Raymond Glover’s Diary
Tidal Forests of Kenya

August 4, 2009: Fond farewells
August 2, 2009: Lunch at the palace
July 31, 2009: Our day off
July 29, 2009: Biomass work
July 27, 2009: First day in the field
July 25, 2009: First steps in Africa
June 28, 2009: Be prepared
June 1, 2009: Making plans for Africa
March 20, 2009: First post
August 3, 2009: Planting the next generation
August 1, 2009: Back to work
July 30, 2009: Ground truthing
July 28, 2009: First work in the lab
July 26, 2009: Early Start
July 18, 2009: Putting a lock on it
June 20, 2009: Fielding questions from everywhere
May 1, 2009: Research on the research

August 4, 2009: Fond farewells

Alcoans With all our tasks for the project complete, all that remained was to say thank you and farewell to all the people who had looked after us and made our stay so rewarding and enjoyable. We had planned to leave early for our trip back to Mombasa and visit the Colobus Trust in Diani on the way, but with some unexpected delays, then a puncture and finally the very wet weather we decided to head straight for Mombasa. After a spot of lunch in town, we headed for the airport for the flights to Nairobi for Gustavo, Timothy and I. Bronwyn and Sean were taking the train to Nairobi, so we said goodbye to them and to Martin and headed for our flights to Nairobi. I was staying in Kenya for a few more days for a safari in the Masai Mara and then meeting with an ex-colleague in Nairobi, but this was officially the end of the expedition. I hope the work we have done will enable the scientists to further their research and that the trees we planted survive to make a contribution to the project and environment in the years to come. I will not forget the people I have met and the things experienced on this trip, and would like to thank everybody who has made this trip possible for me.
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August 3, 2009: Planting the next generation

Planting in progress Today was our last day in the field at back in Kinondo.  Two teams were taking the final fauna readings from the plots, while the rest of us made a start on the planting of new plots. We marked out three 6m x 6m plots at 0.5 m intervals. We then had to move the seedlings all the way from the nursery area to the new plots. Laitani had made stretchers from timber poles and sacking, onto which the seedlings were loaded for us to carry. The teams set about digging the holes, unwrapping the root balls, planting and back-filling the holes. It is an important part of the process of re-foresting the area, as a poorly planted tree will have less chance of survival. If the soil is not packed correctly it can form a hollow around the root into which the sea water will collect and increase the salinity around the root, which could kill the seedling. With the plots completed we returned to the village for lunch. As a special treat Dr. Kairo had arrange mud crabs, which were lovely. It was soon time for our Planting in progress next official function, a football match against the local youth team, the Wayzata Kings. There was a large and enthusiastic crowd assembled around the football pitch behind the primary school. The club prepared the pitch by clearing the coconut palm leaves and other debris from the playing surface, which was a combination of sand and grass, and then tied the palm strip cross bar between the wooden pole posts. The team were very excited at the chance to play well against us, and soon lived up to our expectations of being very fast and skilful. The crowd made lots of noise and laughed and cheered loudly especially when we fell over or missed the ball. Despite our very mixed ability, we managed to score first, through a fine goal from our striker (recruited specially for the match Crab for lunch from the assembled crowd due to wearing an Earthwatch t-shirt). It was too good to last however as the boys soon equalised through a very harsh penalty. In the second half we had to make many rolling substitutions as the heat and the speed of the opposition took its toll. The boys took the lead through another penalty and then went further ahead. At the final whistle we were glad to have restricted the score to 3-1. Our saviour was our goalkeeper Hamisi who made a series of great saves. It turns out he played for the Gazi Village team before stopping when he got married. After the match we presented the boys with a new match ball, and I gave one of my Liverpool FC shirts to their manager (who graciously accepted despite being an Arsenal fan!). We then went with them for a drink of sodas from the shop and talked about the important role the team plays in the lives of the boys and how it promotes teamwork and discipline within the community. We then headed back for After the match our last evening meal together and then spent the very nice evening on the beach under the stars with some sodas and a fire to keep us warm.
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August 2, 2009: Lunch at the palace

Fisherman Today we returned to task of ground truthing the mangrove forest for the carbon sink project. This was very tough as the area we visited consisted of very dense mangroves which were difficult to work in and also the walking distance to the site carrying the equipment on one of the hottest days so far. At one stage we needed to cross the river, but managed to find a shallow route and did not need to make a swim for it. Lunch today was provided by the Gazi women's group and hosted at the former palace of Sheik Mbaruk bin Rashid, a fearsome local leader in the late 1800's. There are said to be bodies of eight men and eight women buried within the columns of the building to help maintain its strength. The fact it is still standing despite being bombed during the war stands testament to this belief. The building was neglected for many years before being used as the local school, before the current one was built. It is now used for meetings and social activities and there are plans by the local youth group to maintain it. This afternoon we were in the lab again, where Tima and I worked on the last stage of the soil samples by weighing them and recording the data for later use by the project scientists. With time to spare before the evening talks, some of us went for a walk down the coastline. We watched as the local fisherman returned in their hand crafted boats with their catch, and saw some of the wide variety of birds and wildlife as we walked. We went past a recently opened small retreat/hotel which has upset the local community by not employing anyone from the village, but preferring to ship staff in from outside. At 7 pm we met up for the last of the volunteer talks, one by myself and one by Timothy on his home country of Suriname, explaining some of its history and customs. Dinner at the palace This evening was the "Village dinner" where we were divided into small groups and went to the house of a village family for dinner. I went with Gustavo and Robert (who also acted as translator). When we entered the house, after removing our shoes, we were seated around a mat on the floor which is only used for meals and observed the tradition of eating with our right hand. Gustavo was new to this, although I had done this before in India, but the family were amused by our efforts. It was a good way to break the ice. The main room of the house had no furniture, other than an old television set covered by a cloth. There were 2 small photograph frames on the wall, but nothing else. We had a very enjoyable evening exchanging stories about ourselves, home countries and traditions and it was a great experience.
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August 1, 2009: Back to work

Local shop Today we were back in Kinondo. We split into three teams. I was working with Robert and Michael recording fauna on the remaining plots. One team was recording biomass and the other recording the insects on plots. After the welcome madafu break Michael and I were given the task of taking four shallow sol temperature readings from each of the 36 plots. With all the data collected we returned for lunch. In the lab this afternoon two teams were entering data on the computers and Tima and myself were working on the next stage of the soil samples. Today we had to separate the sediment into two sizes: 63 microns and 500 microns. We did this by making two sets of foil trays for each sample, then stirring each sample for 10 minutes to separate the sediment before passing this through two sieves and putting the sediment into the trays before going back into the oven for drying. Once they are dry we will return to weigh them and record the data. At 6 pm we were given a talk by Dr Kairo about his family and his work in Gazi and with KMFRI. He came to Gazi in the 1990s as an graduate student studying the mangrove forests. It is clear from being in the village the impact his work has had on the community here; from helping to provide better water and sanitation in the village, the funding of new buildings for the primary school to assisting with the sponsoring of students to continue their education. There are currently more than 30 children benefiting from the assistance of sponsors introduce to Gazi by his work. With no electricity in the village tonight (unplanned) we made arrangements to go to a club in Ukunda tVillage water o see a singer called Mr. Blue. Tima and Zulekha had to get permission from their parents to attend. When we arrived there was no one inside the club; we were quite early; but as we had a drink outside there were very few people turning up. With this and the high entry fee, we ended up going to a more traditional Kenyan bar where a live band were playing and entertaining a reasonable sized crowd. We had fun watching the differing dance moves between the men, who were very restrained, and the more flamboyant moves of the women (one in particular drew a lot of attention). We then headed back to the village to get some well deserved sleep.
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July 31, 2009: Our day off

Sheldrick falls After the early starts and hard work of the last six days, today was our day off. We had decided earlier in the week to make a group visit to the Shimba Hills National Reserve. We set off at 6 am for the one-hour drive to the reserve. After lots of form filling by the driver at the entrance, we entered -- although without the guide we had intended to hire -- as, due to low tourist numbers many of the guides are not working. Despite this, within a short time we had or first sighting of the day, three elephants. We also saw warthogs as they crossed the road in front of us. There were colobus monkeys high in the trees (Colobus monkeys do not have opposable thumbs like other primates). We also had a brief glimpse of some antelope before they scurried deeper into the reserve. We saw several groups of buffalo, one of which was sat on the track so we got a good close look as we waited for it to move. Further into the reserve there is a waterfall called Sheldrick Falls. It is a 2.5km walk through the bush forest. You can only visit the falls if you are accompanied by an armed park ranger and are physically and mentally fit (as stated on a sign at the start of the walk). We were joined by several other groups on the walk. On the way to the falls the ranger pointed out some leopard footprints on the path from earlier that day, and there were signs of elephants that we were careful not to step in! At the falls it was possible to walk behind the falls or as a lot of the school group did splash aroundPark ranger  underneath them. The climb back up the path was tough in the heat, but it was well worth the walk. As we continued our drive in the reserve the number of sightings diminished as the animals rested from the heat of the day. We did manage to spot a giraffe grazing on the tree tops. From the resort we drove down to Diani beach, a well known holiday area. We relaxed on the beach with the many holiday makers from the hotels along it. There were several Maasai tribesmen selling trinkets and other people trying to make a living through some quite dubious means. As we relaxed with a cool drink we introduced our Kenyan teammates from Gazi to the delights of pizza, which created some amusement. We returned to Gazi for dinner and had fun chatting about the day's activities. After washing up we paid a visit to the cinema in Gazi. It was not what you would imagine, no big screen surround theatre with comfy seats, but a small hut with wooden benches and a TV and a video/DVD player. It is a popular meeting place in the village and shows a variety of African films. As we entered, the owner wanted to move the people in the front so we could have the best view of the film, but we insisted we would be fine in the spare places. A film was already in progress, but within minutes this was stopped, and changed to a film called "My Sin" with English subtitles. We later found out it was one of their favourite movies. I will spare you the details of the film, but there were some great moments when our reactions to the film sparked some amusement among the regulars. After a long but very nice day it was time to retire to my mosquito net.
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July 30, 2009: Ground truthing

Ground truthing Today we are off to the mangrove forests around Gazi Bay to undertake ground truthing for the CAMARV project. We were divided into two groups working in different locations. Each group were recording the position of a 10m x 10m area using a GPS unit to give easting and northing co-ordinates, and then recording data for all the trees inside. This involved identifying the species of tree, measuring the diameter of trunk, height of tree and any notes regarding the condition of the tree (if it had cut branches or dying/dead branches). This was quite hard work due to several factors. The density of the trees in some areas made movement and access very difficult. Combine this with ground conditions and it was more difficult than it sounds. The team I was in managed to record four plots (approx 225-250 trees) before returning to the village for lunch. After lunch one group returned to the field to record more data, while four of us stayed in the lab to enter the morning's data into the computer. We were restricted by the fact there was no power to the village today between 8 am and 5 pm due to maintenance on the national grid. This restricted our time to the battery life of the laptop being used. This afternoon we had a talk by Mrs. Chao Hannah about the education system in Kenya. Most schooling follows the British curriculum and lessons are in English. Schooling follows the basis of eight years of primary schooling, four years of secondary education and four years for college/university education. Since the beginning of this year the government has introduced two years of early child development. Primary schooling is funded by the government (except uniforms) although only 84% of children attend. One set of figures that is interesting is that only 25% of children make the step from primary to secondary education due to the costs involved and very few of these come from coastal areas such as Gazi. Only 2% of these make it to university, partly due to a shortage of available places so although many reach the required grades, only the top grade applicants are offered places. One point of note is that there are fewer girls in secondary education than boys, partly due to beliefs/culture, and very few reach university. After dinner (and the washing up) we first had a talk by Robert about his experiences of life in a Kenyan university, the accommodation and social structure and the student fees/loan process. This was followed by a talk by Gustavo about his birth place, the Canary Islands, and then on his work for Alcoa as a lobbyist at the European Parliament in Brussels.
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July 29, 2009: Biomass work

Walk to work Today, after a reasonable night's sleep and a filling breakfast, it was off to Kinondo. Because of the tides we were concentrating on getting the fauna work completed before the area became too dry (if it is too dry the crabs will not surface). While we were making more equipment to mark out the plots, I went with Langat and Bronwyn to do some biomass work. This involved identifying randomly selected trees in a plot, measuring the height of the tree, the stem diameter and then (the fun part) counting the leaves on the tree. If it is a small tree it is possible to count each one, but on the larger trees we take a typical size branch, count the leaves, count the number of branches on the tree and then multiply up. We also had to count the number of dead leaves on the tree and all those that had been eaten or damaged by snails and insects. We also had to record the species of tree. The plots are planted with varying combinations of 3 species, Avicenina, Bruguiera and Ceriops. After this we continued with the fauna work from yesterday. The madafu break was welcome today as it was very dry and hot in the field and we were all glad when it came. Early afternoon we returned to the Work in the plots village for lunch and all helped with the lab work, entering the mass of data collected this morning and continuing with the soil sample preparations from yesterday. We had to remove the samples from the oven and log the dry weight; then put approximately 25g of soil into a container, add water and a special solution and stir each sample for 10 minutes in order to completely separate the sediment. The samples then have to stand for at least four hours before the next process can take place. This will be done tomorrow. This evening's pre-dinner talk was by Bernard Kirui from KMFRI on the CAMARV project. This stands for capacity building for mangrove, assessment, restoration and valuation. Essentially the aim of the project is to map, using field data and satellite technology, the physical areas of mangroves in Kenya to measure the extent of forest. This can then be used to calculate a value for the government for potential revenue for CO2 offsetting from other countries and organisations. After dinner of noodles, chicken, mchicha and ugali, we had a general discussion regarding what to do on our day off the day after tomorrow.
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July 28, 2009: First work in the lab

Soil samples Due to the tides in Kinondo we switched the day's program around a bit. Before heading to the site we went to the lab for a talk by Joseph Langat, who is studying for his PhD on this project, about mangrove forests and climate change. He described how greenhouse gases have increased over time, coinciding with the industrial revolution in the 1850's in the upper latitudes (Europe and America) and also describing the natural interaction of greenhouse gases between the atmosphere, land and sea. From studying data it has been seen that there is some "missing" CO2. Earthwatch has started a project running from now until 2013 to investigate if mangroves acting as carbon sinks are absorbing this missing CO2. The work we will be conducting later in the week will be the start of this project. Following this talk we headed off to the field to continue the biomass and fauna work from yesterday. Following a late lunch some of us volunteered for lab work. One team were entering the data recorded this morning, and myself and Timothy were preparing some soil samples (taken earlier). Basically we had to make and weigh some foil trays, into which we placed an approximate quantity of the soil samples and recorded the total weights. They then have to spend 24 hours in an oven to dry out before recording the dry weights and moving to the next step. Before dinner this evening we were given a talk by Amina Juma from the Gazi Women's group about their work and the Gazi mangrove project. She described the threats to the mangrove forests (pollution, cutting for timber, sea level rise etc) and then outlined the objectives for the women's group which are to reduce the pressure on the mangroves by setting up alternative projects, such as planting alternative species for sources of timber. The group also have plans to introduce beekeeping, small scale fish farming for the community and also promote ecotourism through promoting the boardwalk project in schools, hotels and media. These projects will help support the women's group, the fishermen and the youth groups. Income is also used to sponsor the high achieving school children to further their education. After dinner of Pilau (rice with goat meat), pepper sauce and salad we drove to a local bar in the next village (owned by Michael's father). While there, as part of the program each volunteer is encouraged to give a talk to the group. Tonight we were given a talk by Bronwyn on her PHD studies at the Australian Antarctic base studying the impact of refuse from the station on the Antarctic environment.
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July 27, 2009: First day in the field

Madafu break Today was our first day working in the field. We went to the plots in the Kinondo area, a few kilometers from Gazi. We were divided into two teams: one to measure plant biomass and the other (including me) to study the fauna. We had to wait for the tide to recede before we could get access to the plots, so we spent the time being instructed on our tasks for the day. Firstly we had to count the quantities of two species of crabs (Uca and Sesarmid), by first identifying their different burrow types and then by logging the size of burrow. Secondly we had to quantify two types of snails (Cerithidea and Littorea). The weather was very wet, although still warm (for me at least) and with the tide having just retreated, the site was extremely difficult to navigate, and the identification of the burrow types was made more difficult than usual as the burrows were still largely under water. Halfway through we stopped for a madafu break (an unripe coconut with a lot of milk). This was the first time I had tried one, but we were all so wet that a good cup of Kenyan coffee would have been better. After our work was through we headed back to the village for a late lunch, and on the way back saw a troop of baboons. They often use the mangroves for cover as they head towards raiding the mango and coconut plantations. Presentation at school After lunch we had our first official function of the trip as guests of honour at Gazi Primary school. We were introduced to the headmaster and staff, and then introduced ourselves to the assembled children telling them a little about whom we were, where we were from and about the work we were doing. The children then sang us a couple of songs in Kiswahili and in English. We then presented the school with some gifts we had brought along, basics like pens and pencils which are always appreciated. I had also taken along a football and pump, which I presented to captain of the school team and the head girl. Robert (an ex pupil of Gazi Primary) then gave an inspirational talk to the children about how important their education is and how he was motivated to study hard and how he is now in his first year at Egerton University studying applied aquatic science. Michael, Tima and Zulekha also gave speeches to the children on their studies and the importance of education. Speaking with the headmaster afterwards he showed me some paintings the school children were working on about the environment, the best of which is to be used as the cover of a calendar produced by a university in Belgium who have links with the school. He also spoke about how important it is for the children to meet visitors from outside Kenya so they can learn about different cultures and also hopefully inspire them to study towards careers in science, engineering etc. Afterwards we handed out some sweets to the smaller children and had fun watching them play with some balloons we had blown up for them. It was a very humbling experience to see what our visit meant to the staff and pupils and something I will not forget. Before dinner we were given a talk by Mama Nico's husband, Albert, who is a physiotherapist in Msambweni Hospital, about the Healthcare system in Kenya and spoke at length about the two major health issues in Kenya, malaria and HIV. After dinner we were given a talk by Caroline Kairo about her studies for an MSc in Aquaculture. She is trying to set up a project to encourage a small scale fish farming project in Gazi to help the community but to try and avoid large scale farming which could have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystem. Despite the seas and good fishing off east coast of Kenya, there is no real fishing industry and the waters are used by other countries. 90% of the fish consumed in Kenya is farmed in Lake Victoria.
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July 26, 2009: Early Start

Village After a few hours of sleep I was woken with the sound of the call to prayer at one of the two mosques in the village (the village is predominantly Muslim), although I did manage another hour's sleep before getting up for a breakfast of Mandazi (a type of fried bread or doughnut) beans in coconut and fruit. We headed for the lab for a talk by Kairo on the work being undertaken on the Mangroves of Kenya, and then by Martin giving us an overview of the results of the project so far and explaining the biodiversity of the mangroves. After this the group headed out on what is known as the "Marathon." This is a trek through the mangrove forest in Gazi Bay to show us firsthand what had been described in the earlier talks, so we were able to identify some of the mangrove species by studying their leaf shape and root system. As we walked we also saw the abundance of animal/marine life from Uca (fiddler crabs) to squid and lobsters that the fisherman had caught. We saw some of theMarathon  work earlier Earthwatch teams had undertaken and how this is already starting to have an impact on the environment with regards to coastal erosion and deposits. We also saw the effects of farm land being destroyed following deforestation of the mangroves (by official contractors!). The effects could not be stopped even following the farmers' decision to import many hundreds of tonnes of stone to act as a defence, which ultimately proved ineffective despite the huge cost. The cost of replanting mangroves is also very expensive compared with adopting a sustainable approach to their management. Between the rain showers, we had lunch on the mangrove boardwalk, which is a project run by the Gazi Village Women to help raise awareness of the mangroves as well as providing income for the community. The marathon was as tough and muddy as I had read from earlier diary entries. At least we all ended the days with the right number of shoes, although not everybody's clothing came back in a fit state. We learnt a great deal during the trek both about the mangroves and also the team itself. After cleaning ourselves up, we had a talk by Martin on Eco System Services which covers how an eco system like the mangroves delivers goods, like fish and wood, but also delivers services like coastal protection and CO2 sequestration. He then explained the 5 points covering general methodology of scientific experiments (randomisation, replication, control, independence and correlation). Following a superb dinner of rice, fish and mchicha (a spinach dish) we had a very interesting and amusing talk on village life in Gazi by Hamisi, one of the team working with us, who was formerly a local fisherman but now works full time for KMFRI.
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July 25, 2009: First steps in Africa

Team 1 All the travel arrangements worked out perfectly. I met up with Gustavo at Schipol Airport before our overnight flight to Nairobi, and then the trip down to Mombasa, from where we took a taxi to the rendezvous point. The drive down Barack Obama Road (quite recently named I suspect) was my first real glimpse of life in Kenya, and it was a real eye opener. Having met up with Bronwyn and Sean who were already there, and having a couple of hours before official pick-up time we walked into the old town and visited Mombasa's most popular tourist attraction, Fort Jesus, which dates back to the 1600's. Once inside we found that the Environment Trust of Kenya we holding a prize giving ceremony for a painting competition for schools called "communities unite in combating climate change." We then walked through the back streets following one of the signed routes and decided to have a spot of lunch at a local eatery, which was quite entertaining! We then headed back to the rendezvous point to meet up with Timothy and Dr Martin Skov, our Earthwatch leader for this team, and the drive to Gazi. The route took us across the on the Likoni ferry crossing, which operates 24 hours and carries 170,000 people and 3,000 vehicles a day. An hour and a half later we arrived at Gazi Village and were shown into our accommodation and introduced to Dr Kairo (from KMFRI and an Earthwatch Scientist who has pioneered community involvement in the mangrove restoration in Gazi) and Mama Nico who would be looking after us during our stay (it is traditional for women to me called after the name of their first child, hence Mama Nico). We then went for a walk through the village to the sea during which Martin gave us a brief history of the project and the village. On return to the accommodation we met the other 4 volunteers on the project, Tima, Zulekha, Michael and Robert who all live either in or a short distance from the village. After an atmospheric candle lit meal in the canopy (due to a power cut) we introduced ourselves to one another and had a group discussion about our expectations and fears for the coming days. Afterwards Martin ran through the packed schedule for the coming days and outlined some points for our safety and wellbeing around the village. After a packed 36 hours it was time for me to do battle with a mosquito net and a single bed.
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July 18, 2009: Putting a lock on it

It is less than a week now before I depart for my time in Kenya. The packing is almost complete, although items are going in and out all the time as I try and decide what I need and then what I will actually make use of. I think I should just put the lock on and call that it. Since my last blog I have had an interview and a picture taken by the local newspaper in Runcorn which was published last week. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have seen it and come and mentioned it to me. Everyone has wished me luck on the trip and asked details about the work we will be doing and about the area where we are staying. The reporter is also keen to do a follow up story on my return, which I have promised to do. Hopefully I will have some good photographs to show the site and explain the work being done by the team. My next entry will be from the expedition site, so stay tuned.
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June 28, 2009: Be prepared

With the start date now less than a month away I am making sure that I have all the items I will need on the expedition checklist. From suitable clothing for the heat, humidity and conditions of the expedition site to High SPF sun screen, insect repellent and a personal first aid kit. With my interest in cycling I have been lucky enough to travel to areas of the world as diverse as the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle, Cuba, and Kerala in Southern India so know the importance good planning and packing. The importance of health and safety throughout Alcoa has unquestionably been an aid in this respect. Making sure to take the right equipment, assessing the risks and either avoiding them or planning for them are all things we should be doing every day at work and at leisure to ensure we remain safe and healthy.
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June 20, 2009: Fielding questions from everywhere

This week I have spent some time researching contact details for the local press and preparing a short statement with the aim of informing them of my selection as an Alcoa Earthwatch Fellow and the work that will be carried out on the expedition. I have already been contacted by one local newspaper regarding the story and am hopeful that more responses will follow. I have also agreed to write a piece for my community newsletter which is distributed to almost 900 households in the surrounding villages. Interest is also mounting with my colleagues at Kawneer and also my friends and family. I have been fielding questions that range from what work will be done and how the information gained will be used to what sort of accommodation we will be staying in and what sort of food we will be eating. Fortunately the time invested in reading the Earthwatch expedition briefing and the Alcoa Earthwatch diaries has covered all these questions so far.
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June 1, 2009: Making plans for Africa

I have been busy making the plans for my trip to Kenya, which are now almost complete. Flights and travel arrangements are booked, only one more vaccination to go (yellow fever) and I am just awaiting the return of my visa application from the Kenyan High Commission in London. I have taken the opportunity make a small extension to my time in Kenya to go on a safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve in the hope of visiting some of the Masai tribes' people villages but also some of the many varieties of animals in their natural habitat. Hopefully I will also see some the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle as they cross from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania. I have been getting some tips and advice from a former colleague who now lives in Nairobi. We are looking forward to meeting up for a meal after the expedition as I travel back through Nairobi on my way back home. Thanks to Gustavo for arranging a conference call between all the members of our team (Bronwyn and Timothy) where we were able to introduce ourselves and exchange some tips and advice for our expedition. Not such an easy task considering the difference in time zones between Europe, Australia and Suriname.
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May 1, 2009: Research on the research

I have spent a lot of my spare time in the last few weeks reading up on the expedition. I started by reading the diaries of the previous Alcoa Earthwatch Fellows to gain an insight into their experience on the project, and also of course the expedition briefing. This will be the fifth year of the project at Gazi, and this year's team will be involved in monitoring tree growth and survival rates from previous years along with animal colonization in the plantation areas. We will be planting new plots of trees and will also undertake experiments on carbon sequestration. This information has given me a real feel for the work to be carried out during our time there and how important our work will be at not only a local level for the community at Gazi but hopefully it also at a regional/national level and to the scientific community.
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March 20, 2009: First post

Hello everyone, my name is Ray Glover and I work as a Product Design Engineer for Kawneer based in Runcorn, UK.. Today, as my lunch break started, I thought I would make a check on the Alcoa Earthwatch site to see if any announcement had been made for this year's expedition Fellows. Suddenly an e-mail notification sprang up on the screen: Congratulations! You have been selected to be a 2009 Alcoa Earthwatch Fellow. You are headed out on Tidal Forests of Kenya to work with field scientists. Your expedition is scheduled for 7/25/2009 to 8/4/2009. Exactly how many times I read this e-mail, I am still not sure. There are still days when it seems unreal. I am very excited to be representing Alcoa on this expedition to the Tidal Forests of Kenya and am so grateful to the team for selecting me from all of this year's applicants. The period immediately following the email was spent checking arrangements for the vacation time and then confirming acceptance of my participation. I have never been involved with this type of experience and have never traveled to Africa before so there will be a lot of firsts for me. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the expedition and learning more about the work Earthwatch are undertaking, and also sharing this experience with you through this blog.
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