Wow, pole (sorry)*- that was a long break between my first post and my second one- hopefully it won’t be the norm. Anyways, I’ve gotten back out to Kenya, with my feet back under me, and have started working with a field assistant/Maasai-Swahili-etc translator, who has been pretty awesome in terms of making connections at local villages with the wazee (elders). “Drogba,” as he’s known around here (because of, so I’ve heard, his football finesse) has also been instrumental in getting our equipment together and prepped for trapping and camping out in each of the 6 villages that we’ll be visiting. I also owe a huge thanks to my main collaborator/mentor in rodent trapping and handling at the research centre, and also an ex-Nunn lab member, Hillary Young, for helping me out with a car for transport to villages, traps for catching animals, various other essential resources, and lots of great advice and connections for this project.
Over the past month here, I’ve been to quite a few Kenyan offices for permits, passes, affiliations, etc (something that rarely gets mentioned when people are describing their field work, although it involves quite a major investment in terms of time and money), and things are moving along with all of these. I also visited the National Museums of Kenya with Drogba so that we could both become (re)-familiarized with the local rodent species in my research area. I think we are both pretty ready for the field- and so is the car, fondly named Mtoto (child; little one), perhaps because of its diminutive size, its target consumer, or both. I got some new spark plugs thrown in, an undercarriage stone/water guard to protect against puddles/pools/lakes that may show up on the roads during the rainy season, and a pretty rugged rack on the top of the car for carrying our new field lab! Our field lab is really just a repurposed safari-esque canvas tent that has had a few big improvements, one of which is a full length divider down the center of the tent, so that one side can be used for rodent housing, while the other is used for behavioral and diet preference testing (more on these in later posts). Finally, I’m finalizing the work on some miniature steel tents made to protect my traps from the rain, because a.) from an animal rights-view of things, being in a cold, wet, metal box for hours through the night can be taxing on any mammal, but especially the small ones, and b.) from an experimental design-view of things, raindrops hitting a trap can cause false-triggerings; hopefully these tents will eliminate the under-estimation that would arise from these events.
I just got the car back from the mechanic in town a couple days ago, the tent repairs were done the next day, and the mini trap tents are almost done. Between stocking up on all the research and living supplies for working out in the villages (e.g. car battery, power inverter, and lighting for the field lab, among many other necessities) and getting other must-haves, like phones and office supplies, I’ve been into town much more than I’d have liked to have been, but come this Monday, this will all change. That’s because on Monday, Drogba and I will be heading out to our first village, Koija, for about a week to do all of the trapping and behavior/diet analyses. More updates on these as they come…
Tutaonana baadaye (We’ll meet again later),
* – Every now and then, I’ll italicize some Kiswahili words that I use out here (and then put their definitions in parentheses)