CS10 alum Caroline Galliani, shares in her own words her semester in Botswana.
"Round River Conservation Studies is an academic organization whose goal is to achieve largescale conservation of vast landscapes through the implementation of strategies that restore and sustain wildness (Round River 2018). The organization offers study abroad and research opportunities in extremely vast, unique landscapes (e.g. Mongolia, Patagonia, NW British Columbia). As a Conserve School Alum and a student at the University of Vermont, I would consider myself comfortable in the mountains and/or woods, and quite comfortable with snow. When I came across Round River’s Botswana program and recognized my opportunity to study the Okavango Delta’s ecosystem, one reason I decided to go was to expose myself to a geographical landscape filled with animals that I was completely unfamiliar with.
Turns out, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Botswana is home to two of the largest wetlands in the world—the Okavango Delta and the Chobe-Linyanti-Zambezi Wetland. As a result of the abundant water supply, the Delta region is home to the largest concentration of carnivores in Africa, as well as roughly 60% of Africa’s elephant population. We spent time in various parks and preserves including Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, and Nxai Pan National Park. Our job was to run transects, wildlife demography surveys, bird counts, and conduct wildlife monitoring in partnership with local communities in and around the Delta.
Almost every day my classmates and I were able to see flora and fauna that I didn’t know existed, come within meters of animals I’ve only seen in zoos, touch Baobab trees that are dated back to 2,000 BCE (4,000 years old!) and endure temperatures I was not aware a human body could tolerate. We camped in canvas tents for 3 months, and though I knew that the Delta is known for its rich wildlife density before I arrived, I was awestruck during my first day in the field. Elephants were seen every single day (often feeding on the Mopane trees that surrounded our campsite), as were hippopotamus and multiple antelope species. In the early morning while it was still cool outside we would sometimes get to see hyenas or wild dogs trekking home after a night of hunting. My favorite sighting of the semester was a sub-adult male leopard lying in the uppermost branches of a large tree. Below sat a large pride of lions eating a Wildebeest. As the lions ate the wildebeest, they noticed the leopard and began circling the base of the tree. Our instructors taught us that the lions will likely wait for the leopard to come down so they can kill him in order to reduce predator competition in the region. The next day we came back to see that the lions had fallen asleep on the job, and the leopard had escaped. The ability to use sightings such as this in combination with the information taught by my instructors gave me 3 months filled with the most meaningful learning experiences I could imagine.
It is really quite incredible how much one semester can give you."
Photos contributed by Caroline Galliani