Science in progress

So I’ve now spent three days out in the field collecting data for my masters thesis. The field work is exhausting. The sun is scorching hot and the work is pretty repetitive but it feels good to be out and about working and actually making progress.

I’m sorry I haven’t written a nice, concise description of just why I’m here and what I’m doing, and unfortunately I’m not going to be able to right now. I think if I yawn any more I’m going to split at the cheeks. I’ve been getting up and out before 7 every day this week and working straight either outside on data collection or inside on data entry and preliminary analysis even after the power goes off at 10. It’s starting to wear on me. I promise to send a better description soon.

In short though these last three days I’ve set up 6 transects ranging from 100 to about 130 meters long. I’m hoping to triple, maybe quadruple (yikes!) that number by the end of next week. The transects are all in a special habitat defined and named for its “black cotton soil” which is relatively young and originated from a volcanic lava flow. This habitat is dominated by a species of Acacia tree called drepanolobium, we just call them dreps. You can see a picture of the dreps I’ve been working on above, yikes they’re thorny!

Do you see those dark balls on the branches? they almost look like golf balls? These are special structures that house one of 4 different species of ant that shelter in the dreps and eat nectar from the trees in return for offering protection from herbivores (generally, there are a couple of really interesting cheaters that are exceptions). I’ve been learning to identify the four species of ants and that might turn into one of the interesting features of my study… or perhaps a side paper. We’ll see.

That long yellow line in the picture is my tape measure, charting out the 100 m but the smaller pink line is a cable tie marking a tree branch. We’re hoping that coming back 3 months from now we’ll be able to get a good sense of how much growing has been done and with any luck some of the trees will have grown more than others… we’ll see. Stay posted (I know, thrilling isn’t it haha). But the work is interesting and all in all it should be a really cool project.

Being out in the field has also given me the chance to see some cool wildlife. Lots of elephants and antelope of all kinds. Huge giraffes and herds of zebra. I even saw a beautiful big leopard the other day.

I’ll try to send a more detailed update sometime soon.

I miss you all!

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