Saturday, June 4, 2011

Back in Watamu

Greetings from the Kenyan coast – I’m here for a few weeks at the Mwamba Field Study Centre (A Rocha Kenya) working with colleagues on several different conservation projects. I’m continuing work on a collaborative project with Colin Jackson, an ornithologist at A Rocha Kenya, and his field crew on conservation of several endangered bird species that inhabit the nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (ASF). ASF is the largest last remnant forest along the East African coast, and is home to six birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or the IUCN as it’s known) “red list” of endangered/threatened species. Last year we published the results of a study we conducted (with UW Tacoma undergraduates) exploring the interaction of bird and arthropod populations with elephant disturbance; this month we have just submitted another paper (again with the help of UW Tacoma undergraduates who accompanied me here last autumn to do more fieldwork) detailing the preference of one of the red-listed birds (the East Coast Akalat – Sheppardia gunning) for a particular habitat in the forest (Cynometra forest & thicket). We’re in the process of writing up another paper this week that attempts to more closely analyze data linking the relationship between elephant disturbance and other vegetation characteristics and bird diversity in the forest reserve. Plans to conduct an exhaustive elephant count, in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, have been delayed for a few weeks – we’re hopeful that this will get done within the month so that we’ll have updated information about the elephant densities in ASF, which will help us all to better understand the rich ecological network involving these megaherbivores and the rest of the forest denizens (and consequently the implications of different management strategies).
On the marine side, I’ve been continuing my collaboration with Watamu Turtle Watch, finishing up analysis of data linking beach habitat condition and Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle) nesting along Watamu Beach. We should have a preliminary paper submitted on this work in the next two months – more info to follow!