Notes from the Field: Simon Morgan and Jordana Meyer in Namibia
Simon says: I find myself in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek (literally translated as the "Windy Corner," although it’s a perfectly still and clear day with not a breath in the air) having a compulsory "sundowner" with my lovely wife, Jordana. We have had a great day in a workshop with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism as they start planning to establish their own BioBank for Wildlife and the relevant lab facilities to go with it. Jordana and I presented on the work being done by the Program for Conservation Genomics, highlighting the value of genomic tools for conservation and our efforts at Jasper Ridge to develop "pop-up" lab facilities for use in remote field stations. Present were a number of important players in the conservation world from Namibia and South Africa, so plenty of meaningful and fruitful connections and potential collaborations were established. Everything from cheetah to elephant and lizards were discussed and it was exciting to learn about the new capacity being developed in this progressive African country and how our efforts at Jasper Ridge could contribute to their success.
The last time I wrote was from the banks of the Zambezi in Zimbabwe, and since then I travelled 1,756 km with one our conservation supporters and his son, through Zimbabwe’s Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks. In Zim met with key stakeholders in the conservation community and strengthened existing relationships. Zimbabweans have been through such a rough period in their history, yet we encountered some of the most hospitable and joyous people along our way. The conservation heroes of this period have managed to help maintain critical wildlife populations, ensuring that as the country moves into a new phase wildlife populations can reestablish themselves and once again prosper. There was a great willingness from each and every person we encountered to engage with the various projects we are working on, specifically the ‘Out of the Box, into the Cloud’ initiative which is geared towards developing support specifically for remote field stations in developing countries like Zimbabwe.
One of my favorite encounters was at the Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) project where we were lucky enough to spend time with a group of school children who were on a conservation bush camp program there. The kids were loving being out in the bush and learning about conservation and seeing their eyes light up as they told us about their bush camps experiences was a special moment. We work with PDC on a painted dog genome project and are in the process of getting more tissue samples sent to Stanford so we can continue to establish much needed genomic information for their conservation. Furthermore, their lab facilities are need of support and provide a perfect environment to implement ‘pop-up’ lab equipment we are working on. Attached is a photo of Jon & Joey Mellberg and myself outside PDC's first class bush camp near Hwange National Park.
Jordana and I will now travel up from Windhoek to Etosha National Park, visiting conservation initiatives and field stations along our way, and from there head on to Zambia to meet with members of the NGO Wildlife Crime Prevention in Lusaka. Hopefully our trusty land rover makes it, fingers crossed!
Simon Morgan, JRBP Research Associate
Jordana Meyer, JRBP Docent and PhD student in the Hadly Lab