Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Construction Time-Lapse

Here is a short time-lapse of the great engineers at the Mara Conservancy helping us put in a large metal pipe at the Purungat Bridge.  More on this coming soon....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

View of the Mara from Above

Here are some pictures we captured with a GoPro camera strapped to the front of the balloon. It's amazing how different everything looks from above, and it can give you a different sense of the landscape.

Mara River

Game trails through the savanna
Contrast of the green from an area control-burned in July with the gold of an unburned area

Our landing

Bucket List: Hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Small Successes

It may look like old tuna fish, but this is actually homemade fire starter we made today from candle wax, sawdust and an old tuna can. It's working great getting the fire started and dinner cooked!  Nice to have some successes today... and we had plenty of time to work on it, since we only had two samples to process.

Tough Times

Four days ago, we began a two day sampling event. First, one of our automatic samplers jammed and we lost all our samples. This morning, we found our sampler precariously hanging from a cliff, held by a chain to a car battery and a small acacia tree. All our samples but two had poured out. No word yet on whether a hippo or just a large branch floating by were responsible. Just grateful nothing was broken. Starting again today... maybe tomorrow it will work?

Spare parts

You never know when you're going to need your brakes... until you try to brake. Luckily we had a spare vacuum brake pump in the Land Rover.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Land Rover Cafe

Cool breze, blue skies and instant cappuccino on the hood of the Land Rover- good way to start a morning of field sampling!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Hippo Helicopter

When hippos defecate, their little tail moves back and forth, cleaning their rear while also flinging their feces onto the ground and anything within a meter radius of their rear.  Driving through the savannah, it is not uncommon to find bushes and young trees that have several kg of hippo feces spread over them.

Here is a video we just captured of a hippo defecating on a little bush during his nightly walk to his "hippo lawn":

Hippos primarily defecate in the water so it was great to get such a close-up video of them in action on land.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hippo Food

Our night camera captured a good video of a hippo feeding at a "hippo lawn" a few nights ago.  

"Hippo lawns" are areas that are typically near the water where the hippos have grazed the grass down to a level much greater than the surrounding area.  

Hippo Lawn

Hippos typically feed on grass by gently swinging their head to the side, back and forth as they pull up grass with their lips.  You can really see this in the above video.  Hippos in the Mara have also been documented consuming meat.

Much has been learned about the hippos in Kenya through work done in the 1970s and a recent PhD Dissertation by Dr. Erustus Kanga, The Kenyan Hippo.  We have been working for several years on determining their effects on the aquatic systems, as was mentioned in two publications last year.  Most of our work has been on the Mara, Talek, Olare Orok and Ntiaktiak Rivers.  Brian Heath, CEO of the Mara Conservancy, summarized some of our most recent findings his Monthly Report for September, 2012.  Check it out and let us know what you think.  

Site Visit

On Emma and Pat's last day in the Mara, we headed down to Purungat Bridge to do a full site visit, so they could see all the things we normally collect and measure and provide advice. We had a pesky hippo hanging out right where we wanted to work, but after some negotiations, he agreed to move on downstream and let us spend some time in the river. 

Emma and Pat by the Mara

Both Emma and Pat are really knowledgeable about aquatic macroinvertebrates, so it was great to get their input on identification of different groups. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are small insects that spend at least part of their life underwater, and many of them are great indicators of the water quality in the system. Chris and I collected a lot of macroinvertebrates in the river from 2008-10 when we were studying how water quality changed with flow level. For my research now, I am mostly interested in using them as an indication of the degree to which hippo inputs are making their way up into the food chain. 

Emma looking for macroinvertebrates in the river

A Plecoptera, or stonefly, which indicates good water quality

After two weeks in the field, lots of research, and over 1,000 km traveled over bumpy roads in our old Land Rover, it was nice to spend a day in Nairobi with Emma and Pat at the end of their visit. Nothing like a hot shower and a little "dawa" (Swahili for medicine and for a fabulous drink made with vodka, honey and lime) after a few weeks in the bush!

Drinking dawas at the Carnivore

We are so grateful to Emma and Pat for coming to Kenya, helping out so much with our research, and being great guests! Asante sana na karibu tena (Thanks so much and welcome again)!