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Jun 12, 2019

7th Yr of African Wildlife Conservation Kicks Off!

A young lion at Majete Reserve
A young lion at Majete Reserve

Thanks to your support, the 7th season of Earthwatch’s Animals of Malawi in the Majete Wildlife Reserve research expedition will kick off in a few days, and will continue through December. During this time, over 40 volunteers will come together to form 8 research teams that will assist Lead Scientist Dr. Alison Leslie as she collects important data on the health and behaviors of the many iconic African species living at Majete.

Dr. Leslie recently shared her analyses and findings from the 2018 season:

The 2018 field season brought much joy and also sometimes difficult challenges, as is expected when carrying out the work we do in any isolated area. But overall, we really had a wonderful year from a research point of view. Every day in 2018 brought new sights, sounds and challenges, and as always it was wonderful being able to share our humble research home with so many volunteers. Even after all this time in the field we are constantly humbled by the splendour of our surroundings. Nature sure has a way of lending the observer perspective in this regard! Here were some of the highlights:

  1. Thirteen giraffe were introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve – a first for Majete and they have taken very well to their new home. Nine were moved from South Africa and four came from Nyala Park in Malawi.
  2. Our two large male lions (Sapitwa and Chimwala) were translocated to Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi and were replaced by three gorgeous females and two handsome young males, as part of the lion management program conducted by African Parks.
  3. Two masters students completed their field work in 2018 for their research projects studying the ecology of Black rhino (Diceros bicornis), and the impact of herbivores on vegetation surrounding artificial waterpoints.
  4. Two new masters projects commenced: Demography, spatial use patterns and reaction to a drone of African elephants (Loxodonta africana), and species richness and spatial use patterns of medium and large mammals
  5. Seven schools were visited where the students were taught about African wildlife, and the importance of food webs and ecosystems.

With your continued support, Dr. Leslie is working towards several important research objectives:

  1. The development of models that can be used to make predictions about the impacts of management interventions on herbivores, such as the introduction or relocation of a herd of impala
  2. Implementation of a predator monitoring program using radio tracking collars and camera traps
  3. Determining the impact of megaherbivores (elephant, buffalo and rhino) on the habitat
  4. Studying population performance and habitat use of black rhinoceros
  5. Implementation of a best practice fire management strategy
  6. Capacity building and implementation of human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures in surrounding communities
  7. Investigating the potential of payments for ecosystem services and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as a conservation tool

We look forward to updating you on Dr. Leslie’s progress after the 2019 season concludes. In the meantime, thank you for all you do to support multi-year conservation studies like this one. Together, we are making a real difference in the fight to sustain our planet, one species, one donation, and one day at a time.

With gratitude,

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

P.S. Remember, you don't just have to read about this research from afar. You can work right alongside Dr. Leslie as an Earthwatch volunteer! Please follow the link below to see which 2019 research teams are still accepting volunteers.

** All photos provided courtesy of Dr. Alison Leslie **

Black rhinos are observed at a watering hole
Black rhinos are observed at a watering hole
A crocodile observed on a river bank
A crocodile observed on a river bank
A hippo surfaces in a river
A hippo surfaces in a river
Earthwatch volunteers install a camera trap
Earthwatch volunteers install a camera trap
Wildlife gathers at a watering hole
Wildlife gathers at a watering hole

Links:

Jun 11, 2019

Yr 3 of Killer Whale Research in Iceland Underway!

A pod of killer whales on the move
A pod of killer whales on the move

With the help of your ongoing support, the 3rd season of Earthwatch’s Killer Whales in Iceland research expedition got underway last week and will continue through August. During this time, 30 volunteers will come together to form 5 research teams that will assist Lead Scientist Dr. Filipa Samarra as she collects important data on the health and behaviors of Iceland’s little-understood killer whales.

Dr. Samarra recently shared her analyses and findings from the 2018 season:

Our second year of this expedition was our most challenging yet but thanks to our determined volunteers, we were able to successfully continue monitoring this population. This was our second year running an extended field season, from June to August, and we were very curious to see if we would find any of the same behavior patterns we observed in the previous year. Unfortunately, very poor weather conditions throughout the entire summer hampered our ability to collect data, and we had significantly fewer boat and land surveys than in previous years. Yet, we were able to make great progress with other research tasks back in the office, such as analysis of killer whale sounds and images collected for photo-identification.

Through land- and boat-based observations, we were able to confirm that killer whales occur in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago (South Iceland) throughout the summer, mostly observed feeding on herring. We also observed other cetacean species, including the closest encounter we ever had with a huge aggregation of pilot whales! We had several sightings of these pilot whales interacting with killer whales, and once again towards the end of the season we saw blue whales travelling in the distance. We really appreciated the enthusiasm and dedication of all of the Earthwatch volunteers for participating in all aspects of the work, from the boat to the land station and office. Despite the bad weather, we were able to collect valuable new information about overall marine species occurrence in the area, as well as killer whale feeding behavior throughout the summer months. We feel very privileged to have shared this experience with you. Thank you for all your help and for being a part of our team, takk fyrir!

Our very best wishes to you all.

Dr. Filipa Samarra

This project aims to understand variations in the behavioral ecology amongst killer whales observed in Iceland, as well as the importance of herring as prey. This information is crucial to the assessment of the Icelandic killer whale population and will allow us to evaluate which proportion of the population is highly dependent on herring stocks and consequently the threats this population may face. More broadly, the monitoring of different cetacean species will also allow us to help characterize the local marine ecosystem, as well as its importance for different top predators. The Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is not only an important ground for various fish species but also home to the Surtsey Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site and thus an area of significant cultural and biological importance.

We look forward to sharing findings from the 2019 season once data analysis is complete. In the meantime, thank you for all you do to support multi-year conservation studies like this one. Together, we are making a real difference in the fight to sustain our planet, one species, one donation, and one day at a time.

With gratitude,

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

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 in 2019.

 

** All photos provided courtesy of Dr. Filipa Samarra **

Conducting boat observations
Conducting boat observations
Volunteers conducting land observations
Volunteers conducting land observations
Photo identification by dorsal fin
Photo identification by dorsal fin
A pod of killer whales surface
A pod of killer whales surface

Links:

Jun 11, 2019

6th Year of Sea Turtle Conservation is Underway!

Volunteers help guide their boat after a turtle
Volunteers help guide their boat after a turtle

With your help, Earthwatch’s 6th season of critical sea turtle conservation in The Bahamas is underway. Over 50 volunteers will come together this year to form eight research teams that will assist Lead Scientist Annabelle Brooks with capturing and studying endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles. Thanks to the consistent support of our adventurous volunteers and donors like you, Dr. Brooks was able to expand her data collection efforts this year to include research sites on Exuma island.

This expansion couldn’t be more timely: a deadly turtle-specific virus called fibropapillomatosis (FP) has begun infecting turtles in The Bahamas. FP does not infect humans, but can be deadly to the turtles as they develop large tumors on their heads and flippers that eventually constrict movement, vision, and feeding. FP has been observed in all species of sea turtles except for leatherbacks. It is most common in green turtles, and juvenile turtles, but scientists are still unsure as to why this is, what causes the disease, and how it is spread.

The sudden emergence of FP in The Bahamas is a testament to the importance of consistent, long term data collection. Building on over five years’ worth of baseline data collected prior to the onset of FP, Earthwatch teams will now document its spread in search of possible prevention and recovery methods.

We look forward to updating you on their progress after this season’s fieldwork concludes in September. In the meantime, thank you for all you do to help multi-year conservation studies like this one. Together, we are making a real difference in the fight to sustain our planet, one species, one donation, and one day at a time.

With gratitude,

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

P.S. Remember, you don't just have to read about this research from afar... you can dive into the action as an Earthwatch research volunteer! Please follow the link below to see which teams are accepting volunteers for 2019 and 2020.

 

** All photos provided courtesy of Annabelle Brooks **

A successful snorkel chase!
A successful snorkel chase!
Heading back to shore to collect measurements
Heading back to shore to collect measurements
A turtle infected with the FP virus
A turtle infected with the FP virus
Each turtle is returned to its capture location
Each turtle is returned to its capture location
Earthwatchers also collect trash from the beach
Earthwatchers also collect trash from the beach

Links:

 
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