Directed Research brought us to new places we hadn’t seen before in the semester, and we got to meet new people during our community interviews.
Life here in Kenya has brought seven students from across the United States together and formed friendships I’m sure none of us could have imagined. The bonds we have created with each other and with the staff have contributed to a semester full of adventure and enough memories for a lifetime. As we near the end of our wonderful semester, our final project has begun – Directed Research.
Mom and baby giraffe pass by during our field research in a conservancy of the former Kimana Group Ranch. (Photo: Noelle Beswick)
Directed Research is one of the most unique elements of The School for Field Studies experience. Students assist professors with research projects for the last month of the semester and present their findings to the community. It brings a lot of challenges, but it’s packed with new experiences! Our cohort was divided into two research groups, one focused on wildlife ecology while the other focused on human dimensions of conservation. My research group focused upon the wildlife ecology in the Amboseli ecosystem, specifically the conservancies within the former Kimana Group Ranch. We examined which vegetation browsers, such as giraffes, elephants, impalas, and gerenuks, feed upon and which plant species overlap with the community’s use of plant species. Our 9 days of field work consisted of browser observations, vegetation assessments, and community surveys. We had plenty of help from our two guides, Rana and Francis, as well as our teacher, Jennifer. Field days required lots of teamwork, but we managed to complete the week despite rain, mud, and long days in the sun. Some of the best parts of Directed Research were the moments that weren’t necessarily research. Interacting with the community children and becoming best friends with our guides were just a couple of reasons why Directed Research has been so special.
Students conduct vegetation assessments in conservancies in the former Kimana Group Ranch. (Photo: Noelle Beswick).
Directed Research brought us to new places we hadn’t seen before in the semester, and we got to meet new people during our community interviews. One of the most special aspects of this semester has been conversing with Maasai families. We have interviewed and interacted with Maasai before through questionnaires, focus group discussions, and our homestay; yet I felt we especially connected with the Maasai community as we traveled from conservancy to conservancy, interviewing men and women of all ages. We were often welcomed with open arms and even some curious smiles from the children. Before traveling here, I had never done research that involved interviewing people, so this field research will always be a favorite memory of mine. Now, we are in the process of data analysis as we summarize our findings and prepare our final presentations for the community. This is the final step in our Kenyan journey, and I hope our presentations showcase our love for this community as much they have shown us.
Ranger in the former Kimana Group Ranch. (Photo: Noelle Beswick)
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