Welcome to the TBI Origins Field School blog for Fall 2022!
My name is Medina Lubisia, the Resident Academic Director for the Fall Field School. I will be accompanying students throughout the field school as they undertake five modules that will be credited for their Fall semester.
The students arrived safely in Nairobi and spent the first two nights at the Wildebeest Eco Camp. While in Nairobi, they had the opportunity to visit the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage, where they interacted with the calves. These orphaned-elephants were rescued from different regions in the country due to various causes including human-wildlife conflict, drought and starvation, etc. The students also had a chance to meet Dr. Dino J. Martins, who is the Chief Executive Officer of TBI, and afterwards visited the TBI main office in Karen. We then proceeded to the Giraffe center, which is home to the Rothschild giraffes. This nature sanctuary is renowned for its contribution in conservation biology for the endangered Rothschild giraffes. The two trips served as introductory lessons to understanding the dynamics surrounding human-wildlife interactions in the country, and how they affect policy making and natural resource management.
On Saturday, we traveled to Mpala Research Center (MRC) in Nanyuki where the students are currently learning about the complex interactions between animals and their environments, as well as the different evolutionary paths that have shaped their adaptations. Learning about the ecosystem here at Mpala serves as a proxy to understanding past environments.
The Ecology module was off to a great start on Monday with an introduction to the East African Savanna by Dr. Dino J. Martins, who is the lead instructor for this course. We hiked Mukenya hill early in the morning, and the students had a great time looking at the diverse wildlife and vegetation that this landscape supports. Students were involved in discussions on the different evolutionary paths that have shaped unique adaptations in herbivores. Today, elephants and hippos in East African savanna play integral roles as ecosystem engineers in maintaining the ecology by controlling the tree canopy and creating grazing lawns, respectively. Hippos also maintain a balance in the aquatic environments by wallowing, creating paths and providing food for aquatic life. In addition, the Laikipia ecosystem is part of a large conservation scheme being home to the reticulated giraffes, which are native to northern Kenya.
On Tuesday morning, students visited the black cotton soils with Dr. Martins introducing the students to data collection methods by observing ant-plant interactions. Thereafter, we headed to one of the dams in Mpala where they enjoyed wonderful views of elephants’ matriarchal social structure and feeding behaviors.
The afternoon was spent in class with Dr. Martins guiding the students through research paper writing, and later on an evening game drive.
Stay tuned for more updates and to meet the students!!