Sunday, July 12, 2015

Re a leboga (many thanks) from Botswana!

UT Study Abroad Botswana 2015 has come to an end. On Thursday the students all left for their respective destinations. Some have headed off to travel in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and further throughout Botswana, while others will be traveling in Europe and then back home to Texas.
We want to give a big thank you to everyone who participated and helped make these past six weeks as extraordinary as they were. In addition to the outstanding students, we would like to give thanks to the great people and organizations that made this trip possible:
Thakadu Bush Camp
 Thanks to Laurie and Jeanette for their gracious hospitality during our time in Ghanzi, as well as Riana, Sylvie and Kassie for all of their help.
For running our base camps in Ghanzi and Maun, and for providing their expertise and knowledge while on safari in CKGR and Moremi, thanks to Colin, Daryl, Zebra, Godwin, Stephen, and the rest of the Kitso staff.
For months of planning, advertising, and endless support.
Lastly, thanks to the UT Department of Geography & the Environment for their continued support in this program.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Whiteboard Presentations (Raeann, Shelby, and Alec)

Yesterday and today we had the last of our student whiteboard presentations for the program. Raeann presented yesterday on land use and resource conflicts existing in the Okavango Delta. Her study examined four villages in the Okavango and assessed their livelihood activities in conjunction with land use conflicts including the implementation of veterinary fences and human-wildlife conflict in the area.

Today Shelby presented on the success of community-based natural resource mangement (CBNRM) in Malawi and Botswana. CBNRM is based on the idea that communities should and could satisfactorily manage their own resources according to their local customs, knowledge, and technologies, however these projects do not often end in success.

Afterwards, Alec presented on the influence of CBNRM on traditional livelihood strategies in the Okavango Delta. His article examined three communities in the Okavango Delta and assessed their livelihood strategies before and after the implementation of CBNRM, with hunting and farming making up most of these strategies before and CBNRM employment the majority afterwards.

Raeann presenting on land use and resource conflicts in the Okavango.

Shelby with her presentation on CBNRM.

Alec with his presentation on livelihood strategies in the Okavango.

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.