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Time To Go!!

It’s been a busy spring, I’ve just finished my very last class for my PhD and a lot of lab work for both my genetics and stable isotope projects, and now it’s time to get back out to fieldwork in Africa! On Sunday I fly to Senegal where I’ll spend a couple weeks and will have some meetings about project sites there (the Senegal Ministry of the Environment has pledged some financial support and they’re trying to leverage more, which Tomas and I are very excited about). In mid-May I’ll travel to Guinea-Bissau to join my Spanish colleagues in an effort that has been over 3 years in planning- we will attempt to capture and satellite tag manatees in the Bijagos Archipelago. This will be the first time anyone has studied African manatees in a marine ecosystem, so all our fingers are crossed that we’ll catch a few. This is where we’ll be working:

We are all aware of the difficulties we face… just getting all the equipment, people, and camping supplies out to the very remote capture site will be challenging. And capture efforts in other similar remote places such as Costa Rica, Panama, and Cuba have had teams that have made multiple capture attempts over many years and were not successful (in Cuba they just tagged their first manatees last year, after something like10 years of trying! And in Costa Rica they have not yet been successful despite 3 capture attempts).

We’ll be working at a spring in a mangrove channel that manatees regularly use to drink freshwater. Manatees are seen in these islands year round, so we hope to discover if they live there permanently, feeding on the extensive seagrass beds and depending entirely on the springs, or do they travel back and forth to the mainland 25 miles or more away to use the river systems there? I also hope to collect genetic and other biological samples since previous results have shown that manatees here are very genetically diverse, and I’d like to analyze their diet.

So I’m packing up, and will post my adventures as often as I can!

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