Notes from the Field: Simon Morgan and Jordana Meyer in Namibia and Beyond
Simon says: 3,106 miles and 4 countries later Jordana and I made it back into Botswana with 3 mechanic visits and only a one-day delay - not bad for a 24yr old landrover! We travelled through a number of iconic protected areas and were lucky enough to spot a number of elusive and endangered wildlife species en route - with incredible midday sightings of the nocturnal black rhino and leopard in Etosha National Park, Namibia. It is here we met with a Stanford researcher, Caitlin O’Connor-Rodwell who has been coming to the park for over 20 years and has pioneered much of our understanding of elephant communication. It was great to hear her stories about her intensive field work and to discover that much of the ‘pop-up’ lab initiatives and discussions generated through the 'Out of the Box - into the Cloud’ initiative at Jasper Ridge would be of great value in her extremely remote research environment.
Along the way we have had such an inspiring time talking to government officials, NGOs and national park managers while more sobering conversations were to be had with anti-poaching units and prosecutors working to combat the illegal wildlife and bushmeat trade. We found synergies with each and every group with the research we are doing and I feel that one of our biggest challenges going forward is going to be navigating our way through the myriad of important and relevant opportunities to ensure that our efforts are as widespread and impactful as possible. To help us navigate our way through elements of this task is going to be the field trip that we are about to embark on through Botswana with Tony and Liz, along with two-post docs and five PhD students from Stanford and seven undergraduates. We are exploring not only the wilderness of Botswana, but treading along the human-wildlife interface to see the challenges being faced by people living with wildlife and wildlife having to live with people… Following our daily experiences, as we make our way along the Okavango Delta down to where the waters dissipate into the Kalahari, we will have fireside discussions under the African skies about our origins, our impacts and our future. Emerging from this collective experience we will come back to Jasper Ridge with fresh insights about our research direction and share this with you, but hopefully we will bypass some form of civilization along the way to send some updates on this learning expedition.