Way back then (or “back in my day” as I’ve become overly fond of saying. Seriously, try it. It’s surprisingly fun to say in the most pompous voice you can muster), I was a Research Assistant for the Hyena Project, collecting the day-to-day data that keeps our project running. Now, I am coming back to Kenya as a graduate student, ready to collect data for my PhD dissertation. This means more blogs from me to you!
I have been mentally preparing for my return to Kenya since I started graduate school in the Zoology Department of MSU in the fall of 2012. With all of that advance thinking, going back into the field didn’t start feeling real until my supplies started arriving a couple weeks ago. I will be studying hyena vocal communication and unfortunately, this means I need a LOT of equipment. I need recording equipment to record the hyena’s calls. I need speakers to play the recorded sounds back to the hyenas. Plus, I need all the memory cards, hard drives, and batteries to keep all this equipment running (and I won’t bore you with all the underwear, personal field gear, and charging cords that are necessary for life in camp).
The speakers were an adventure all by themselves. I have a lot of requirements and received advice ranging from “Anything will work” to “Nothing will work except custom speakers made by an expert” and “There is no way you will find speakers like that without having it plugged into external power.” I had a few brief panic attacks in the midst of this fiasco. In the end, I purchased three different portable, battery operated speakers and tested all of them out.
|The three speakers I tested, with a cantaloupe for scale.|
The Klipsch speakers (the medium-sized ones in the picture above) ended up being the perfect combination of battery powered, amplitude, and sound clarity. With my back turned to them, it was easy to believe I had a hyena whooping behind me. If I can fool myself, then the hyenas should be fooled too (at least for a little while).
Once you have devices that run on batteries, you need batteries to go with it. Suddenly, you feel as if you’ve given a mouse a cookie, because now that you have rechargeable batteries, you need a battery charger, and then you need to something to run those chargers. Our solar power in camp isn’t always reliable and we always have a ton of people using them. This made a solar set-up necessary. The last thing I want is to have good weather, no mud, great hyena cooperation, and no background noise, only to find that the recorder batteries have died. I ended up getting a lovely, compact set-up that includes a solar-powered battery and a rugged solar panel.
On top of my own supplies, there were some other things we needed for camp. Add all this together and you get the craziness that ensued in my living room for a week:
|Just half the boxes that arrived at my house.|
|Two sets of recording equipment. One for Serena Camp and one for Talek Camp.|
|This is only a portion of the mess. After this, I got to embarrassed to take pictures.|
Luckily my roommates are also researchers and were very tolerant of the mess. Eventually, I managed to pack everything into five very full, very heavy bags.
And I was ready to fly out!!
I miraculously made it to Nairobi with ALL of my bags. Now it's just a matter of running Nairobi errands, getting cars fixed, and then I'll be back to the hyenas and back to work!
Feel free to request blog topics and I will do my best to provide them during my six month stay.