Conservation Field Diaries

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July 14, 2014
Back in the Field to Save Black-Footed Ferrets

Before this spring, it had been almost eight years since I had done black-footed ferret fieldwork! So I was excited to head back into the wild in March. After all, beyond helping a critically endangered species, there’s nothing like being out on the prairie in the middle of the night.

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May 24, 2010
Into Addo Elephant National Park

After breakfast we grab groceries and head up to Adoo Elephant National Park. AENP was started in 1931 to save the region’s 11 remaining elephants. It is 164,000 hectares and hopes to expand to 236,000 hectares in the near future, making it the third largest National Park in South Africa.

AENP has the “Big 5” (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos). The current elephant population size is 500. Since it’s fenced, AENP now faces new problems...how to accommodate all of the elephants!

May 24, 2010
Arriving in South Africa

After 21 hours for flying, Dr. Elizabeth Freeman and I make it to Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape of South Africa. Because we are still one hour from Addo Elephant National Park (AENP), and it’s 10 p.m., Jordana Meyer picks us up and takes us to a B&B to send the night. To celebrate my birthday (which is today) Jordie brings out a cake and everyone sings happy birthday to me!

Why am I in South Africa?

May 21, 2010
A Morning SSP Meeting

While everyone is eager to go out into the field (thinking that today is the day they will find at least one massasauga), as SSP coordinator, I sternly herd them straight from their breakfast coffee to the conference meeting room. We must forgo for the moment the call of the wild and focus on managing the population of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Species Survival Plan®.

Computers emerge from backpacks, notebooks open and brains engage (thanks to abundant coffee).

May 20, 2010
A Day in the Field

In her last post, Lisa touched on what it’s like to survey for rattlesnakes, but I thought I’d give you a better idea of what we do for 5–7 hours a day in southwest Michigan. Part of the fun involves occasional brushes with poison sumac, crawling ticks and the randomly changing wetland terrain, which can be solid ground one step and mud up to your waist the next. The real challenge, however, is reviewing your knowledge about preferred massasauga habitat and then trying to narrow your search of hundreds of acres of wetlands to where you think the snakes will be.

May 18, 2010
Searching for Snakes in Southwest Michigan

Each spring the eastern massasauga rattlesnake emerges from crayfish burrows and other winter hibernation holes ready for some sun and a good meal to kick-start its growth and reproduction for the year. This emergence coincides with a new spring tradition for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which manages the snake’s population in zoos across the country.

December 22, 2009
South Africa Wildlife Slideshow

While Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, traveled to South Africa to aid black rhino conservation, she was also able to take in the wildlife of Addo Elephant National Park. Relive her experience with this slideshow of Addo wildlife!


Click the photo to view the slideshow.
December 10, 2009
South Africa Slideshow: Black Rhino Conservation

Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, takes us along as she collaborates to conserve black rhinos in South Africa. View the slideshow!

September 30, 2009
Tanzania Travel Slideshow

Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, takes us along as she and Vice President of Conservation & Science Dominic Travis, D.V.M., visit Lincoln Park Zoo conservation sites in Tanzania.

Click the image to start the slideshow!

July 24, 2009
A Quick Bay World Consultation

We headed back towards Port Elizabeth to Bay World. Michelle Du Toit, a researcher working at Bay World, asked us to assist her with cryopreserving dolphin semen. They are shipping their dolphin pair to Hong Kong while the pool is renovated and want to cryobank the male’s semen prior to the move.

The male has been trained to willingly give a sample, but unfortunately, today’s sample is not viable. We do make some suggestions to help improve their methods.

Besides this project, Michelle studies the health of the reef in the bay and in African penguins.

July 23, 2009
Black Rhino Background

Because it’s raining today, we are forced to have an office day. We’re working on our Progress Report for SANparks and also meeting with SANparks Region Manager, Lucius Moolman, to discuss our project’s progress.

I thought I’d also take advantage of the delay to provide some background on the black rhino conservation project:

Black rhinos are elusive creatures that serve as a reminder of prehistoric times, and in recent years, an iconic species for conservation efforts. Habitat destruction and poaching nearly drove black rhinos toward extinction in the 1990s.

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