TBA Sponsors Report

I would like to commend the Tropical Biology Association highly on their efforts to provide effective training to Europe and Africa’s aspiring scientists. Having been a participant on the course in Kenya in 2007 I can say that I was extremely impressed by the organisation, commitment, and professionalism shown by members of the staff on the course.

The main reason I applied to go on a TBA course was to gain experience in planning and carrying out field research. I talked to students who had been on trips abroad with similar aims but with different organizations and had been disappointed by the experience and cost. I found my expectations to be far exceeded by the TBA field course in Kenya. All the challenges of working in remote environments were met with well laid contingency plans and enthusiastic staff who worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the course and the welfare of the course participants.

Not only did I gain the field experience I was looking for but I also received high quality teaching from renowned scientists from across the globe and I became friends with a vast diversity of people from over 20 different countries across Africa and Europe.

During the course we stayed in a tented camp in the bush of central Kenya where we heard lectures on a variety of local aspects of ecology and conservation including research on wild dog populations and otter habitats. We carried out a number of group field exercises gathering data in the field and learning the processes of designing experiments and analysing data, this included a study of the mechanical and architectural defenses of Acacia spp. against megaherbivores. The experience of living in such beautiful, wildlife rich and remote environments without electricity or running water was an adventure I shall never forget.

At the halfway point on the course we travelled to Nairobi for a one day conference focusing on conservation issues in East Africa. We then moved to the second half of the course where we stayed at the Elsamere conservation centre on the shore of Lake Naivasha. This location was ideal for carrying out group projects as it was close to Hells Gate National Park which is the only national park in Kenya to allow pedestrian access. We discussed our personal research interests and formed groups or two or three based on similarities of interest. TBA sets a rule that we can only work with people from countries other than our own so I worked with a Guyanaian and a Greek Cypriot. We studied variation in Acacia drepanolobium defense by resident ants and investigated the presence of a fifth species of ant previously undescribed on these trees.

I learnt a lot of valuable lessons about carrying out field research which I will surely use in my studies as I pursue a PhD in botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University. I hope to maintain contact with the friends I made on the course throughout the and perhaps some of those relationships could result in research collaborations in the future.

I must express my sincere gratitude to the Tropical Biology Association for making it possible for me to participate in the course in Kenya this year and to the British Ecological Society for awarding me a grant towards the cost of the course, and to all the other organisations and institutes who support the TBA courses financially and academically.

No comments: