The courses have ended and the students just accomplished their final exams. After two months of field exercises, lectures and field expeditions to some of the most amazing national parks in East Africa, it is now time for Directed Research. The students will be focusing on their own research projects together with the faculty.
Tanzania is famous for its megafauna but there are other fascinating species that gain little or no attention. I am passionate about reptiles and I try to share this excitement with the students whenever I can. It can be a tiny dwarf gecko in the bush, a harmless house snake on campus or a colorful chameleon in the classroom, climbing the student’s heads. Nothing competes with hands-on learning experience!
I am now looking forward to initializing a biodiversity monitoring focusing on reptiles and amphibians during Directed Research. These animals play an important role in the ecosystem and snakes are eminent pest controllers on crop fields. However, not much is known about the herpetofauna in this part of Africa. The students are as excited as I am to study species assemblages in a forest far off the beaten track that is threatened by ongoing degradation. We will spend the coming 10 days in the forest setting traps and searching and identifying reptiles and amphibians in different habitats to find out how species are affected by degradation.
Some people believe that chameleons stick their projectile tongue through people’s noses right up to their brains, which sheds these harmless animals in a bad light. Thus, we want to learn about people’s attitude towards snakes, chameleons and other reptiles and how myths and stories might cause fear or even persecution of harmless and useful animals. Our results can be used to draw attention on these secretive animals and to identify key species for conservation.