Life has been very busy since Directed Research (DR) projects have started a few days ago. This semester, students and faculty are running a highly diverse set of research projects: some students are working on a human-elephant conflict project in villages nearby the center; others are studying baboon behavior along roads; others are conducting playback experiments to investigate how elephants and cattle interact; others are assessing the relative density and activity patterns of mammals that were “caught” in camera traps. One group is investigating how local people adapt to variable climatic conditions and how local residents perceive a recently initiated community-based conservation scheme.
One DR group spent the last week in the Yaeda Valley. This area is home to the Hadzabe, a hunter-and-gatherer society that still largely depends on natural resources. With the help of highly skilled Hadzabe and Wildlife Division guides, SFS students conducted the first wildlife count in this area. Walking through thick bush, up and down hill, and recording animal sightings and mammal signs was highly challenging but clearly an unforgettable experience. Days in the field start early and end late and are fulfilled with new experiences and unexpected encounters; the heavy rain in the last week added some additional challenges with cars being stuck in the mud for hours. In the evenings, the experiences of the day are being shared at dinner and one can literally sense the enthusiasm and passion for the research projects.
In the next few days, we will start analyzing the data and write up the different research projects. Considering the dedication shown by each student, I’m sure that projects will progress very quickly and smoothly. It is particularly rewarding to see that our work is highly appreciated by the communities we work in and by our local stakeholders. Many projects directly touch on problems at the interface of wildlife conservation and human livelihoods, and our projects aim to provide solutions to some of these problems. This is what makes Directed Research so unique and valuable for students, faculty, and local communities and stakeholders.