Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Field Work: Part II

As you know our field work thus far has consisted mostly of vegetation sampling on areas cleared manually but we have recently transitioned to researching in three new areas:
1. Areas cleared by fire: fire is an important disturbance in any ecosystem, but especially in a savanna like we are in. We are surveying twelve plots which are burned at different frequencies, from yearly burns to only have been burned once to watch for how the vegetation changes over time. There are also certain plots fenced off so grazers, another important disturbance, aren't lurking variables.
2. We're also changing things up by doing longer transects, so we can look at a larger area faster. While the fire plots are 30x10 meters, the transects are 2 meters wide and extend 100 meters. We're looking at the total biomass on the transect, used to calculate how much plant matter is available for browsers (animals that eat off trees and shrubs, like kudu). We're also cutting grass and weighing it for the grazers like wildebeest and cattle.
3. We've also been sanding down mid sections of trees with a power sander to count the rings. Each ring on a tree represents one growing cycle, and here that's defined by the dry and wet seasons of the year. 
4. We also decided to have a BBQ this past Saturday, that we all organized after a long week of fieldwork.
Tree ring counting after it was sanded.
In line for the BBQ.

Ghanzi Agricultural Show

This past Thursday our group was able to 

attend the 2019 Ghanzi Agricultural Fair, and as a Texas native, I have to say— it gave the Texas State Fair a run for its money. 

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the familiar sounds (and smells) of chickens, goats and cattle. We decided to take a look around, and while we couldn’t find a Ferris Wheel or anything resembling Big Tex, we were able to find a vendor who sold calculator watches and yo-yos. The watch lasted me an entire 24 hours before the band broke, but it has still proved to be useful for calculations in the field. 

Our next stop was the Ministry of Education’s Youth Education booth that displayed artwork and science fair experiments done by local high school students from the Gantsi Senior Secondary School. We met Samuel from Gantsi Senior Secondary who explained his study of eggshells as a breakthrough wastewater treatment option, and of morama beans as a viable solution to malnutrition across Africa. My favorite piece of art was a drawing of the Botswana Boomslang, a venomous snake native to sub-Saharan Africa. Our class refers to ourselves as the ‘Boomslang Gang’ here in Botswana, so the drawing filled me with nostalgia thinking of all the incredible memories we’ve made during our time in Ghanzi so far.

By then it was mid-afternoon and our stomachs were craving our usual mid-lecture afternoon cookies so we moved along to the concession stands. They didn’t have any funnel cakes or turkey legs, but I was more than pleased with the soft serve ice cream cone and the boerewor roll that I ate. Some other delicacies that were consumed by the group included cappuccinos, pancakes, chips (french fries), donkey meat and fat cakes (a spherical form of fried bread that has become a fan favorite here.) 

We ended our day at the Cheetah Conservation Botswana booth where Sarah, George and I had the honor of getting our faces painted like cheetahs. We learned that the global cheetah population has gone from 100,000+ in 1900 to roughly 6,700 in 2019. We also got to hear firsthand about the dynamics between cheetah conservationists and farmers in Botswana.  

Peace n love, 

Madi B 


Samuel’s experiment
Step 1 of the face painting process (ft the 

calculator watch) 


Three cheetahs (Madi, George and Sarah) trying to disguise themselves as longhorns. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Meet the student!

Hello all!

I am a third year biology and environmental science (geography) major from Arlington, TX. I chose to come to Botswana to explore my passion for field work and learn first hand about the interactions between people and their environment. On a less serious note, I’m also excited to try the different game that can be found on the ranch we are staying at, and to have some up close wildlife encounters. Back in Austin, I am involved with the Campus Environmental Center, where I am a green events meeting chair, as well as the club soccer team, where I play winger and hold the club’s webmaster position. Finally, I’d like to thank my parents, Keith and Jennifer Williams, as well as my grandparents, Gene and Carolyn Lockhart, for their support of my attendance of this trip. 


Wesley Williams

Meet the student!

Hi, my name is Rose Eichelmann and I’m a second year Sustainability Studies major. My specific interests lie in resource management and wildlife conservation. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for the past six months, and here I am at last typing this post from my tent in a remote desert campsite. This trip has felt quite surreal so far but I think I’m finally getting acclimated to camp life and having to pick dirt out of my nails every other hour. I look forward to learning about the human-wildlife interactions within Botswana as well as the social and environmental implications of tourism and various conservation efforts in the country. I am extremely grateful to be a part of such a unique opportunity, and I would like to thank my parents for always supporting my passions and being my biggest fans. Shoutout to Dr. Meyer for creating such an awesome program and giving us all the experience of our lifetimes!

Visit to D’Kar

Last week during our student lectures, we discussed the important and complicated subject of human rights and cultural preservation, focusing mainly on that of the San people of Botswana. So on July 23, we took a trip out to D’Kar, a small settlement about a 25-minute drive from our camp here in Ghanzi, to visit the D’Kar museum and its partner organization, the Kuru Art Project. The museum was an important opportunity to gain a better understanding of the history of the San, their culture, and what the future holds for the community. Partnered with the museum was the Kuru Art Project, which is a nonprofit project sponsored in part by a community trust called the Kuru Development Trust. The Kuru Art Project is currently supporting about 20 San artists from the Naro and Duci San communities living in D’Kar. It’s made up of a print studio, painting studio and gift shop, where visitors can buy the artists’ work. The visit to D’Kar allowed for a deep discussion back at camp. The history of the San, like that of many indigenous cultures around the world, is not unfamiliar. The struggle to preserve a culture and language, and yet the inevitable change that must be faced with the passing of time has no easy or consequence-free solutions. It’s an ongoing process. There have been mistakes made and there are those working towards solutions. Hopefully, through an open and inclusive dialogue, there will be a place of peace in that struggle.
The groups visit to D’Kar.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Hey Everyone! 
We're getting hot and sweaty with field work here at Thakadu Bush camp. We're measuring woody species for their biomass and comparing our measurements to digital models of the plots. We're also doing this to see how much wildlife these areas can support, a.k.a. carrying capacity. On July 19, we pulled out a 69 kilogram (152 lb.) Tuber to do some research on how different plants survive arid conditions. It tasted sweet, dirty, and very bitter like a vitamin gummy you found on the floor. We also found a blind snake (that's actually a legless lizard) who was super adorable but not happy to see us (we released him that afternoon). To make our time more interesting is the field, we talk in accents while taking measurements (Josh had the best ones). We also play music and take cookie breaks about halfway through a plot. Fortunately, the cookies taste better than the tuber. We'll keep you updated on the results of our research. Hook 'Em!https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1SZDAzhQEro98I4pjsRiHJA-p_n_PeMCC


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Meet the student!

Howdy, my name is Carlie, I’m a third year environmental science student on the biology track. I’m studying abroad in Botswana because I love the outdoors and I want to learn to apply environmental science in the field. I’m so excited to be going on this adventure, to gain field experience, and to go on safari in a few weeks. Since arriving in Africa I have learned that:
- Ostriches are so much bigger than you think
- Wildebeest are so much smaller than you think
Zip-off pants are not only functional, but also a fashion statement
- Rooibos tea is good any time of the day or night 

Thanks mom and dad for being super cool and generous and getting me all the way to Botswana, say hi to the dogs for me. 



Meet the student!

Hello, my name is Zachary Hopkins and I am going into my senior year at the University of Texas. I am getting my degree in Sustainability Studies with a focus on natural resource management. I feel very glad to have been accepted to the Botswana field program, and I’m excited to spend the next 6 weeks in the amazing vastness of this country. One thing I’m excited to learn on this trip is how to define a cap on natural resource usage that allows for maximum urban development without being detrimental to the environment. I’m thankful for my parents supporting me on this trip and to everyone behind the scenes for making it run smoothly.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Soup Time!

On the Botswana program, we learn new things and explore new places nearly every day. Still, there are some routines that never break, like fires in the chilly mornings and evenings, swapping sandals for boots after dark, and Dr.Meyer opening lecture with his signature, ‘Alright folks!’ By far the most important of these camp constants is Soup Time.

Every night at 7:00pm, Stephen, the head of camp operations, rings the bell to announce that soup is ready. Everyone shouts: ‘Soup time!’ We run to line up behind the steaming pot. Students butter their bread and some heat their soup with pepper and peri-peri sauce. Although dinner is served roughly half an hour later, it’s well understood that soup is truly the main course.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed 7 different soups. Last Thursday, our first night in camp, we were introduced to Soup Time with a warming barley soup. Friday, we were treated to a creamy corn chowder. Saturday night’s red lentil celery combination delighted and excited, followed by a cozy tomato soup Sunday. Served Monday was a French onion inspired lentil. A textured curried turmeric graced our bowls (and hearts) Tuesday, cementing its spot as a camp favorite. A comforting mushroom blend on Wednesday rounded out a full week of Soup Time.

We’re all looking forward to so many more exciting adventures here in Botswana. But we also look forward to 5 more weeks of Soup Time and all the flavors we’ve yet to explore!
Wesley, improvising a soup bowl.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Meet the student!

Hello from the bush!

My name is Casey and I’m a senior studying environmental science and geography. I’m so excited to be in a new country and to learn about the unique land and habitats that sustain such amazing people and wildlife. I can’t wait to further explore this beautiful country and eat plenty more new foods! (I hope they have sorghum and gemsbok back at H.E.B...) I’m most looking forward to learning about how the people of Botswana live and thrive off of the land, and to see first-hand how the future of these communities will continue to develop. Also my birthday! In Africa! How cool!!!

I’d like to thank Mom and Dad as well as Thoralf Meyer and the rest of the Geography department at UT who have allowed me to experience this truly once in a life time opportunity. Thank you so much to everyone who has wished me well on this journey. I can’t wait to come back with stories to tell!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Meet the student!

My name is Maddie and I am a third year geogaphy major with a minor in primatology. I am very interested in human wildlife conflicts/interactions along with wildlife management and would love to work for the park service in the future. I am so excited to finally be able to put my past two years of classroom experience to work out in the field here in Botswana. I have loved nature since I was little and I have my parents to credit for that with their endless camping and hiking trips they always took me on. I am so excited to see the incredible landscape and animals here in Botswana along with meeting new people and creating new bonds. I would like to thank the Rapaport scholarship for helping fund my trip and of course I’d like to thank my incredible parents for both funding this trip and always supporting my aspirations. 

With love from Botswana 🧡

Monday, July 15, 2019

Setswana Language Session

Please read out loud!

Dumelang masika! Our first lesson in Botswana was an introduction to Setswana. Tswetswe means please and kealeboga means thank you. We  learned the words for food, animals, and numbers too. Rona means we and the language has no “C”. Se we maAmerika wish to say rona a go rata, we love you.

Meet the student!

Hello from Botswana!

My name is Sarah and I’m a Junior Sustainability student at UT. I love being out in nature and I’m very interested in conservation, so I was excited for the chance to come to Botswana to study climate change! During this trip, I hope to get a better understanding of the people, and also their methods of dealing with change in an already very arid climate. I’m looking forward to doing field work in such a remote setting and see what I can learn from the environment. I’m also very excited to see all the amazing wildlife here! 

Lastly, just want to give a shout out to my family for supporting me not only in my goals, but on this trip! Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip happen! 

Much love from Botswana ❤️

Friday, July 12, 2019

We have arrived in Thakadu!

After a long journey from Maun, the group has arrived in Ghanzi. We will be based in Thakadu lodge for the next couple of weeks. We are currently having Setswana lessons from our local tecaher, Tefo. We learned basic greetings and tomorrow we will have a lesson dealing with daily use objects. The group is excited and ready for field work to begin on Sunday!

The group checking in at Thakadu.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Study Abroad Botswana 2019!

Study Abroad Botswana 2019!

Hello from Botswana! As of today, students are beginning to arrive in Maun, Botswana for this year's study abroad.

The program officially begins Wednesday, July 10th. On Thursday, we will be heading to our base camp in Ghanzi, where we will be based for the first three weeks of the program. 

Students do have (limited) internet access and we will be in normal cell phone range.

In case of emergency, you can call Professor Thoralf or TA Francisco.

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

Thoralf: 72 67 08 36
Francisco: TBA

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!