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In Transit (written on Tuesday somewhere over the Atlantic)

Now that I’ve finally settled into my comfortable seat on the 15 hour flight from Houston to Luanda, Angola I actually have time to really start thinking about returning to Africa. Of course I have been planning logistics for the past month or so, but then I took a much-needed relaxing vacation in the Pacific northwest with my family, and only returned to FL for 2 1/2 days before leaving for Angola. I’ve been so busy thinking about everything I needed to bring, the work plan for manatee surveys, various travel logistics, etc., that I hadn’t had time to consider the excitement of returning to Africa until now. And what a great feeling it is. I have spent most of the past 3 months at my computer working on grant applications to raise funds to continue and expand manatee research, stakeholder training and conservation efforts for Gabon, and have been fortunate to receive three grants so far, as well as some very nice individual donations, all of which brings me 2/3 of the way to my budget goal. So hard work is paying off and I am looking so forward to being back there for at least 4 months this year which will give me more time in-country to get work done. Although there certainly are challenges for manatee conservation in Gabon, there is also more hope for the species there than in many other parts of West Africa, and it feels good to be building momentum for a long-term effort there. There is such wonderful enthusiasm from the people I work with as well. So stay tuned for field notes from Gabon.

But first, in the next few weeks I’ll do my second round of manatee surveys in northern Angola. Then I’ll go to Gabon for meetings the Wildlife Conservation Society is holding to hopefully unite research, training and fundraising efforts for marine species in Gabon’s coastal ecosystems so that we can all work more effectively together there.

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