Friday, July 6, 2018

Mapping the Mara

After finishing my first year of my PhD, I was eager to do some field work! Fortunately, one of my lab mates is collaborating with a remote sensing institute to make a land cover map of the Mara. Creating this map requires some on-the-ground work to verify which habitat types are at specified locations. This provided a great opportunity for me and my lab mate, Olivia, to collect some data and help create a map we will use for our dissertation research.

Our goal is to visit as many locations around the Mara as possible and record information about the ground cover to use as training data to build the map. Instead of following hyenas at dawn and dusk, we collect our data during the day, traveling to our randomly generated points. Most of the points we travel to are in grasslands.

However, we need to make sure all cover types are represented in our dataset, so we also search for rarer habitat types, like riverine forest and wetlands. Luckily, some of the best riverine forest is right in camp, along the Talek River.

Olivia collecting data for our mapping project on the Talek River near camp. 

Here I am, checking out the vegetation across the river.

Most of our days involve a lot of looking at plants and describing the ground cover. Sometimes we have company, like a thirsty elephant who stopped by to take a drink in the pond at one of our points. Luckily, we were finished with that point.

Sometimes, we find that our point is already occupied. Yesterday, we came upon a cheetah resting in the patch of shrubs where we planned on stopping. After awing at how lucky we were to find a cheetah, we decided to find another point.

Driving around and during the day also gives us great birding opportunities. Here are some of my favorite birds we’ve seen so far:

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Lilac-breasted Roller

Usambiro Barbet

This project has been a great opportunity to explore new areas of the Mara, giving us a broader perspective on the landscape and many chances to see amazing wildlife. I look forward to continuing the rest of the ground-truthing here in Talek and in the Mara Triangle!


Unknown said...

Hey, Julie! Thanks for the post. Do you remember exactly where the pregnant cheetah was? (Coordinates would be a bonus!) I'd love to go look for her. Thanks!

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