Doing science is serious business. Our job is to assess the diversity of tree species within Buger Community Forest, a reserve east of Karatu city and north of Lake Manyara National Park. For the past three days, our teams have been crawling through thick montane forest, measuring the diameters of trees with scythe-like calipers, getting various appendages stuck on thorns, climbing slippery embankments, crossing rivers, going up, down, up, down, up, and across. Some might say this work is grueling. Well, our motto has quickly become “It’s not possible, it’s necessary” (a quote from the movie Interstellar.)

In fact, it’s so serious that one might as well ignore the fact that Renee used the dead roots of the a sisal plant as a headdress, or that Tali actually began crying out of pure joy when a baby goat fell asleep in her arms. We are focused—so focused that we never ever stop to look at the views for minutes on end or poke at toads and millipedes in the grass. The days are long and hot; we cover an average of eight miles, fill dozens of data sheets, and assess plots for various factors. One would think that morale might be a little low, considering that we travel at less than a mile per hour due to the thick vegetation, but we can’t stop laughing and we don’t know why.

Doing science is serious business, but my take away from today was that amidst the rigor and hard conditions, humor is necessary. And now, as the Tanzanian saying goes: Hapa Kazi Tu, or “work is done here.”


Friendship, happiness, and sunshine


Photos courtesy of Becky Gottlieb



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