Monday, July 6, 2015

More Guest Lectures!

Today we were visited by Tshepiso, who runs a local ecotourism business. Her talk covered the economic and cultural significance of tourism in Botswana, the second largest industry in the country. She also discussed the goals of ecotourism and its rising popularity in the global tourism industry.

Yesterday morning we had a talk from Elmar who studies dragonflies and damselflies in Botswana. His work uses these species as bioindicators, useful for the rapid assessment of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem health. After the presentation we took some sampling nets down to the river to try our hand at dragonfly sampling.


Tshepiso presenting on tourism in Botswana.

Elmar presenting on the use of dragonflies as bioindicators.

Alec and Mike waded into the water to try their hand at catching dragonflies.

Zoi takes a turn at macroinvertebrate sampling.


Elmar holds one of the common damselfly species of the region.

 Cullen and Sophia caught some nice specimens.

Basket Weaving

On Saturday, we visited a local women's basket weaving cooperative in town. We took lessons on basket weaving and by the end of the day had made our own baskets to take home with us. We also learned about the veld products used for basket production and the significance of different weaving patterns.

Hard at work on our baskets.

Getting there...

A local artisan decorates hollowed-out gourds using only a soldering iron. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Whiteboard Presentations (Kevin and Alec)

In the afternoon yesterday, we had two more student presentations from Kevin and Alec. Kevin spoke on the significance of African lions to the financial viability of trophy hunting, focusing on five southern African countries: Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. His article examined the economics surrounding hunting safaris in these five countries, assessing the amount of income earned and the costs incurred by these operations. With some operations charging $3,000 a day for a three week excursion, the trophy hunting industry has a significant economic influence in southern Africa.

Alec presented next on the impacts of human sprawl in wilderness buffer zones, regions that are established in the surrounding areas of national parks and game reserves. His article focused on the Wildlife Management Areas associated with the Moremi Game Reserve, located in the Okavango Delta of northern Botswana. A recent increase in population within the region has led to conflicts over resources between those who use this land as a source of livelihood, primarily the local communities and tourism companies.

Kevin discussing the financial viability of trophy hunting in southern Africa.

Alec speaking on the influence of human presence within Wildlife Management Areas of the Okavango.

Guest Lectures!

Yesterday we had the first of our series of guest lectures while stationed at Camp Kitso in Maun. Local crocodile researcher, Sven Bourquin, visited us to talk about his work on nile crocodiles in the Okavango. His team has extensively studied crocs in order to gain a better understanding of their diets, growth rates, and movement patterns.

Afterwards, UT Geography graduate student Robert Bean gave a talk on the geography and geology of the Okavango Delta. His talk covered the formation of the delta (technically an alluvial megafan) dating back millions of years ago.

How to catch a croc...

Robert discussing the geology of the Okavango Delta.

Camera Traps (Mababe)

While on safari we set up our camera traps around our campsite to see what kind of activity there was at night. Unfortunately the elephant that walked through our camp dodged out of view of our cameras, but we did manage to catch a couple of spotted hyenas!

A spotted hyena walks in front of our camera trap along the Khwai River.

Whiteboard Presentations (Kori, Sara, and Ashley)

Happy fourth of July from Maun, Botswana! There are sadly only a few more whiteboard presentations to go before the end of the program. Here are some more from our trip into the Delta.

Kori presented on community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) in western Botswana. Her presentation covered two main approaches to participatory conservation, people-centered and planner-centered and discussed the level of empowerment that communities are given through these two strategies.

Sara examined the influence of rangeland policy decisions in the Lake Ngami area. Her article found that measures taken to reduce overgrazing and overstocking of livestock in the Ngamiland district actually led to increased land degradation in the communal grazing areas that were established as a part of the Tribal Grazing Land Policy (TGLP).

Lastly, Ashley spoke on human-elephant conflict in northern Botswana. Her article examined elephant movements alongside the spatial arrangement of human settlements to determine measures that could be taken to reduce the damage done by elephants. The authors suggested the use of fences to reroute elephant movements, as well as the use of chili peppers to discourage elephants and protect crops.


Kori with her presentation on CBNRM.

Sara with her two whiteboards on TGLP (including a very nice map of the Ngamiland District).

Ashley with her presentation on elephant crop-raiding in northern Botswana.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Whiteboard Presentations (Erik, Sophia, and Ashley)

While on safari we had several whiteboard presentations during our downtime in camp. In Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Erik presented on the implications of sport hunting for large carnivore populations in southern Africa. As sport hunting is an inherently risky conservation strategy, numerous precautions are needed in order to maintain sustainable populations.

Sophia also presented while we were in Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Her presentation covered the dynamics of multiple variables in response to land use change in the Kalahari Desert. She covered a range of topics including natural resources, environmental controls, and social factors. When studying land use and land cover change, the importance of considering both spatial and temporal variation was emphasized.

While in Mababe (our basecamp in the Okavango Delta), Ashley presented on the impact of veterinary ranching fences on the wildlife of Botswana. These fences were erected to protect valuable grazing land for cattle ranching in Botswana from diseases spread by wildlife.The economic and cultural significance of Botswana cattle was discussed alongside the impact of these fences on crucial wildlife migration routes.

Erik with his presentation on trophy hunting in southern Africa.

Sophia with her presentation on spatiotemporal variability in the Kalahari.

Ashley with her presentation on the effects of veterinary fences in the Okavango Delta.