

So it’s been a while since I updated this blog but lets talk about what’s happened recently.

Tsavo?

Anyone heard of it? Ghosts and the Darkness? That’s where they have man eating lions. They are maneless and have specialized to hunt buffalo but when injured are known to attack humans. There were two in the 1890’s that attacked and killed over 130 people. So yeah…

We were prepped on what to avoid (Tall grass, lions, lions with injuries) and went on our way.

Did I mention we were camping there?

Not in cabins, but tents, 4 person tents holding 5 of us. No showers. No toilets. I’ll get to that.

So on our way in we had a lecture at the Shetani lava flow. The park itself is gorgeous but when hit with the stark contrast of black volcanic ash interspersed with green fycus tress it’s breathtaking. We were instructed to look for klippspringers, though I didn’t find any. We did see many lizards and a rock hyrax, the closest relative to an elephant (it looks like a guinea pig). Klippspringers are little antelope that have evolved to run on the lava flows easily. Tiny little hooves given allow them to run very quickly on the jagged rocks and gravel.

We had lunch at Mzima springs and went to go look for hippos (I was look for crocodiles). During lunch a monkey tried to steal from us, but on of my classmates, Ben, just picked it up and lobbed it into the bushes. The monkey didn’t try coming back… At the springs we saw many hippos lounging about and with a keen eye I spotted a croc in the distance. As we continued along the path I saw a small croc sunning itself on a rock much closer. We stayed there for maybe half an hour and I saw many more monkeys (Sykes and Vervets,) and was stalked by one very precocious vervet.

Anyways after that we just game drove for the rest of the day. We saw many mammals such as zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala etc.

The next day we had lectures in the Chyulu hills. Two in a row. It was sunshowering and 95 degrees out. It was miserable. Also, I got hit in the face by more than a few branches on the drive over. Luckily no horrific scars from Acacia thorns. Most of those hit my arms and hands. Then we went hiking on a monster of a hill that I barely made it up. I did, without falling significantly and took some fun pictures from the top. We kept teasing our KWS askari about how imposing he was with his AK-47. After that we went back to camp and had a few minutes before a game drive.

So I was very tired but decided at the last minute I wanted to go on the game drive and hang out with my friends. So I had changed into driving clothes (read: already very dirty clothes) and grabbed my camera. I’m walking towards the car when Daniel comes running up shouting at the top of his lungs, “EVERYONE GET IN THE CARS!! NOW!” Having been taught the evacuation procedure for invading elephants or man eating lions I literally jump into the nearest car. Everyone else runs in and the doors slam shut and Daniel peels out of there at probably 60 or 80 km per hour (20-40 over the speed limit). I have my head out the hatch looking for the animal in the camp when I notice an incredibly dangerous acacia branch (2” diameter or so with maybe 3” long spines coming out of it) and I begin yelling, “DOWN HEADS!” as we are supposed to to keep our eyes from being poked out. Well the two people in front of me turn to try and figure out what’s going on so I have to push them down and duck down quickly to avoid the branch. Incredible amounts of fun. Manuel needs to learn what down means. Daniel is just mumbling “oh my god” at this point and we ask him what was in the camp. He says nothing, but if we get to where we’re going fast enough we’re going to be the luckiest SFS students in years. So we careen down the Tsavo roads and finally pull up next to

Wild Dogs.

Wild dogs are very endangered. That we got to see them at all is amazing. We saw two. Two females lounging around, almost posing for the camera. I got around 40 shots of them before they got scared off. Beautiful mottled coats and funny round ears. Google them. You’re online now… Anyways, after the dogs we just drove back to camp (we passed by Daniel’s old house when he did research in Tsavo). I stayed up that night to listen to lions calling in the night. It was amazing. Oh yeah, that night around the fire I was eating my delicious beans when someone asked me to point my flashlight behind me. About a foot behind my chair was a baby black mamba. Now in terms of danger, babies are significantly worse than their parents because they can’t control their venom output, they just unload it all. So needless to say everyone concurrently freaked out and tried to get closer to see. I just sat motionless as Daniel tried to herd it away from the crowd. He ended up grabbing a stick and crushing its skull. Very exciting.

Also, pooping in a hole the size of an envelope sucks. I don’t care if it’s rugged and how they do it in the wild, toilets were man’s greatest invention. Screw fire and the wheel. People miss. ‘nuff said.

Next day we had lectures at camp about Tsavo and made groups where we proposed possible solutions to the problems facing the ecosystem around us. Snore. I hate policy. Lets talk about some fun ecology. Yeah I’m a nerd… After that we got Ice cream. Woohoo! I haven’t had that in a while. It was very low quality but at this point I’ll eat anything. It was like sweet ambrosia.

Anyways, next day we did animal habitat transects. We identified animals and the habitat they were located in and will be statistically assessing whether the distribution was significant. Love X2

On our transect we saw dik-dik. And Klippspringer. And warthog, baboon, giraffe etc. Other people saw an epic battle between lions and elephants. We tried to decide what to name a half dik-dik half klippspringer (Klippdik or Dikspringer your choice). Others saw a leopard carrying a kill into a tree. We almost saw a monitor lizard. He ran into a bush before anyone could get a good luck. Needless to say I was a little bitter, as were the other people in my car. We went the Chaimu lava cone and I hike up the gravel mountain. It was beautiful, I have pictures. I ran down the hill and because the hill was made of gravel, I more like skated down it. No pictures of that. I did get rocks in my shoes though. Go figure.

That night my wallet went missing. Couldn’t find it anywhere. This became a problem when I tried to pay for my lunch the next day in advance (buffets at lodges).

We went to Ngulia rhino sanctuary where we saw neither rhinos nor our guest lecturer. So that was cool. After that we went to a lodge where I had a buffet and we celebrated a friend’s birthday. We did see a rhino as it came up to the manmade water hole, but I didn’t have my camera with me. But that’s ok, I’m told we’ll see more in NPS. The lodge will lure animals for the tourists to look at by putting out salt licks, water holes and even legs of goats in trees to get leopards to come. If the food is stopped, leopards have been known to attack hotel staff. So, don’t make the animals dependent on you. My friend found my wallet in her tent; I had left it there playing cards. Oh and I gave a girl a concussion when I closed the hatch of my car. My elbow slammed down on her head and I felt huge amounts of guilt. She was/is ok though. Sorry Mary.

We got back to KBC the next day where and since then I have been having classes and doing lots of work. I have one more assignment left due this week (2 essays down, both over 4 pages long) and next week I have exams.

Today we went out to isnet where I interviewed farmers according to a questionnaire about human wildlife conflicts. It was really fun. I was really worried because I don’t want to offend people and to them I’m just a rich mzungu. But it wasn’t bad. We talked to 7 people. Beth was this very excitable Kamba woman, she was very excited to see us. Another farmer tried to get his wife to sell us some wickerwork, though none of us had money. Yet another man asked us for a present for the interview he gave. We tried to offer him a pen but I think he wanted money or something more substantial. We didn’t have anything, so we left teasing him that our friendship and gratitude should be gift enough and with that hopefully he will be able to remember us. Our guide Alex, met up with one of his friends on the walk back to the car and we were invited for tea (Chai/Shai) but when we got to his boma his wife wasn’t there so no one was gonna make it. It was a good thing because were supposed to leave then.

Things I’m craving: Barbecue sauce. Ranch Dressing. Red Bell Peppers. Potato chips. Chicken wings.

Alright everybody, that’s been my last few weeks. I hope everyone is safe and will write me soon.

S – I love you and am glad you’re having a good time.

Family – stay safe

Friends (BU and Austin) – don’t work too hard. Remember just because I have to work my ass of doesn’t mean you should. Take it easy. Do something ridiculous. Tell your friends.

oh p.s. I saw the Research assistant daniel do the gallon challenge.  1 gallon in 1 hour.  Don’t try it at home.  He was arguing a Maasai could do it because they are and I am not making this up “Raised on the dairy.”  Yes ger he said we are “raised on the dairy.”  He was successful, but unhappy about it.  Luckily he made 5000 ksh for it though.  Go him

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Past week or So

I have been incredibly busy recently.

My class work has really picked up and I feel like I’m never going to finisht the required reading (they are very numerous).  I have turned in 2 assignments so far have 4 essays assigned and my first round of exams is on Oct 26th.

Within the past week I have done transect walks and interviewed farmers.  We walked around with a local guide and asked farmers about the crops they grow and why they grow them.  It was fun talkingto the locals because they all found us so ridiculous and they act and think so differently from Americans.  It was so cool.

Also we went and did ecological assessments the next day.  I had the same guide, who was very nice, and we walked over 3km looking at fun soil.  Also I saw some hairs and had more thorns stuck in me then ever before.

I’ve been doing laundry and I suck at it, all my socks are still brown!

We went to a game lodge on Saturday and tried to be tourists (as part of a class).  We went to a cultural manyatta (a boma or village) where the locals tried to tell us many exaggerations about the maasai and sell as much as they could… i didn’t even bring money, so I couldn’t even be pressured to buy anything.  Also, my friend Liz and I got asked if we were related, so apparently we look like brother and sister, but really I think they just have trouble distinguishing one mzungu from another.

We then went to the lodge itself and got a crazy expensive but amazingly delicious buffet!  Things I ate: Black Olives, Chicken, Lamb, Roast Beef, Chocolate!!!, Mousses, peas, more olives ( a ton of them, i really enjoy them) and of course the best part, CHEESE!  There was cheddar, brie, baby gouda, pili pili (a soft goat covered in ground black pepper), and garlic roule.  I just about died.  IT was so good.  then I went to the bar, had a beer and jumped in a pool.  Yes standing water in africa not filled with a ton or deadly, flesh-eating, diarrhea giving parasites.   It was awesome.  Then we saw a close up of a hippo and I got some good shots of birds.

Other than that I have been running still and trying to get in better shape.  I’m up to about 2 laps around the camp now so go me.  I am almost done reading my books, so that will give me more reason to do homework.

Earlier in the week we had community service where I dispensed Vitamin A to screaming children.  they hated it, it was like eating a water balloon of medicine.  If they resisted too much I had to cut the pill open and pour it directly into their mouths as their mothers kept them pried open.  Some of the girls were weighing babies and there are some really great pictures of our work there, I will try to get them to S to upload.

Seen some cool bats and hyenas and today for a nature walk we saw (and had to put down because of a fatal-injury, we were all very sad) a white-tailed mongoose.

Mom, Dad and Sis I love ya’ll and have been glad to Im.

My faithful friends, should you wish to talk to me, I am online most nights from 10-11 at my time (not sure exactly of the conversion… 9 hours?).  Also keep posting, its fun to talk to ya’ll!

Uhhhh yeah, that’s it here.   Talk to ya’ll later

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Kleptoparasitism

So I don’t know if i mentioned this in my last post, but we were kleptoparasitized by a Savannah Baboon in Amboseli!

He must have weighed 100 pounds or so and stole an orange people from a friend of mine.

I was told to stand my ground and look like it didn’t want to fight me… It didn’t because other people ran from it and left their food on the ground.  But still, scary, I’ll try to get pictures up soon!

Hope everyone is safe and not being attacked by baboons!

-S

Edit

So Apparently my last post didn’t go up so here’s a summary

I went to amboseli, we had a lecture on Island Biogeography which my excellent ecology professors last semester prepped me for.

It was so much fun!  I saw my first hyena and a hyena that was fishing!  and that’s about it

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Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is heaven.

Just go there.

I spent 3-4 hours with my torso sticking out of a roof hatch driving around 392 km square of game reserve.  they had swamps and woodlands and all sorts of game.

Pictures to come below here.

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