Articles from Field Dispatches
We set up our first artificial stream experiment in 2014, using a portable artificial stream array we built in Kenya. It was so exciting to be able to conduct rigorous experiments in the field, with controls and replication, which is usually quite difficult to do at the ecosystem scale at which we normally work. In 2014, we set up the stream array at the Mara River Water User’s Association in Mulot, which is a grassroots water resource management group.
We were planning to set up 18 artificial streams in the middle of the Maasai Mara, fill them with water, put rotting wildebeest meat in several, and run an experiment for several weeks during which three rows of propellers had to turn 24 hours a day to circulate the water and nothing in the streams could be disturbed.
There’s a lot of very large wildlife in the Maasai Mara, including a lot of animals that might be attracted to either water or the smell of rotting meat.
Water, water everywhere, and not a drop for our artificial streams…
This summer we have two undergraduate students joining us in the Mara for the first time. They are part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program through our National Science Foundation grant. The first student, James Landefeld, joined us in the Mara this week. James will be conducting research on the influence of hippo and wildebeest inputs on the Mara River food web, using both field sampling and artificial streams. Karibu James!
This year we taught our first short course on food webs and stable isotope ecology in the Mara River. The course was taught by myself, David Post, Emma Rosi-Marshall and Frank Masese, with funding from the National Science Foundation. We had 12 participants from Yale University, the National Museums of Kenya, Egerton University and Eldoret University. Some of the course participants were senior scientists or professors interested in learning more about these topics, and others were undergraduate or graduate students still planning their research.
Chris and I are currently back at Yale, but Geemi has been doing an outstanding job documenting wildebeest river crossings and drowning events this year in the Mara River. So far, there have been over 70 river crossings and just one drowning with 1,200 individuals. This is much fewer what we have documented over the past four years (an average of 5 drownings and ~7,000 individuals per year). All of our research thus far is on the Kenyan side of the border, but we just saw a report online of a huge wildebeest drowning that just happened on Sept. 29 in the Mara River on the Tanzanian side.
Amanda, Lily and I are at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore this year. Amanda co-hosted a session called “Dense Macabre: The Role of Migrations and Mortality in Shaping our Planet” and presented on the “Causes and consequences of wildebeest mass drownings in the Mara River, Kenya”.