Palaeo team field work in Namibia
In late September, Glynis Humphrey (Postdoctoral Research Fellow), Conor Eastment (Masters student) and Adele Julier (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) travelled to Bwabwata National Park in northern Namibia to conduct fieldwork including repeat photography, ground-truthing for remote sensing and modern pollen trap deployment.
This fieldwork built on Glynis’ previous work on the area, which aims to understand fire regimes and the impact of fire on vegetation. Repeat photographs were taken at sites that had been photographed in 1999, 2008 and 2011. These repeats will be used by Conor, in his Masters Thesis, to look at changes in woody cover over time in relation to fire. Vegetation data were gathered by the team at each repeat photography site, and Glynis conducted crucial ground-truthing for her remote sensing work, that will enable better interpretations of aerial imagery. Adele took surface samples to complement her work on sediment cores from the area, and set out pollen traps at each repeat photography site which, if recovered successfully and not burnt, trampled by elephants or stolen by baboons in the next year, will help to calibrate the pollen-vegetation relationships in the area.
The team were lucky to stay at some stunning camp sites, and encountered a wide variety of herbivorous megafauna including (many) elephants, hippos, buffalos and a variety of antelopes, particularly near the river-systems. The carnivorous megafauna were a little more elusive, but leopard tracks were spotted near one camp, hyenas kept the team up at night regularly, and a pair of lions were heard making a kill close to camp one evening.
The fieldwork, on the whole, went incredibly smoothly and the data gathered will pave the way to a more comprehensive understanding of fire and vegetation dynamics over time, in an area of huge historical and conservation importance. Glynis, Conor and Adele would like to thank the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and all of the parks employees for their collaboration and support in the field to make this work possible.