Working with elephants

It has been raining at the Mara, this means that the last few transects I was going to run are not possible at this point. I also need to rerun all my transects starting next week. It will be my last week of data collection. After that I may be allowed to take part in the aerial census in Laikipia, but I am not sure yet. We will have to wait and see. I also have to finish and submit my abstract to present at the Tropical Biology Association - TBA - Africa Alumni Group (TAAG for short) conference happening in Nairobi July 2013. I have applied for some grant money to be able to make the TAAG conference and am keeping my fingers crossed. That leaves me with the month of December which I have decided to split into three 10-day sections. The first will be to work with either World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Dr. Noah Sitati, and/or work with Joyce Poole from Elephant Voices. The second section will be to finish up all my data analysis, papers, presentations and other assignments for school. Finally, the last is a vacation before I return to the U.S. and the chaos of many changes and a full schedule that awaits me. Oh….I also lost another phone….sigh. Life certainly has some curves to it to make it more interesting. But I would not change a thing. I am in love!!! I love you KENYA!

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

My roommate

Have been continuing my research, running my own transects, and collecting data. Everyone here is great and I will soon have my lap top. That means that I will be able to start my papers, and if all works well, I plan to try and publish my research. When I return home there is a lot to deal with including finding a job, saving money for my return to Kenya, focusing on school and taking the GRE, while simultaneously looking for a job and a way to continue my education in Kenya. As much as I am getting done here, I know that returning home will more than fill my schedule. The fact that I do not want to leave, and the daunting task ahead of me, have my head spinning. I love and miss my family and hope that they are able to adjust to the changes that are coming.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Dr. Mark Pendras, assistant professor of Urban Studies, is currently leading a group of 12 UWT students on a field course abroad for the fall quarter.

Their time will be shared between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht, with additional field trips via train to other Dutch cities and Hamburg Germany. The program explores spatial, architectural, historical, cultural, social, economic and political dimensions of urban dynamics in contemporary Europe.

Relaxing on the weekend

I need a laptop for my work and though I have bought a new one, it is still waiting to be shipped from the U.S. I have so much work to do and time is ticking away. On the good side, we started doing Bowman’s assessments of vegetation at the Mara today. I love doing research and even though this particular research is not my favorite topic, it's great to get the experience. It is also hard to see the days going by way too fast and every day that passes is one day less here and one day closer to having to leave. The thought hurts and drives me crazy!

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Found a kitty

Have not been able to update you because all my stuff got jacked. About two weeks ago we (Kenya Wildlife Service) had a kiosk at the Mara Day celebration; it was a great success. We were to go to the Mara that day but decided it was too late to travel by the time we were done. Instead we went back to Narok for the night. We went out that evening and when we returned late from the club, we all went to bed. Sometime after we went to sleep, one of the ecologists and I were robbed. At least it wasn't just me, but the mac book pro, ipad, ipod and iphone along with my camera and shoes are gone. We did a police report and I have since ordered new things; I'm waiting for them to get shipped from the U.S. The biggest thing is having to spend a lot of money to continue my work. But I still love Kenya...kabisa(completely). More later.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Riding a Mama on the way to the loading site

This is exactly what it sounds like. A couple nights ago we returned from our search for elephants. After riding in the back of a truck all day down dusty roads I was filthy so I got a bucket of warm water and went out to take my shower (that's right folks in the bush). It was early evening and I decided that I would skip the underwear (which, by the way they call pants that in itself could be a story with all the looks I get when I make comments like "my pants are dirty") and just throw on some clean trousers and a sweatshirt before heading off to dinner. BIG MISTAKE!!! I sat under the tent with the rest of my camp mates and I began to jump and curse every 30 seconds or so, much to everyone's amusement because I was getting over run with safari ants. These "little" guys get pretty big and they have large mandibles that cut into your skin. Soon the laughter stopped as everyone else began to be invaded as well. I hurried to finish and run to the tent to take my trousers off before the invaders got too high up my legs. In my haste to shut the tent flap and take my pants off, the tent zipper became stuck about 2-4inches away from actually closing...

I decided that I would fix it once my pants were off and was shocked when a small army (25 individuals or so) fell out of my trousers. They continued their assault as I tried desperately to fix the zipper. After 5 minutes I gave up and called Vasco, a fellow researcher and botanist, to rescue me. While he worked on the zipper I used the small gap to throw out as many ants as possible. After a couple more minutes, Vasco began to yelp and even though I still had ants in my tent I could not help but laugh hysterically while my savior worked diligently under the attack of the ants I managed to throw out to finally free me after about 7 minutes. Needless to say, I donned my underwear before crawling into my sleeping bag and finally got enough of the ants out that I felt it was safe to go to bed.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

My first measure

This is truly a dream come true and I can tell you that I will not want it to end. I have been busting my matako (buttocks) every day and making as many contacts as possible. I am also learning as much Swahili as my brain will allow (which is never enough). I have all kinds of offers to join people and do things. I Met Dr. Noah Sitati (World Wildlife Fund) at last! He has offered me a place to stay and more work when I am done with my three month attachment to the Kenya Wildlife Service. I heard today that he has been praising me. (Wow!!! This guy is like an elephant research GOD!) Next week I go airborne to spot elephants from the air; I am also invited to go up in the chopper on a land survey by the GIS expert, Peter Hongo, over the Likipia and Samburu areas. I am so happy... more later. Take care all.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Ndovu Trans-location Narok and Mara, Kenya 2012

I have arrived in Kenya, and will be here until the end of the year. I will be doing an internship or two. The main one I am doing is with Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS): the trans-location of elephants from Narok to Masai Mara.

I left Watamu on Friday morning via Mash Bus to Nairobi in order to report to KWS HQ in the Langata suburb of Nairobi. My plan was to arrive, sign, and get shipped out to Narok. God had different plans for me...the bus ride was long - over 11.5 hours can take a toll on your matako (buttocks).

The night before I left Watamu I found out that my MacBook screen went out (or at least it would not light up no matter what I tried) so I spent the day trying to contact Apple customer support (they do not keep Kenyan hours though, so that was a no go). As the day passed and the kilometers with it, I noticed that I was still too far out, and would not make it to the KWS office before they closed at 5 p.m. I called Kimutai (the gentleman who I will be directing my work as research assistant) to let him know. I should have listened to his initial advice and relaxed in Watamu until Sunday and reported Monday, but I was eager to get started.

I contacted a friend who owns a tour guide company and let him know I would need to make arrangements for transportation and lodging. I eventually made my way into Nairobi only to be halted by the usual traffic jams. I inched my way to my destination and was greeted by a good friend: Richie. He also happens to be the driver who drove us all over Kenya in February as part of the Kenya Study Abroad program; I can hardly believe that I made it back so soon. I was taken to Martin, the owner of Africa Veterans Safari (another good friend), fed, and found lodging at Acacia Camp, Langata, Nairobi.

I finally got a hold of Apple but was unable to trouble shoot the screen problem. The next morning, Richie had all day and took me around to get the screen fixed on my MacBook. Thankfully, there is an authorized Apple repair shop in the area so we didn’t have to hassle with trying to find a place. When we arrived I was quickly assisted, I told the gentleman the problem and he took the laptop. He turned it on and wouldn’t you know it, the thing purred to life, screen and all! I guess she just needed some Kenyan love - lol! Richie teased me and said that if I just wanted to see them and spend some time together all I had to do was ask.

I spent the day with Richie and drove around Nairobi, I tried goat for dinner (the flavor was a little to rich for my taste) and eventually we found our way back to camp. After Richie left, I did a little work and went to the social area. At 10 p.m., I headed to bed but got very little rest. Around 4 a.m. I was wide awake and heard music from the club next door calling me. I dressed and headed over for a Coke, relaxed for an hour and went back to my room to work on my Swahili. By 7 a.m. all the tourists were up and getting ready for their safaris, so I decided to venture out and have some breakfast. I have been talking with the workers and practicing my Swahili - trying to retain as much as I am able but often feel overwhelmed.

I have also had frustrations with the poor internet service and the sketchy portable modem I purchased. I am trying to keep in touch with everyone as much as possible through these blogs, my Facebook, emails, phone calls, etc. but I have to admit that I am extremely happy to be here regardless of how much I miss family and friends. I’ll keep posting, if you keep following...kwaheri (good bye).

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Pretty piggies bathed in sand; mine are on the right. Taken at Turtle Bay, Watamu, Kenya

I have been in Kenya for one full day but it feels like a week. I have been going non-stop - meeting contacts, making arrangements - and the hard work has paid off! I have official notice that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has accepted my request to participate in both their rhino and elephant programs! I leave for Nairobi tomorrow to sign on with KWS. Then I'm heading into Narok for elephant trans-location! I am stoked and exhausted. So much for taking the first few days as vacation; time to report in.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

Environmental Science faculty members John "Buck" Banks and Jim Gawel are in Kenya with undergraduates during the month of February to study critical issues in conservation and sustainability, with special reference to biological diversity, development, and community-based environmental efforts.

Hello from the Coast province! We have been here at the Mwamba Bird Observatory & Field Station/A Rocha Kenya for about ten days now – everyone is working hard on their independent research projects while also learning about the myriad environmental and social issues pertaining to sustainability here on the coast. After passing through Mombasa for a quick overnight visit, we headed north a few hours to our current location.

Our days have been filled with group and individual activities – including two days spent catching birds and insects in the nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest reserve (the largest last remnant of a much larger coastal forest stretching from Ethiopia to Mozambique, and home to more than half a dozen endangered bird species), visits to the Gede Ruins monument (once a thriving Swahili community in the 1500s) and the local Bio-Ken Snake farm, and engaging in various activities with Watamu Turtle Watch, a conservation group sponsored by the Local Ocean Trust that focuses on rehabilitation of injured/sick sea turtles as well as releasing turtles caught in fishing nets back to the sea. We’ve also been taking advantage of our proximity to the Indian Ocean – swimming, snorkeling, and walking on the beach at night under the starry East African sky have become part of the routine. We have a few more days here before heading east again as we begin our long journey back to Nairobi and onward to the U.S.

You can read about all their adventures on their blog, Notes in the Field.