Directed Research is the academic highlight of the SFS semester program. In Tanzania, fieldwork started earlier this week. Students and faculty are currently collecting data on forest structure and rural livelihoods in the remote Endabash area, and assessing the distribution, density, demography, and behavior of African elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, impala and zebra. Studies are being conducted in Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park, Manyara Ranch and the Mto wa Mbu game controlled area.
The pace of the program has notably changed—in the early morning everyone is hurrying up to get to the field sites as soon as possible, long hours are spent in the field, and in the evening data is digitalized as research proposals are being finalized.
Students are highly engaged in their individual projects and obviously enjoy the process of conducting research in East Africa. Clearly, conducting field research in northern Tanzania comes along with some hardships—long and steep walks to reach sample plots in the forest, long drives on bumpy roads until one finds wildlife species to be studied, monotonous counting of huge livestock herds, and of course: heat and dust. At the same time all the effort is rewarded when observing elephant calves playing in the mud, zebras grazing next to wildebeests, and talking to the friendly people who live in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.
The different sub-projects address critical questions of the Center’s 5-Year Research Plan: How effective are the different protected areas in protecting wildlife species? How can we harmonize forest resource extraction and human livelihoods?
SFS students are actively involved in these big questions and one easily feels that students are engaged in meaningful projects that not only enhances their academic learning experience, but also constitute a valuable contribution to the environment and the human population in northern Tanzania.