Lions, and Leopards, and Cheetahs… Oh My!

So it occurred to me recently that I have been posting quite a bit about individual experiences here in Tanzania, but not so much about what I am actually doing here. So I thought I write a bit about my role as an intern for APW. I bring GIS skills to APW and therefore am able to help with mapping projects as they arise, but I am also assisting with a couple of their wildlife monitoring projects – hence, I get to be out in the field quite often. Camera trapping, spoor tracking, and wildlife counts comprise the bulk of field work. For spoor tracking and wildlife counts, I generally ride along and snap pictures of the staff as they are collecting data. (Laly has asked for pictures of the staff doing their work that can be used either online, in proposals, or in reports. This works out nicely for me as I get to ride along and see whatever wildlife happens to be in the area.) Naturally, I’m learning quite a bit too – I’m at the point now where I can almost always see the track they are pointing to, but ID is still a complete mystery. It is also good to see different survey techniques applied in the field, rather than just reading about them as theory. I can see what works well, what the limitations are, and how those limitations are overcome. Back at the office, I have been responsible for reviewing their past year of Wildlife Count data and running it through distance analysis to determine density of prey species. This, of course, is slightly less exciting, but it is great for the staff to see the results of their efforts. I have no previous experience with distance analysis so it has been a significant learning curve for me, but it is certainly a useful skill and I’m glad I had the opportunity and challenge of it this summer. Camera traps are probably the most fun – you never know what you might catch! That too has been a great learning experience. This summer has been all about exploring the different camera models and trying to determine what works best. We have found a couple of good spots that have left us with a few excellent pictures! Ultimately, my internship thus far (and it is winding to a close as we leave three weeks from today) has been a great opportunity to gain exposure to several new skills, techniques, and software programs. I’m looking forward to finishing up over the next few weeks – finalizing documents and data organization systems, sifting through the remaining pictures, and hopefully having benefitted APW’s wildlife monitoring efforts!

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