Emily Worth from Bath Spa University went out under a grant from RCS Bath to carry out research in South Africa. Below are her thoughts before she left.
“I will be volunteering at a nature reserve in South Africa. Welgevonden is a privately owned reserve that covers 37,500 hectares of South Africa’s Waterberg Biosphere between the towns of Vaalwater and Lephalale. It was originally farm land that was bought by a developer and transformed into a wildlife park. The reserve is home to over 50 mammals including the big 5 however the soil is very acidic and only plants with a low nutritional value grow. This means that only a small population of herbivores can be supported. In 1998 the reserve introduced lions on to the land to increase revenue from tourism, this had a detrimental effect on the herd population meaning each year new grazing animals are introduced onto the land to increase herd numbers to support the lions. The management team also monitors elephant and rhino populations as the rhinos are endangered and poaching is a real threat. I will be helping with monitoring of species (as mentioned above) and collecting data on herd, lion and other mammal populations. The GPS data I collect will be collated with previous data to map ranging movement and habitat use of the animals. I will also be making rhino ID kits from the images and observations I take while out in the field to help track and protect the rhino.
This is a once in a life time chance to see iconic animals up close and to study their behaviour, and to really make a difference to conservation in widely diverse and beautiful area. It also gives me the opportunity to work in my preferred area of conservation and gain experience on a real scientific expedition which will help enormously when looking for work after university.
The data I collect I will then use to write my dissertation in my 3rd year, this gives me the chance to write about something I feel passionately about.”