I think I mentioned this before but my field research consists of both vegetation sampling and interviews within the Maasai bomas. I could go into way too much detail and that even bores me so I will try to keep it short. Essentially when we get into the field (field meaning wildlife corridors where common migration routes are prevalent) we are given our bearings (340 degrees NW). My compass has been my best friend to say the least. Each student has to complete 10 plots. Plot…sounds like such a simple word but it now gives me nightmares. Completing a plot takes about 45 minutes each. Let’s take a closer look Plot 1. We have part A. and part B. In part A we set down that wooden cross and do a PCQ measurement which basically means, looking for the closest woody species (within 20 m) within each quadrant. You measure its distance from the point of origin and then its crown cover (taking two different diameters). Following, we perform the Descending Step Method. You hold a huge needle like stick, start at the origin, and then every step, stick the pin in the ground without looking (ensuring randomization). You then mark the species of the closest herbaceous species and grass species and then measure then inter-tuft distance of the grass. 20 times… Next, we create a 4 m x 4 m square about the origin and estimate the amount of land covered by herbaceous species (in percentage). Lastly, we pace a 40 m x 40 m square and look for either sheet, rill, or gulley soil erosion. If erosion is present, we have to take our GPS coordinate readings at the beginning, middle, and end. And that’s just part A. Part B is pretty easy though–only another 4 m x 4 m herbaceous cover estimate. It does sound pretty boring and monotonous but just after plot 2 we were so wrapped up in our plot measurements that we looked up and realized, woah wildebeest in our transect obviously we climbed the thorny acacia trees to get a better view . Our guides always keep us on track though (makes SURE I check my compass every 5 minutes). Post plot 3 an Acacia thorn literally swallowed me–and then they dug the acacia thorns out of my hands…using an Acacia thorn, TIA. but we’re tough out here in the bush even though I don’t have an AK 47 I have adopted quite the mindset. Plot 4 (remains of rill gulley erosion) Plot 5 Plot 6 plot 7 plot 8 plot 9 and plot 10 . So we had to do this for 4 days straight but today was our last day! Tomorrow we begin our interviews so we’re all excited for the change-up. Usually people kind of dread interviews because of the almost staged setting (we are commonly just given the questions that we need to ask and usually it’s about problems we’ve never seen before), but I am actually so excited to conduct my own interviews because 1. I am becoming much more comfortable speaking Maa and 2. After having the rangeland degradation and much much more drilled into our heads for the past 4 days–I have subconsciously created my own explanations for the trends; however, the Maasai actually live there and it will be exciting to see if what they have to say matches up with what we’ve found.
Got to go come up with some Thanksgiving recipes (marshmallow sweet potato, yum). The staff is getting ostrich instead of turkey, TIA. 14 days to write a 50 page paper—talk to you later!