From the Field: Paul Holloway in Botswana

Paul is a Phd student whose research applies movement pattern analysis to improve species distribution models (SDMs). He sent us this update from Botswana earlier this week.

Much like Costa Rica, the roosters of Botswana also like to rise extremely early, three 3 hours before sunrise in fact. And when they are joined by the town dogs and the river’s toads, it makes for an interesting morning alarm, and one that I’m not going to miss.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in the field travelling across northern Botswana, in an attempt to understand the landscape from a brown hyena’s perspective. Several nights in Nxai Pans and Makgadikgadi National Parks in the east of the country showed me the barrenness of their habitat, driving through miles and miles of grasslands and savannas.I’ve collected near to 100 GPS points of that area, with corresponding photos, so I’m looking forward to comparing MODIS land cover to actual on the ground images. It was also noticeable that there was near to no natural water to speak of in the area, with all the wildlife clustered either the river or the artificial wells near the cattle posts. There was also a bounty of dead animals by the side of the only tarmac road in the area, a fact the hyenas must also be aware of…

I also had several exciting animal sightings. Having been lectured on the necessity of not straying beyond sight of the tents due to a high lion presence in the area, I’m not ashamed to say my heart did stop beating for a second when all I could hear was the sound of water being lapped at 2am one night when nature called and I had to leave my tent. Fortunately it was only a black backed jackal, which didn’t look too blood thirsty.

 I’m looking forward to getting back in front of my computer and making the shapefiles come to life through the images and landscape I’ve seen and collected. Thanks to my guides while I was out there, Thoralf, Kelley and Thomas. Hope it’s not too hot in Austin, and I’ll see y’all shortly.

And no, I didn’t actually spot any hyenas. The perfect excuse for next year…

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