Earthwatch Institute

To engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.
Jun 15, 2015

South Africa's Hyenas - Final Report

Thank you for following and supporting Earthwatch’s South Africa’s Hyenas research expedition. After nine enlightening years of data collection, Dr. Dawn Scott will be concluding her research on South Africa’s scavengers this summer, and will begin a new study this fall on effective protection and management strategies for South Africa’s highly endangered rhinos.

As South Africa’s Hyenas draws to a close, we are pleased to share some highlights from the final season:

  • Volunteers completed both summer and winter spotlight transects and camera studies.
  • Juno, a young brown hyena rescued from the streets of Johannesburg, was rehabilitated and released successfully back in the wild at Mankwe.
  • An active brown hyena den with pups was located using camera traps.

This research focused on several key objectives:

  • To determine the distribution and abundance of scavengers and carnivores across the North West province.
  • To assess and compare scavenger and carnivore presence, abundance, density, diet, breeding, and habitat use in areas with different levels of protection and land use.
  • To determine what factors affected their distribution patterns.

We are proud to say that all objectives have been met. Over the years, the South Africa's Hyenas expedition has informed many papers, contributed to multiple PhD degrees, inspired countless volunteers, influenced local management policies, and will continue to serve as a guide to landowners on more effective ways to live with carnivores and scavengers. Several more papers are scheduled to be published in 2015, and there will be a new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) species assessment for brown hyenas that will draw from the significant body of information amassed over the last decade.

Thank you again for your steady support of this project. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without caring and committed donors like you!

With gratitude,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services
hwilcox@earthwatch.org
978-450-1208

P.S. If you’d like more information about Dr. Scott’s upcoming research on Conserving Endangered Rhinos in South Africa, please follow the link to the expedition page, below.

Links:

Jun 11, 2015

Saving Bahamas Sea Turtles Season Two Underway!

Dr. Brooks points out a sea turtle
Dr. Brooks points out a sea turtle

This February, Earthwatch’s Swimming With Sea Turtles in the Bahamas research expedition dove into its second year of data collection. We expect close to 100 volunteers to participate in the research this year, including two teams of energetic teens who are considering pursuing the sciences as a career path. We will begin sharing results from this year’s research later in the year. In the meantime, here’s a message from Dr. Annabelle Brooks as she looks back on 2014:

          "Many thanks to you all for your support in this first year of our study. 92 Earthwatch volunteers came to South Eleuthera and assisted us in tagging 88 new turtles, in 5 locations as well as 60 abundance surveys, and 199 baited video surveys! Our habitat mapping project, although a tedious task, has resulted in close to 1,000 data points and we are in the process of creating digital high resolution maps of all our sites which will be a great help for our continuing studies. From the BRUV surveys we’ve recorded at least 6 different species of shark – but just as exciting were the swimming crabs, stingrays and turtles we also managed to capture!

          We had quite a variety of field conditions from “chilly” winter temperatures to a blazing hot summer and the odd storm and tropical depression but every team was able to contribute to our large study and we’re very grateful for that. Some personal highlights were catching our first hawksbill turtle in Half Sound, seeing an attempted predation on a turtle by a shark right before our very eyes in Winding Bay, and watching Cassidy (our Bahamian research intern Sept – Dec) finally get into the water and nearly catch her first turtle after several months of swimming lessons! Thank you all for making this a fantastic first year and I’ll keep you updated as we head into the second.   

          Best wishes,  
         
          Annabelle Brooks 
         Cape Eleuthera Institute"


None of these accomplishments would be possible without the ongoing support you provide as a caring and committed conservationist. On behalf of Dr. Brooks, our volunteers and staff, thank you again for all that you do for Earthwatch and for sea turtle rescue. We look forward to sharing more results and updates later this year!

With gratitude,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services
hwilcox@earthwatch.org
978-450-1208

P.S. Remember, you don't just have to read about this exciting research from afar... you can dive right in yourself as an Earthwatch research volunteer! Please follow the link below to see which teams are still accepting volunteers. 

Seine netting for turtles at the creek mouth
Seine netting for turtles at the creek mouth
Caught one! A volunteer guides turtle to boat.
Caught one! A volunteer guides turtle to boat.
Every turtle is measured...
Every turtle is measured...
... and weighed.
... and weighed.

Links:

Jun 11, 2015

Animals of Malawi Year Three Starting Soon!

Volunteers on a wildlife survey.
Volunteers on a wildlife survey.

June 20th marks the start of Earthwatch’s Animals of Malawi in the Majete Wildlife Reserve’s third year of exciting field research. This year, eight teams of up to six volunteers each will assist Dr. Alison Leslie with data collection throughout the summer and early fall.

Although Earthwatch volunteers may only participate on an expedition for a week or two, their efforts in the field forge critical links in an ongoing chain, with each team building off the previous one. For example, camera trap images captured in 2013 revealed that the park was home to many more spotted hyenas than originally estimated. As a result, teams in 2014 added more camera traps around the park to begin more in-depth hyena research, including identifying each hyena by its unique pattern of spots on its coat, determining how many clans (hyena social groups) have formed, the locations of their territories, and how the hyenas are competing against their lion rivals.

This diligent surveillance revealed the location of several active hyena dens – a first in the reserve. Volunteers in 2015 will continue to monitor the dens, assessing the health of the pups and documenting their interactions with their siblings and the adults at night. Their findings will inform the park’s management strategies around other carnivores and ongoing maintenance of the delicate balance between predator and prey populations.

Three new research objectives will also be introduced in 2015:

  1. Using remote camera data collected in 2014, volunteers will begin to analyze elephant demographics to determine the home ranges of the various family groups within the reserve, as well as their habitat usage, impact on plant and water resources, and seasonal diet.
  2. Develop a management plan for community based natural resource harvesting of indigenous thatching grass, reeds and bamboo.
  3. Conduct reptile and amphibian surveys.

As you can see, 2015 should prove to be a very busy and wonderfully informative year! Thank you again for your ongoing support that makes long-term research like this possible. We look forward to sharing more results and updates with you later in the year.

With gratitude,

Heather Wilcox
Director of Annual Giving & Advancement Services
hwilcox@earthwatch.org
978-450-1208

P.S. Remember, you don't just have to read about this research from afar... you can be at the center of the action as an Earthwatch research volunteer! Please follow the link below to see which teams are still accepting volunteers for 2015.

Identifying and counting animals at a waterhole.
Identifying and counting animals at a waterhole.
Setting a camera trap.
Setting a camera trap.
Duikers are important to predator-prey balance.
Duikers are important to predator-prey balance.
Hippos frequent Shire River that runs thru park
Hippos frequent Shire River that runs thru park
A warthog cools off.
A warthog cools off.

Links:

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