|Okavango Delta, Botswana|
Botswana is home to some of the world’s most abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Two immense wetlands, the Chobe-Linyanti-Zambezi Wetland and the Okavango Delta, support Africa’s largest concentration of carnivores in Africa and are home to over 80,000 elephants. The people of Botswana have been living with wildlife for thousands of years, but as wildlife and human populations increase it is imperative to monitor wildlife populations, and to understand what services animals provide to people and the ecosystems they are part of, and how these communities and wildlife can continue to live together in beneficial ways.
Round River, in partnership with the Okavango Research Institute (ORI), is involved in a variety of research activities that include assisting with wildlife monitoring and wildlife demography studies, computer training with community game guards, rare/threatened bird monitoring, vegetation surveys, and monitoring ecosystem services in the Okavango Delta.
Spring Semester: February 18 - May 12
Fall Semester: September 20 - December 13
What to Expect
Students will conduct field work in the southeastern reaches of the Okavango Delta, assisting the Okavango Research Institute with wildlife demography studies, and possibly documenting and mapping ecosystem services and/or conducting vegetation surveys. Living mostly in the bush students spend mornings and afternoons or evenings conducting research with community escort guides. Field work is supplemented by academics: readings, discussions, lectures from program instructors, and possibly guest lectures from visiting and local researchers. Study sites are accessed by vehicle, and students can expect to spend a few hours each morning in vehicles doing game counts, as well as, on foot (near vehicles) conducting point counts in the afternoon. Students may be conducting vegetation surveys in hot weather as well. Camping at a number of different camp sites, the field crew is fairly mobile, moving as needed to make data collection more efficient. Students help with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and maintaining equipment. Also, as wildlife is abundant, students follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone in the group. This program provides an amazing opportunity to experience the rich biodiversity of Botswana first hand, while earning credits and gaining valuable field skills.
Round River programs are all unique; with no program the same as the last. As our research in Botswana is tied to our local partners, students assist with various projects depending on research needs. This means that students may spend an entire semester assisting with one research project, or they may have the opportunity to assist with a handful of different projects. Regardless, students learn valuable field methods, a vast number of native species, hone field journaling techniques, and come away with a good understanding of community-based conservation in Botswana. Students may also work with local villages, leading environmental or health education activities.
This program challenges students both physically and mentally, offering an incredible opportunity to experience Botswana and gain diverse perspectives on conservation in southern Africa.
These are student research papers from the first Botswana program, Spring 2012:
Effects of Large Herbivores on Understory Vegetation of Semi-Arid Savannahs, by Jordan Mead and Drew Vanetsky.
Elephant Feeding and Social Behavior Observed in Different Habitats of Chobe National Park, Botswana, by Molly Shane and Sarah Spinelli.
Impala (Aepyceros melampus) Behavior, in Linyanti Area, Chobe National Park, Botswana, by Sara Halm and Elena Rakowski.
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