After a short break from the Summer I program, the SFS Tanzania Summer II session started last week. With many returning Summer I students and new students from the US and Tanzania, we have a diverse and very enthusiastic group of students living at our field site in Rhotia. We already explored nearby Lake Manyara National Park and students did focal observations on giraffes. For example, we observed red-billed oxpeckers feeding on the ectoparasites of giraffes – one of the many fascinating mutualisms in East African animal communities.
In the morning of this exciting field trip, students completed the dry season animal count in the park. Students record numbers, habitat usage and behavior of all mammal species in four protected areas of the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem. This seasonal monitoring system is a very valuable source of data. Students use this dataset to train in quantitative data analysis and we also use this data for research and to compare how wildlife populations are doing in areas with variable conservation status. In another series of lectures and field trips to the shores of Lake Manyara, students learned how to identify and interpret signs of wildlife and explored participatory learning approaches in communities around our field site.
The current week will be filled with field trips to learn about soil conservation techniques, vegetation survey techniques, Maasai culture and two more animal surveys in Manyara Ranch and Tarangire National Park, thus offering insights and active participation in a diverse range of field research.