a week of excitement

So this week has been a roller coaster ride full of midterm exams, internship decisions, abroad confirmation, and research choices.  So exams went well (I think!) haven’t gotten my grades back but hey I tried my hardest.  It is a difficult task to study and focus when you are in paradise and there’s the ocean at my doorstep.  I am so glad exams are over though, and now I get to go on a field trip and then break!  For my field trip we are camping on various islands, which is super cool.  We get to see the caves, basket weaving, farming, and all other aspects of the TCI that I don’t experience on South Caicos.  Then, I am staying on Provo (touristy island) with my parents.  Not gonna lie I am stoked to shower.  Oh ya and do laundry, have air conditioning, and a nice clean/big bed..and and of course see my parents!  Should be an amazing time.

So regarding my internship decision, it has been a stressful week.  So I was accepted to the NOAA Hollings scholarship program a while ago, but on October 1st they opened their available internship base.  There were about 200 internship opportunities across the nation, and each opportunity have a description and person of contact.  Now I only ended up emailing two people, one in Hawaii and one in the Florida Keys.  So this week Wednesday I had an interview with the Hawaiian research program, and they got me super pumped, but I knew they interviewed a few other scholars, so it was not a sure thing…which made me a little nervous.  But I got word the other day that they chose me (YAY) so I will be living in Maui next summer!!!  I will be doing research on a biodiversity assessment inside and outside of a fishpond.  Click here for the link to the fishpond association.  They really care about the Hawaiian cultural and it is super interesting how unique this specific fishpond is. I looked up the beach it is on, it is incredible.  Check it out here.  So lucky me, I get to visit the site this winter, and I am super excited about it.

Abroad confirmation?  Aren’t I already abroad?  Well, one semester is not enough for me, I have a major case of wanderlust.  Traveling is really helping me find out more about myself, and I am learning even more than I ever imagined possible. I will be studying wildlife management in Tanzania, going on expeditions through the Serengeti… my life is awesome.  And here is a description of the trip I am doing:

OVERVIEW

Northern Tanzania is a hub of wildlife tourism. Home to world-famous national parks such as Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this remarkably scenic area is the center of tourism in East Africa. It has also been the home of the Maasai, Iraqw, and other groups for centuries.

Despite the seemingly negative trends of availability and quality of habitat and resources for wildlife and livestock on the Maasai steppe, there are many opportunities for effective conservation, natural resource management, and rural development. SFS’s field station is surrounded by wildlife using diverse migration corridors and seasonal dispersal areas. The Maasai, and now settlers from other ethnic communities, depend on these same areas as communal grazing grounds for livestock and for growing food. As a result, they often face economic hardship due to crop damage from migrating wildlife, loss of livestock, and resource depletion and competition. Agricultural expansion, pollution, and climate change threaten the already strained water supply and the health of people, livestock, and wildlife alike.

The Center’s research is framed both by the needs of human communities and by wildlife conservation goals in the region. Our curriculum and research focus on how changes in land use and resource availability in the Maasai steppe ecosystems can be managed to foster the wellbeing of local communities while safeguarding and promoting biodiversity conservation. Students learn about the socioeconomic, policy, and environmental drivers and implications of demographic change and land reform for wildlife conservation and rural development.

FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES

  • Visits to cultural manyatta, an opportunity to glimpse Maasai and Iraqw cultures: musical ceremonies, demonstrations in fire-making, dances by Maasai morans (warriors), and lessons in spear-throwing
  • Exploration of Lake Manyara National Park to learn large mammal identification, baboon ecology, and threats to wetlands from tourism, land-use changes, and local resource use
  • Excursions to Tarangire National Park for exercises on animal counting, wildlife management, lion ecology and behavior, conservation models, and preservation of corridors
  • Visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area to learn about integrated management, inclusion of indigenous communities in conservation and management of natural resources, animal identification, and the role of volcanism in species diversity
  • Multi-day field expedition to Serengeti National Park to learn about large mammal ecology, diseases, and migrations
  • Day trip to Burunge Wildlife Management Area to study community-based management of wildlife and understand how communities benefit from conservation of wildlife resources
  • Develop field research skills including habitat assessment and mapping, species identification, research design, data collection, valuation methods, social surveys, wildlife census techniques, GIS, transect and patch sampling, animal behavior observations, geology, and soil identification

SAMPLE DIRECTED RESEARCH

  • Local community strategies for coping with variation in water availability
  • Assessment of attitudes and awareness on wildlife conservation among the Iraqw and the Maasai communities
  • Influence of ecological and social factors on the distribution of elephants in Tanzania’s Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem
  • Livelihoods and socioeconomic indicators among wildlife-conserving communities
  • Effectiveness of wildlife conservation strategies between areas of differing protection levels
  • Importance of habitat quality and heterogeneity on wildlife sanctuary viability
  • The role of government in human-wildlife conflict resolution

COMMUNITY FOCUS

Above all else, SFS seeks to give back to our host communities around the world. Understanding community views on wildlife, the challenges faced, and management policies employed by park managers is central among our research goals. Students have many opportunities for social interaction as well, including:

  • Community service work in local schools, hospitals, orphanages, and with a local women’s group
  • Visit and stay with Iraqw and communities
  • Visits to local markets and a neighboring homesteads for traditional celebrations, a lecture on culture and artifacts, and conducting interviews for research work

So all that is pretty sweet, but before I get ahead of myself (Tanzania won’t be until February..) so I will tell you about the research I will be doing here in South Caicos for the rest of my semester.  The title of my research is: TCI spiny lobster fishery for sustainable harvest of the commercial fishery. And here is some info about the purpose:

The Spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, is the one of the most valuable resources to Turks and Caicos Islands. Although the species is endemic to the TCI banks, it is highly dependent on recruitment for survival. The Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) has an established method of data collection for catch and effort dating to the 1940’s. Despite the long time series of catch and effort, there are still questions regarding the recruitment of the species to the TCI Banks and reproductive seasonality changes. Beginning in 1989, the TCI Government in collaboration with the School for Field Studies, periodically collects biological information on the species. It is recommended that this information be included in the evaluation of the status of the stocks within the TCI.

The Caribbean has recently observed a decline in catches. Many island nations are attempting to create local and regional legislation for protection, including international trade restriction. Local stakeholders are not satisfied with the current local management of the fishery and are concerned that a higher authority (international) will govern the fishery. The TCI is now at a point in history where it must make sound decisions on the management of the fishery based on scientific information.

Recently, the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) solicited bids to conduct “casita” work in relation to local fishermen. During the project, local fishermen were trained on how to create and build lobster “casita” to house both juvenile and adult lobster. Fishers were also provided the opportunity to recommend sites for the deployment of both types of “casitas”. Unfortunately, DEMA does not have the available funds to complete the project (i.e. deploy and monitor). The School has offered to step in and consult with DEMA to assist in completing the project for local fishermen.

The objective of this study is to collect data on the spiny lobster landings, individual morphological measurements, and independent juvenile recruitment through already established condos and create a new casita-monitoring project. Measurements such as carapace length, weight, sex, reproductive stages and maturity will assist in the analysis of the current lobster population. Additional information gathered from lobster condos will provide an independent index for juvenile recruitment to the fishery. While the new casita monitoring project can provide additional independent data for the lobster fishery based on appropriate habitat locations for juvenile and adult lobster. These data will contribute to the ability of the TCI to make sound decisions establishing reference points for management purposes, including changes in season closures.

Soo, if you have read this far, I am impressed, and I thank you for your time!  Now I need to go pack for my field trip and break! goodnight, goodnight!

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