Thursday, September 28, 2023

Jambo from Maya

Greetings from Fisi camp! My name is Maya and I’m one of the newest research assistants for the Mara Hyena Project. 

It’s been wonderful to be here and experience the Mara. During our daily observational sessions, we drive to each clan’s territory to find the hyenas and observe their behaviors. During these sessions we record hyena behaviors and the presence of any charming mongooses, or other predators, that we see along the way. It has also been great to get to know the guys here at Serena camp: Philimon Naiguran, Moses Naiguran, Stephen Kimoine, and David Nchoko. They’ve been guiding us through the Mara, camp life, and the world of hyenas.

Our campsite is situated in the middle of The Triangle and we share living space with elephants, hippos, buffalos, lions, hyenas, warthogs and little dwarf mongooses to name just some of our neighbors. It’s clear the animals feel safe around us. For that reason we rarely leave our tents at night. We can often hear elephants eating or hippos munching outside our tents. I think my mother would absolutely freak out if she was here, but none of us have been hurt by our wild neighbors.

Here’s a little bit about my college & wildlife background:

I attended UC Davis for my BS where I majored in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity. I developed an interest in animal behavior, which led me to work on projects concerning the mating behavior of sage grouse, the social plasticity of primates, termite social structure and anti-pathogenic responses, and white-crowned sparrow vocal call variation. My most recent project involved exploring bat microbiomes in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I find the combination of lab and field work to be a great balance and intellectually stimulating too.

I arrived with my co-RA’s Brianna and Ben about a month and a half ago now. Jana trained us for a couple of weeks and since then I have been fascinated by everything hyena - from their morphology to their unique social structure. It has been tough to remember all the unique spot patterns we use to identify our study hyenas, but we are sharpening our skills each day.

That’s all for now! But you’re in for a treat, my co-RA’s Ben and Brianna are up next.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science