Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Yesterday, we began the fieldwork portion of the Study Abroad program. This fieldwork not only gives us hands-on experience to teach us about the vegetation that make up a savanna, but it also collects data for the ongoing scientific research projects in the area on savanna ecosystem functioning. We have been learning to identify tree and shrub species, how to measure the structure of the plants in three dimensions, and how to take measurements of the ground and canopy cover. We have also discussed research and sampling design to understand the best practices for scientific studies like this one. Stay tuned for more posts -- student introductions are coming up next!

Hard at work on the first plot.

Elizabeth, Ke, Jakki, and Ryan measuring a small shrub on the plot.

Janna, Ryan, Katie, Ke, and Chad collecting data on ground cover.

Setswana Lessons

We were very lucky to have a native Setswana speaker, Tefo Setilo, teach us the most widely spoken language in Botswana! Tefo is enrolled in the 10th grade at Okavango International School and introduced us to greetings and other helpful phrases, numbers, useful verbs and nouns, and even sentence structure in Setswana. It has been fascinating to not only learn the local language, but to learn more about local culture from Tefo. 

Tefo teaching a Setswana lesson in our main camp tent.

Bonus fun photo: Alisha, Anneka, Celine, and Kennedy playing badminton in camp using the clothesline as a net.

Friday, May 26, 2017

First day in camp & bush walk

We arrived in Ghanzi yesterday after a six hour drive from Maun and have settled into camp here at Thakadu Bush Camp. During the drive yesterday, we stopped for lunch next to two enormous baobob trees, which we learned were thousands (!) of years old. After arriving in camp in the afternoon, we settled into our tents, played card games, and continued to get to know each other around the campfire. We will be staying here in Thakadu for three and a half weeks in tents while learning about the social and environmental dynamics of Botswana. We are all excited to begin the Study Abroad semester!

This morning, Professor Thoralf gave us a lesson about the geography of Botswana: the major towns, rivers, and environmental gradients that affect life throughout the country. We discussed some of the topics that we will be covering during the trip, including cultural groups, history of the country before and after independence, health, wildlife, and land management. Following the lecture, we went for a walk through Thakadu, where Professor Thoralf introduced us to the savanna environment - offering insights into topics ranging from insects and the tracks of animals to the uses of different trees and the dynamics of shrub encroachment. We are just now finishing up lunch and will be having Setswana lessons, the most spoken language in Botswana, this afternoon! Stay tuned for more photos and updates, which we will try to post at least every few days. (Though the internet can be more difficult to access and rely upon here, so we apologize for any delays.)

Enjoying lunch in the shade of a baobab.

We took turns riding in our guide's open-air vehicle.

Hanging out in camp for the first time.

Professor Thoralf gave us an introduction to the geography of Botswana in our main tent.

Heading off into the bush for the first time.

Professor Thoralf showing us some intricate weaver nests.

Julianne and Janna eagerly identifying species for their bird list.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Study Abroad Botswana 2017!

Hello from Botswana! Students are beginning to arrive in Maun, Botswana for this year's study abroad.

The program officially begins tomorrow, Wednesday, the 24th of May. On Thursday, we will head to our base camp in Ghanzi where we will be based for the first three weeks of the program. We have two student phones, which the students will be able to use freely once they get here. You can also call Professor Thoralf or TA Dan if you cannot get through (in case of emergencies ONLY).

Calling from the US to Botswana: 011 + 267 + phone number

Student Phone 1: 75 05 83 16
Student Phone 2: 75 05 83 18
Thoralf: 72 67 08 36
Dan: 72 31 70 52

Cell phone service in Botswana does not work as well as in the United States, so you might have to call a few times to get through. We have also experienced power black outs in the past which also means you might not be able to get through.

We will have a satellite phone ready once the program starts, which will be turned on every night between 7-8 PM (Botswana time, which Texas is currently 7 hours behind). This phone will work in case of power black outs and when we are on safari (where there is no phone service coverage). This phone is for absolute emergencies ONLY.

The satellite phone number: 00881631627587

We are all looking forward to the start of the program and will be posting updates here on the blog every few days or so.

Stay tuned!