Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 - An Exciting Year Ahead

The year 2015 was an exciting one for the team at CARACAL and Virginia Tech's Alexander Lab. We had more on the go than ever before including a range of projects, outreach activities, a vibrant education and outreach program, hours upon hours of time in the field, data and sample collection and processing in our two labs on two continents, meetings with ambassadors, researchers, United Nations representatives and so much more.

But our work is far from done and 2016 looks set to be an even more exciting and eventful year. Our work on the Chobe River system continues apace, and looks set to be expanded upon as we add a whole new range of data sources and surveying techniques to our already extensive program.

The Chobe River itself is at it's lowest ebb at the moment, with some suggestions that it has not been this low for 25 years (No, despite what you may have heard, Victoria Falls has not dried up, but this is causing various problems downstream). There is some concern as to the volume of this year's flood too, with poor rains so far in the wet season indicating a potentially weak flood pulse. This, combined with the already massive concentrations of large game along the river and the probable increase resulting from a lack of inland grazing means that the Chobe River system is likely to be under a lot of pressure over the year ahead, with increased competition for grazing and higher faecal loads across the entire system. We're going to be very busy!

Fortunately we will be well-equipped to deal with theses challenges as our custom designed water-sampling boat is just about ready for her maiden voyage! She will be fitted out with state-of-the-art water-quality monitoring, mapping, navigation and surveying technology, and will help us to gain a better understanding of this crucial ecosystem than we've ever had before.

Our education and outreach activities look set to push the bounds of what is possible too, with an exciting new program in the works that will attempt help tackle a range of devastating social and community problems too (watch this space). Our Conservation Club, which entails working with children from several local schools will continue as before, with our education team working hard to foster a sense of ownership and investment in the surrounding ecosystem among the Chobe District's next generation of leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and conservationists. Last year was an overwhelming success, which we will continue to build upon and expand as our programs in the region proceed.

So there you have it – 2016 looks set to be an incredible and an incredibly important year for all of us. We hope it is for you too!

[Photo © Warwick Hendry]

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