Thursday, September 9, 2021

Goodbye Mara (for now!)

And that’s a wrap! As of last weekend, I’m back in the States for my first semester of classes as a PhD student. I officially joined the Holekamp lab earlier this summer and will hopefully return to the Mara in January for my first round of fieldwork. Until then, David, our latest Kenyan research assistant, will keep an eye on the Serena hyenas to make sure they keep their shenanigans to a minimum. As I embark on my new journey, I can’t help but to reflect on my time in the Mara this year. Although being the only researcher in Serena was challenging at times, I am eternally grateful for this experience.

Thank you to Brian and Sue Heath, for allowing me to conduct research in the Triangle, taking me on countless game drives, and hosting delicious dinners. Thank you for introducing me to the surrounding mzungu community when I was faced with the social challenges of living in a remote research camp. And most of all, thank you for not accidentally killing me on our last game drive through arguably one of the worst off-road areas I’ve encountered in the Mara. 

Thank you to Warden Alfred, Aruasa, and the other rangers for changing my flat tire in less than 5 minutes and digging me out of mud when I found the only wet patch in the entire Mara Triangle. Thanks for always stopping to chat while out on patrol, taking me out on game drives, and keeping me company at the infamous leopard bush for literally hours at a time. Lastly, I’d like to say the opposite of thank you, for the time you guys got me horribly stuck in black cotton soil for 3+ hours. 

Thank you to Benson and the entire Serena Team for keeping me alive out here. Simply put, I would not have survived in the bush for 7 months if it wasn’t for you guys. Benson, thank you for the endless supply runs, advice, and kindness. This project would not be the same without you.

Thank you to Lerijin for answering all of my 6am wake-up calls and WhatsApp messages. Thank you for rescuing me 3 times in less than 48 hours, for fixing KAS anytime a problem popped up, and for teaching me African time. 

Thank you to Fran and her kids for the picnics, lunches, and camping trip. Thank you for coming out to see the hyenas with me – may Austin and Zoe become the newest research assistants in Serena one day. 

Thank you to Simon for the hot showers at the lodge, which drastically improved my quality of life in the bush. Thank you for hosting my friends, the beautiful hippo pool breakfast, and yummy bush dinner. Thank you also for conceding that the “greedy” hyenas can actually be quite cute sometimes.

Thank you to Stratton, Perry, and all of the other visitors who stayed in Fisi Camp. Thank you for accompanying me on obs, listening to me rant about why hyenas are awesome, and teaching me about your research. Thank you for breaking up the monotony of regular camp life and expanding my social circle.

Thank you to Lila for listening to hours and hours of voice messages about literally anything and everything that happened out in the bush. I cannot wait for our reunion in the Mara next year. 

Thank you to the Mara for the beautiful sunsets, stunning landscapes, and incredible wildlife sightings:

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science