Alumnus Christopher Thomas (IAS '10) is spending a few weeks in Kenya at the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve. He is studying the effectiveness of the ASSETS program, which sends children to school and integrates lessons on conserving the forest and eliminating poaching. Christopher plans to begin graduate school in Oregon in the fall.

I am a little over halfway with my trip here. Things are going well, and I have been collecting lots of data and have made a couple of maps with the help of the local naturalists and my research team. We have shifted our focus to data collection methods, and we have been going into the forest pretty much every day. Today I wait for a motorcycle to be fixed so that we can continue to go in; the rental car cannot take the rough roads anymore. It allows me to work on cleaning up our data and wash my field clothes.

The weather here is getting hotter. When I arrived, it was about 80-85 with rains occasionally. Now, it is in the 90s and the rains are pretty much over. The mosquitoes are out in droves, and I got bit 30 times around one knee cap last night. It will really put my malaria medication to the test!

We came across a poacher yesterday as he was hauling out his catch of building poles and bush meat. He dropped his goods and headed to the forest and would not come out until we had left. We told him we were not police and would like to talk to him (in Kiswahili through David Ngala), but he would have none of it. We got a picture of it on David's camera since my camera died many days ago.

I am quickly running out of days here, and I hope to be able to complete all of my tasks, but I am not holding my breath. It is difficult because much of this research needs to be completed before I leave for it to have much impact. While the whole point of this trip is to establish a monitoring protocol, I must produce some analysis for everyone here to illustrate the effectiveness of our methods. That is the most difficult part! The forest is so huge, and the samples we are taking are a speck on a map, so I hope the researchers will continue to work within the framework we set up to get a more clearer picture.

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