During David's visit to the Mara, we did our first experiment to look at the effect of hippo feces on water quality. Experiments have more power to determine cause and effect than just monitoring and observation, but they can be difficult to do in large systems. So we made the Mara smaller-- bottle-sized, in fact. Chris started with a pilot experiment that we ran for several days, even as we traveled around the Mara. Here are Chris and David collecting data from the experiment from our mobile laboratory.
After we got some really exciting initial results, we decided to scale up the experiment to bigger and more bottles. This time we set it up at our camp and devoted several days to collecting data. The best part was that we got to purchase a kiddie pool to maintain a consistent temperature-- I can't wait to relax in this once the experiment is done!
Although bottles are completely different than the Mara River itself, this experiment gave us some good ideas of what kind of changes hippo feces can cause in the water. Now we can look back at our monitoring data from the river and look for similar patterns.