From intern to PhD
Report from PhD Student, Georgia Troup
My name is Georgia (George) Troup, and I am the Elephants and Bees Project’s newest PhD student, based at the Australian National University (ANU). This is my third time to Save the Elephants – I was previously an intern at the Samburu field site in 2012, and then last year I came out to the Elephants and Bees site to develop ideas for my PhD study. My research broadly investigates the social and nutritional drivers of crop-raiding by elephants in Sagalla, and I am lucky enough to be able to spend the next 12 months at the Elephants and Bees site for my first field season of data collection. It’s so nice to be back!
The logistics surrounding organising a PhD field season are a project within themselves – I arrived in Nairobi five week ago, but have only been able to get out to Sagalla in the last 10 days. I spent nearly one whole month in Nairobi looking for a field car, but luckily just before I went insane we found the perfect car and I was able to drive out to camp! My Landcruiser has had no shortage of adventures over its long life, and hopefully we will share many more over the next few years together! Fortunately I was able to do many other important tasks while I was in Nairobi, including consulting with potential laboratories to conduct my (quite extensive!) lab work, and purchasing data collection equipment etc.
Over the past week and a half since arriving at camp I have been able to settle back in to life in the bush with Emmanuel, Nzumu, Sophia (the Elephants and Bees Project’s Masters student from the U.S., who I worked with last year at the site) and the current interns. My timing was perfect, and the day after I arrived at camp I was able to sit in on a major beehive fence farmer meeting hosted by Emmanuel and Nzumu at the Elephants and Bees Project’s hall. It was so nice to see the familiar faces of the Mwakoma farmers, and meet the new Mwambiti farmers now with beehive fences. I am so surprised that many of the farmers even recognised me (and greeted me very warmly), which I certainly didn’t expect!
I have also spent a few days in the field with the farmers – learning about Sophia’s interesting Masters project and helping Emmanuel with his beehive fence maintenance. Most importantly though, I have been able to visit all the relevant officials at Tsavo East National Park, Ngutuni Wildlife Conservancy and Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary to get approval to complete certain aspects of my study in their respective areas. Everyone has been so helpful and interested in what we are trying to do, which has been fantastic. It’s very encouraging to have the support of those who know the area so well and want the best for both their people and wildlife. The cherry on top of our successful visit to Ngutuni came just as we were leaving, when we were also lucky enough to stumble across a beautiful (and very full!) lioness sitting by a young elephant carcass. It’s incredibly dry here at the moment and unfortunately it’s possible that the elephant died from starvation, but what an incredible sight to start off my PhD fieldwork!
I am very much looking forward to all the adventures and challenges the next 12 months of fieldwork at the Elephants and Bees Project will undoubtedly bring – elephants, lions and all!