River Basin Ecosystem Management course

Elephants Without Borders is very pleased and excited, having hosted a collaborative endeavor  with professors and students from University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney, Australia), Kings College London and Arizona State University (USA) coming under the banner of the Plus Alliance, to teach a 10-day intensive field ecology course called the “River Basin Ecosystem Management Course”.

What better place to teach such an intensive field-based curriculum than at EWB’s “Conservation Ecology Research Station” in the Okavango delta, one of the world’s hotspots of biodiversity and a UNESCO World Heritage site, in fact #1000!

The purpose of the course is to teach about the challenges of tackling global challenges in a developing country, focusing on the sustainability of biological and abiotic processes, within the context of human drivers of development in a cross-boundary river basin. It aims to give students an advanced understanding of riverine, basic ecosystem science, by considering the constraints and considerations shaping the delta’s management. The students gained skills in various field monitoring methods, ecosystem analyses, and their application to human/wildlife interactions all in the globally significant Okavango Delta.

For many of the students and even professors it was their first time in Africa, let alone their first time in sleeping in the bush! It was a memorable and exhilarating experience for everyone, especially on the second day when the camp was visited mid-morning by a proud lioness and her three cubs. She decided to take a stroll past our fire place giving us an exciting welcome to the camp. Other daily visits by leopards, hyenas and elephants also kept everyone on their toes!

The students learned valuable field sampling skills, such as camera traps surveys, in order to monitor mammals in the terrestrial environment within the delta. There is always big excitement each morning doing the daily download to see what exciting images have been collected overnight.

The students also developed skills in the water quality testing, and invertebrate sampling and collection. These are essential whenever needing to measure the health of a river system.

We didn’t just learn to survey the “big stuff”; Dr Mike Chadwick lead the invertebrate identification and classification component of the course. After all, the health of a river system is often indicative of the diversity and prevalence of the invertebrates that exist in them.

The practical lessons were combined with a lecture series presented by each of our visiting professors. Professor Richard Kingsford delivered a riveting lecture on international governance on a cross-border river basin and its challenges that are presented.

Overall the course was a huge success, a lot of fun, and the students learned and experienced more than they ever expected. EWB had an absolute pleasure hosting such young enthusiastic minds at the Research Station. We sincerely appreciate the hard work and planning that the University’s had to initiate and organize, UNSW, Kings College and Arizona State!

 A gigantic Thank You is warranted for the very talented Gao, our EWB camp “chef extraordinaire”, CK, KB and O’neal for their hard work and hospitality. We are also grateful to the Abu concession managers, Abu camp, and the Elephant Back Safari team for their assistance. We hope the course will be much bigger and better next year, as we also hope to be hosting students from the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, courtesy of the UNSW and the University of Botswana…. We look forward to next year’s adventures! EWB Conservation Ecology Research Station

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