Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today I skinned my hand playing duck duck goose with some of the children from the primary school, about a 45 minute walk from our camp. Those kids are fast, and I took the curve of the circle of use a little too fast. It was a lot of fun.
I have a little question to pose. Tomorrow is exam day (which is why this post will be shorter than usual) and after exams we will need to rank which of the three directed research projects we want (wildlife ecology first, environmental policy second, wildlife management third, this is just an example). The three directed research projects are:
Wildlife Ecology: Do a quality assessment of critical wetlands in the Group Ranches and examine human encroachment and use.
Wildlife Management: Examine how wildlife disperse and use the Group Ranches.
Environmental Policies: Examine how land tenure affects wildlife conservation.
I know I want wildlife ecology or wildlife management, but the question is which one should I put first? I know how the research will be conducted (WE through vegetation transects, water sampling, human buildings/water use assessment; WM through transects and observations of large wildlife [probably in a car, because we can't really be in the sanctuary on foot technically I think but I might be wrong]) and I enjoy both of them, and I like both of the professors and the research topics. So I don't know what I'll choose, but I'm feeling lucky, so I'll probably get it.
Talking about research, I have had a few problems with the way it is conducted here. Not with the staff or professors, they are great. The research procedures are awesome, as are the issues they are investigated. The issue I have had is with other students. We did a transect through Acacia tortilis sparse woodland/scrubland to assess damage to vegetation by humans and damage by elephants. The group I had was on a transect that went through some of the denser portions of the rangeland (though dense in a rangeland is not really that dense at all), so we had a lot more shrubs and trees to examine and assess. The other members of my group wanted to rush through it, so they started pushing to cut corners which, while they might not compromise the data they might as well, and one of them even said, "We can make that up. It's not graded." It really shocked me. We came here to learn how to do research, and how can you do it correctly if you refuse to learn it correctly? Also, the study we did in Tanzania on bird density and abundance in habitats in the Serengeti is going to be submitted by Kioko (our wildlife ecology teacher there) to a paper. Did their groups cut corners in that one? These studies that they have us practice on our meant to not only teach us but to also be useful. It really surprised me that these students, of all people, would be so quick to, while not falsify (except maybe, if the person was serious), potentially compromise data. There was also talk in the car afterwards, complaining that we had to write it up, and someone else said that they didn't come to Africa to write papers. They, and I, came to Tanzania and Kenya to participate in this academic program. Academics include communicating the information you find through papers. If they wanted a non-academic study abroad they could have chosen it. We were told it would be academically rigorous before we came here. It just annoys me how quick we are to forget why we came here (to learn how to conduct field research and possible solutions to current issues facing wildlife) and the importance to maintain integrity in research. Just recently an eminent psychologist, Diederik Stapel, has been cited for falsifying data on many of his studies, and we all know about the autism and vaccine link study. How can we trust any research if some scientists are willing to make up data so that it looks like that their studies make a difference, when they don't.
All I can say is that I hope the other members, whoever they are, of my directed research group will take it as seriously as I will.


  1. It sounds like the most important factor for you in choosing a research project is finding out who you'll be researching with. That's often the case.

  2. That's funny; Joseph and I were just talking earlier today about pharmaceutical companies skewing research.
    I agree with Dad. If you like both WE and WM, finding out who you would be working with might be the way to go (if you can that is). You'll learn either way, but working with other students who really do care about the research makes a world of difference.