PE&RS November 2014 - page 1006

November 2014
Dr. Pricope, currently an assistant professor and the founder
of the Socio-Environmental Analysis Lab (SEAL) at University
of North Carolina Wilmington, has been working in southern
Africa since being initially introduced to the region through an
NSF-IGERT (National Science Foundation—Integrative Grad-
uate Education and Research Traineeship) seven-week field
course in 2006. Subsequently, she worked on her dissertation
in the region under the supervision of Dr. Michael Binford and
Dr. Mark Brown. Her research in southern Africa combines
geospatial analyses of climatological and hydrologic data and
various remotely-sensed datasets to create measures of ecosys-
tem variability and adaptability to natural and anthropogenic
changes in a transboundary watershed - the Chobe River - locat-
ed at the center of the world’s newest and largest transfrontier
conservation areas. The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Con-
servation Area (KAZA-TFCA), legally established in 2013, is a
vast multi-nationally managed network of national parks, game
management areas, and communal lands that encompasses an
area of approximately 440,000 km
of Botswana, Namibia, Zam-
bia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. The expressed purposes for the cre-
ation of KAZA by the member countries were tri-fold: to improve
the cooperative management of shared resources, to increase the
area available for wildlife and plant populations, and to bring
economic benefits to the local communities adjacent to protected
areas. Because local communities in these countries are predom-
inantly resource-dependent or derive substantial benefits from
ecotourism, changes in the health of the ecosystem translate
into largely unbuffered detrimental effects for the human sys-
tem. Moreover, southern African semi-arid savannas are highly
variable environments where people have been adapting to the
harsh conditions through the generations. However, in light of
past and ongoing environmental changes and increased climatic
variability, their ability to adapt has become threatened. Our
collaborative work in this region, which has now expanded to in-
clude several colleagues from the United States and Africa and
graduate students, is primarily focused on understanding how
different land management regimes and environmental variabil-
ity create different ecosystem responses in a semi-arid savanna
and on determining what the most effective ways of measuring
and attributing change in such a complex ecosystem are.
While current projects of the SEALab and collaborators have
expanded to studying human-environment interactions and ad-
aptation strategies across political boundaries throughout the
KAZA region, the initial work in this region was focused primar-
ily on the Chobe River Basin (CRB), a transboundary watershed
shared between Namibia and Botswana, characterized by a mo-
saic of land uses, including protected areas, forest reserves, and
communal lands. Partially contained in the CRB, Chobe National
Park (CNP), established in 1967, is the focal point of the KAZA
region and has one of the largest elephant populations in Africa
‘Elephants’ someone called softly but with
We all silently dropped to the ground so
that our silhouettes didn’t attract them and
we watched as they crossed the horizon off
in the distance. The moment they were out
of sight, four of the team rushed back to our
truck, shaking in fear.  The rest of us calmly but
quickly finished collecting our ground control
data and then hurried back to the vehicle. 
Normally when you work in the national
parks of southern Africa, you bring a team of
two park rangers armed with semi-automatic
rifles to protect you from elephants and the
myriad of other animals that will kill you
without hesitation. However, the two rangers
we normally worked with had been killed by
a group of elephants the week before - guns
blazing futilely as they died. We had decided
to come out and collect some data without
support because our time was passing quickly
as things were being re-organized, but the fear
became too great and so we were forced to
wait until a new guard team could be made
available to us. 
Working in southern Africa can be harsh and
potentially deadly because it seems that a lot
of different things want to kill you. Malaria,
sleeping sickness, and other diseases are
a danger. Animals smell you and savor the
odor. Even the plants claw at you and burn
your skin as you try to force your way through.
Bridge crossings over crocodile-filled water are
nothing more than small logs lashed together
and they sag and bend as the water becomes
deeper around you. 
Fieldwork in southern Africa is harsh. But
this beautiful continent is home to some of the
world’s friendliest people and the collection of
wildlife is so incredible that you often feel as if
you have accidentally stepped onto a movie
set; we watched a hippo try to hide from a
giraffe behind a narrow tree, his face hidden
but his huge rear-end sticking out for all to see.
However, the giraffe had no fear and stepped
over the confused hippo.
999,1000,1001,1002,1003,1004,1005 1007,1008,1009,1010,1011,1012,1013,1014,1015,1016,...1086
Powered by FlippingBook