In May and June of 2007, 13 undergraduate students from Northern Michigan University are taking a field course in Zambia. Most of the students are majors in the Biology department, and all of them will be doing short field studies of their own design while on the ground in Zambia. The group will be making a stop in London on the way, spending four days seeing Zambia/Africa-related British sites (Burton's tomb, Livingstone's artefacts at the Royal Geographic Society, the British Museum of Natural History, etc.) and adjusting to the time change. The course is being led by me, Dr. Alec Lindsay, a professor in the Department of Biology at NMU, and Dr. Jackie Bird - a parasitologist in our department. We have made this blog so students can hopefully post notes thoughts, pictures and discoveries to the world. This should allow classmates, teachers, family and friends to share in their insights and keep track of their travels. Not only that, but viewers of the blog can add comments to posts - please do! We would love to hear your thoughts. Zikomo!

16 June 2007



Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you all know that if you want to see the pictures I took, just go to this Picasa site. They didn't get posted in the order that I wanted them to so they are a little jumbled. More will be coming up soon and probably some videos as well.



11 June 2007

"Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity, Jig."


That's all I can say.
What a Phenomenal experience.
It feels really good to have such immediate access to the internet again. (Phew)

I find myself observing constant reminders of our little adventure, little things here that remind me of that majestic place.

I've been dreaming about it a lot lately...the Malarone?...Maybe. Maybe not.

I know that I'll miss it everyday till I go back. Back to it's beauty and mystery.

I find myself trying to explain to everyone here that the pictures just don't do it justice, and that I wish they had all been there with me, and that I hope they go there themselves one day.

I see Zambia every time I close my eyes, and in my waking dreams.

The animals, the landscape, the people, the children,...fills me with emotion, sometimes brings a tear to my eye. Happy thoughts. And Sad.

God Bless that Beautiful Country.
Zambia. "The REAL Africa."

ps. I would like to thank our "Fearless Leaders" Dr. Bird and especially Dr. Lindsay for making this dream-come-true all together possible.

Thank You.


These last couple of days back in Marquette has given me a time to re-cap on this amazing adventure that 13 students and 2 professors took to Zambia and called it a class. I don't think that I will ever take a trip quite like this ever again. The people in our group that I traveled with each brought something unique to the table that made the trip that much more interesting and better. I must say that the diversity of animals, plant life, and bugs and birds is quiet extraordinary. This trip so far has helped me become a better researcher in the field and open up my eyes to a new style that we like to call "Africa Time". Over all this trip has been a complete success and I can't wait till the Zamposium to see everyone again and share what we learned. Thank you to everyone you have made this trip better then expected.

Out of Africa

Well here we are back in the states. Zambia was amazing in every aspect, and personally I know the trip surpassed all of my expectations.
I'd like to thank everyone who helped not only me, but all the Zambassadors, in our travel to Zambia, and everyone who has been reading this blog and showing interest in our journey.
So until we can meet in Zambia again, Zikomo!

09 June 2007

Hey everyone,
Although its good to be home I am already missing Zambia, I had an amazing time expecially at Flatdogs camp which is where I found the most reptiles including the one and only snake I saw on the trip, a Black-necked Spitting Cobra. This was the same one that almost made Chanda run for his life from the land cruiser.
I have decided to change my study from snakes to include reptiles in general, the other two very common reptiles that I saw every where were skinks and geckos.
This is a Striped skink from South Luwanga.

And the most common day gecko was the Cape Dwarf Gecko.

Well thats all I've got for for now.
Hi everyone,
Jessica and Katie here. On Thursday we made it safely to Rickmansworth where we are staying. The next day we slept in and moved slowly to get ready. We went shopping for some regular clothes so that we didn't have to wear our safari gear while visiting this trendy city. We were recommended to shop at Primark for its cheap prices. The clothes are bright and funky at 6 to 8 pounds. Amazing! We both found things, and Katie shopped as she usually does. Today we went to a neat market called Portobello Market where they had everything you can imagine for sale and it went on for a couple miles. We found some good food, jewelry, and interesting clothes. This evening we'll probably go back out into the town. Plans for tomorrow include going on the Darwin Tour at the British Museum of Natural History. Kew Gardens is also on the agenda, as well as getting up in the wee hours of the morning probably on Monday to get cheap Wicked tickets. We miss all the other Zambassadors very much and hope you all are having a great time back at home with family and friends!
-Jess and Katie

Back in Marquette!

Well the trek is complete. We have (nearly all) made it back to Marquette without much problem. We did lose two students along the way...but that was planned! Katie and Jessica K. flew with us from Lusaka to Heathrow, but at the airport they bid the rest of the group farewell and headed off into the crowds with their packs for more adventuring on their own. It was the first step in the disintegration of our tight little troupe, and we hope to hear from them soon regarding their continuing adventures in Europe.

The rest of us stayed at a hotel near Gatwick in London, fairly weary of flying. The change from the dusty aridity of Zambia to the muggy cloudscape of London was somewhat startling, but we were a bit too glossy-eyed to notice it much.

And then yesterday we got loaded onto our Northwest flight back to the states (I think we all agree that British Airways is luxuriant in comparison!), navigated immigration and customs in Detroit and actually made it back to KI Sawyer airport in Marquette - not a bag was lost, not a student arrested - success in my book.

Now we recouperate, readjust to lush green-leafed forests and blue-water lakes, start to prepare our data analyses and plan our "Zamposium" slated for early Fall semester of this year.

Thanks to all who made comments on these posts - the students (and I) loved reading them. It was a nice way to stay connected.


Leaving too soon!

(This post got written in Zambia, but only posted upon our return)

We made it back to Lusaka, and we are all making ready for the trek homeward. Luangwa finished off very nicely – a final day of safaris and data collection ended with a nice dinner all together at the Flatdogs restaurant. We also invited our drivers from the bus, Chanda and Kelvin, to join us on the safaris and for the dinner on that final day. These two young men have been helpful to us, and despite having a good job (by Zambian standards) the big game and wilderness of South Luangwa were things they had never seen and likely never would have unless some wealthy benefactor sprung for the tab (the average annual income in Zambia is ~$400).

This being the case, the Zambassadors decided to all pitch in and pay for their meals and safaris. So Chanda and Kelvin (pictured in the safari vehicle with their guide, scout and Darren and Jake) got to see their first live lions, elephants up close, zebras feeding and all kinds of other animals that they too had only ever heard of. One of the more interesting things to occur was that the vehicle with Chanda and Kelvin also came upon a cobra out in the bush which was clearly terrifying for Kelvin and Chanda. We asked them later about it, and they distinctly believe that snakes can bite them because they are black, but snakes could not bite us because we were white. This belief seems to be quite pervasive – very interesting.

After all that excitement, we hit the road on Monday for Lusaka. We had high hopes of making the 13-hour drive in one day, and we did make it down the rugged and bumpy road between Mfuwe and Chipata without too much trouble. However, once on the road from Chipata, we had a fan belt break, the trailer come apart, the fan belt break again and a flat tire! It was an adventure that left us at times thinking we were stranded on the Great East Road. However, everyone had long since adjusted to “Africa Time” – at one fan belt stop the students got a bunch of villagers going with hacky-sack games, and at the other fan belt break, we all laid down under the southern sky, watched the Milky Way, Jupiter and the Southern Cross and sang some songs.

Once it was all over, we pulled into Eureka campsite one last time, at nearly 1am. Beat and road-weary, we had made it back to Lusaka in time to catch our flight. We were all thankful we had allowed two days for what was touted as an “easy one-day trip.”

And so now we recover, shop and repack in Lusaka, readying for our flight out of Zambia at 8am tomorrow morning. We arrive back in Marquette on Friday night, and although we are all anxious to see family and friends again, leaving the African skies behind will be hard for us as well.

Zikomo kwambiri, Zambia.

02 June 2007

Life at Flatdogs...

I have spent the last couple of days lounging around along the river at Flatdogs camp, observing hippos and crocs. My research has been going well, and I'm having the time of my life! The safaris, and the plethora of wildlife we have encountered are absolutely amazing. See you all soon!

Having fun in the sun!!!!

Hello everyone, I am have a great time. It has been amazing over here and I can't wait to show and share all of my stories and pictures with everyone back home.

Hello Morgan, See you all back home!!!!

South Luangwa

Finally, we have arrived at South Luangwa to view plentiful amounts of wildlife. I have seen vervets scattered everywhere throughout the campsites and along the river bank. Therefore, I have been able to gather more information to aid in my compilation of data from the trip in Zambia. I am having a wonderful time and wish this journey could continue forever; sadly, it is coming to an end but I have enjoyed every minute of it!

Hello to all back in the states:

Been recording hippos in the Luangwa River; Good stuff. They are very vocal at night; I’ve been getting up before sunrise to catch the best calls.
Wells TWP. School:
Jess and I got to ride on the same safari trip and saw all sorts of animals. There was a pride of lions laying in the sun, we think some were pregnant. There were a lot of impala and puku. There are lots of pretty birds here. There are bee-eaters, lilac breasted rollers, and love birds.
That night we went out on safari again and we saw a Leopard, a whole lot of Cape Buffalo, an elephant shrew, and a genet.
We are both having an amazing time in the bush!
Miss you all lots.
Be good, and study hard.

Annie and Jessica

Hippos, lions and flatdogs

Well we have been without internet for quite a while, and lots has happened in the interim. Fortunately, there have been no major mishaps – a few minor ones not worth describing. Okay, okay, I am sure that may make you wonder about the mishaps, so I will share this: we had two work sessions on the clutch of the our transport, an oil leak, a minor allergic reaction to too much sun and a thorn embedded in the foot of a foolish youngster who decided to go barefoot. All told, the whole group (including our bus and our trusty drivers, Chanda and Kelvin) is in fine shape with the help of limited mechanical expertise and a good field medical kit.

Enough about the mishaps. Since leaving Livingstone and Victoria Falls, we have traveled back to Lusaka, up to Kasanka, back to Lusaka and then up to South Luangwa National Park, where we now reside in camp. Here is a brief account of those experiences – the students will undoubtedly add their thoughts with a bit less excessive verbiage.

While in Lusaka (both times) we stayed at Eureka campground – which is about 10km outside the city proper. A great location close enough to the city that we could drive in for supplies, yet be camped in a wildlife park that had giraffes, zebra, impala, bushbuck and many species of birds. People got their first looks at a bushbaby on a brief night walk into the bush and were able to return to their tents and head off to the ablutions for a shower (“ablutions” is a new term for some here).

We then drove 600km up the Great North Road toward Kasanka National Park, but on the way we took a small diversion to the palace of Chief Chitumbo. Dr. Bird and I went and talked to the chief, to request he guide us to the Livingstone monument located at the site where Livingstone died and his heart was buried (that's the students and the chief in the picture). We gave the chief some small gifts and then he came out and met all the students. He asked for a picture, which we took with him, then loaded him into our vehicles and headed off on the 25km trek through his chiefdom to the monument site. On the way, we asked him lots of questions about his people, his role as chief and the general state of affairs for his villages in modern Zambia. It was an eye-opening experience for all – he has 300,000 people in his chiefdom, he spends three months a year checking each village (traveling by bicycle on dirt roads with his entourage of bodyguards and advisors), he holds court every Friday (almost exclusively to try and to punish people accused of witchcraft) and he has traveled to England to see Livingstone’s gravesite in Westminster Abbey (same as we did!).

After that we set up camp in Kasanka and took some nice driving safari’s of the park. This park is much more remote and undeveloped, so we had the run of the campsite for the most part. Although in a rugged setting, there were local Bemba men hired to look after us – starting fires for us in the morning, gathering wood, boiling large amounts of water for us to use in a makeshift reed-walled shower. The ungulate, bird and insect life was well accounted by students on their studies, and we left with good feelings of success.

On the way to South Luangwa, we ended up staying one night in Lusaka (Eureka campground again) and then one night on the road in Chipata at Mama Rula’s campground. The bus ride was hot and the road (the Great East Road) was really rough and it was clear that despite everyone’s best intentions, the levels of gumption were running a bit low. As if this were not enough, the final 120km from Chipata to S. Luangwa is a rough dirt thing, full of rocks, ruts, washouts and lots of dust. It took us four hours to ride that road, but at the end was Flatdogs!

And so here we now reside, in Flatdogs Camp (link at the right) which sits right on the banks of the Luangwa. As we stepped off the bus, vervet monkeys scattered into the trees and hippos gave their deep rumbles from the river. The cool shade of the mahogany trees was welcome respite for setting up tents, and within minutes people had their swimsuits on and were cooling off in their (chlorinated!) pool. By the evening, everyone was adjusting to the pleasant change of environs, sitting along the Flatdog’s bank, watching the full moon rise while hippos, elephants, impala, baboons and puku began heading down to the river in the dark. Everyone agreed it was a perfect place to settle in for the next four days.
The next day (yesterday, as I write this) we all rose early at 0500hrs for the first of two safaris into the park itself. We loaded into two open-topped Land Cruisers, with trained guides at the helm, and headed off into the park where we saw many ungulates (students recording numbers, behavior, and GPS locations of several different species) along with warthogs, cape buffalo, giraffe and many bird species. Perhaps the highlights of that safari were when the elephants came within 20m of our vehicles (that's Constance with an elephant in the background), seeming not to care much at all about our presence. Then we also got word of a lion pride (shown at left) that was hunting – one group got to see some of the hunt, but then the lions (one male, three females and two older cubs) settled down for the hot part of the day and our guides pulled the vehicles within 5m of the lions and we got some great moments observing them in close proximity. It was truly remarkable to see these animals in their natural habitats rather than just a zoo.

After a few hours off in the afternoon for swims and naps, last night closed with a night safari into the park, where we saw many of the same suspects as earlier in the day. But we also got to see a leopard (fairly rare to see - shown at left in a blurry night photo) on a stalk for some puku and some geese (the stalk was unsuccessful). Perhaps even more dramatic were the two male lions we happened upon on the drive out! Each male (one is pictured at left licking himself) was on either side of the dirt road, and as we sat and spotlighted the guys, they began to exchange 30 seconds of dramatic roars! It was phenomenal, and many of us caught the whole exchange on video. The night lighting pictures don’t look so great, but in person the whole thing was truly dramatic and remarkable.

We finished with a nice dinner at the restaurant (a welcome change from days and days of beans and rice, peppered with peanut butter and jelly) and turned in for the night. Oh, there were some other remarkable finds in the night by our bug crew who set up a black-light – a giant cricket (shown at right - the largest in the world, whose chirps can be heard up to 1.5km away!) and a giant assassin bug (the red-spotted bugger whose bite can deliver a painful wallop that lasts for days).

Today is a day without safari and students are busily observing bee-eaters, geckos, monkey behavior, etc. for the final bits of data collection on this trip. We have another day of safari tomorrow and then we begin odyssey of a trip home - the drive back to Lusaka (ouch) and the flights to London and Marquette. Hard to believe it is nearly over, and I am not sure any of us are ready for it to end just yet.


I'm Still Alive!!!!

Hello to all who are a little concerned! I'm having the time of my life...Lots of animals. Lions, zebra, elephants, puku, goliath herons, giraffes, and sooo much more. sorry no pictures or viedo on this post not enough time. Just wanted everyone to know I'm alive, tan and having the time of my life.



To add to the others, last nights safari was incredible. I think everyone is enjoying our last stop. Flatdogs is super nice, it even has Internet! It is hard to think there is this wonderful place since we drove hours and hours along this bumpy dirt road. (That could pop a tire at any moment) (I think that's the only way to get here by land) I don't want to come home, the trip has gone by very fast.

I changed my study from studying hyraxes to looking at tsetse flies to see if they contain the trypanosomes that cause African sleeping sickness. This will take many hours in the lab at home. (but I am excited)

Bwino Bwanji!

Bwanji all!
Well, finally getting internet service we can post on the blog again.
The past week has been amazing; especially the time in South Luangwa thus far. Last night, on a safari, we saw a leopard, tons of game, and were caught in the middle of two male lions in a roaring match. It was pretty amazing.
Jessica and I are also finding tons of cool insects. Giant crickets (supposedly the biggest in the world), giant assassin bugs (with a bite that lasts for days according to the text), and tons of beautiful smaller insects. The coolest things are the giant versions of insects we're familiar with.
Flatdogs (the camp at South Luangwa) is a great place. There's hippos and elephants in our camp every night, and we can watch them cross the river from the National Park at dusk.
I realize this doesn't sound too amazing, seeing as we've been in Africa for 2 weeks now, but it's just a tidbit to start your imaginations. There will be plenty of stories when we get back home. Until then, I'll have to say Zikomo!

01 June 2007

South Luangwa!

We are at our last major stop, South Luangwa National Park. The trip has been flying by, and most places we haven't had internet. We went on an AMAZING night safari tonight in an open 4x4. The best part was when we were between two male lions who were roaring at one another, and we were only about 30 feet from one (it was loud!) It was also fun when we'd get a call (in Nyanja) from another guide to our guide on the radio to come to a certain spot, and we'd go racing off on the chase. On one of these occassions we saw a leopard. Today was awesome, and everyone is doing well and healthy. I've eaten vegetables and drank water and not been sick yet (cross your fingers!) We've also seen all kind of bovids including Impala, Eland, Puku, Kudu, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, and we also saw Genets which sort of look like house cats, and giant Porcupines. Nile Crocodiles and Giraffes can be seen commonly, and hippos and elephants roam our camp! We will be on the lookout when we leave the safety of this building. I love and miss everyone--now I am out of time! Katie says hi too--she ran out of time on the other computer.

24 May 2007

To Wells Township School:

Woke up at 07:00 and got ready for Victoria Falls.

Arrived at about 11:00.

I helped Anne Scott observe grooming behavior in a troop of Erythrocebus patas.
We also saw many Papio cynocephalus.

We met back at the bus to leave at around 16:00

Yesterday I bought 6 items at the curio shop for 100,000 kwacha.

Tomorrow we travel back to the Capitol of Zambia.

If you aren't sure of any of this info, I suggest you look it up ;D

Be good and study hard!

Annie (and Jessica)

Adventures in Africa

Bwanji! Finally we have arrived in Africa, and after surviving the first two days, I am gradually becoming aclimated to this completely different environment and culture. It's been wonderful thus far.

As for today, I was able to begin my research project related to the grooming habits of vervet monkey. Along with the help of Annie Bruce, I gathered some valuable information about the vervets that live near the Zambezi River in Livingstone. I look forward to collecting more information in South Luangwa, where the vervets are supposedly plentiful.

I can't wait to see what else Zambia has in store for the Zambassadors!

Victoria Falls & Research Projects

I started my research project today at Victoria Falls. We started looking for ticks however the weather was so hot and it was to late in the day, so we decided to change my project so now I will be looking at parasite found within different species scat (feces).

When looking for scat we also encountered a cobra, which I will not lie got the heart racing but I was able to get close enough to take pictures.

The sites are just amazing here and this have been such a great experience, I even ate a caterpillar at dinner it kind of tasted like a fried mushroom. Until next time with more interesting stories.


Well we're in Zambia! It's quite an experience, traveling and such with 15 people, but it's been fun. London was excellent, although expensive. Saw some great sites at the museums, and had some fun at the pubs.
But zambia, now this has been awesome. The whole experience has been mind blowing, and although I had quite a bit of culture shock for about 24 hours, it wore off and now I'm having a blast with the locals. The markets/curious shops are interesting. The merchants at Victoria falls are extremely intense and will not back down. But I've learned some tricks for getting around with merchants, and have found some cool souvenirs.
Today it was hot, hot, hot. But still fun. We all started some projects at the falls, and although personally I didn't find to many insects, many of my peers got a great start. I found a few species of tree crickets, a few interesting beetles, one cool scorpion and a few other interesting specimens. We found a caterpillar that looks exactly a piece of Lichen! The forests are full of life, and it's incredible to see what we find.
Well, soon I may be able to post some pictures of the bugs we've been finding, but until then, I'll say pitani bwino, and zikomo!

Victoria Falls, cont.

Today we went to Victoria Falls again, to get a start on our projects now that we had the lay of the land. I won't be able to begin my experiment until I see some hippos, so I decided to help out Dr. Bird and Jessica Roberts with their parasite projects. The original idea was to flag for ticks in the underbrush surrounding the river, but as after a couple of passes along the foliage with the fabric used to catch ticks, it didn't seem like we were going to find any at all. But, luckily enough, we DID find a couple examples of very fresh fecal matter, which we collected and placed in sample vials filled with ethanol to sanitize them. Hopefully when we get back to the States, Jessica can analyze the samples under a microscope and determine what kinds of parasites are present. Who thought I'd be able to tell my parents, "Well, today in Africa I played with poop."

Also today we encountered a cobra. He was wary of us, but he didn't look inclined to attack, and posed for us to snap some great photos. I'm sure we'll upload them when we have more time, but right now it's dinner time!

Victoria Falls National Park

As you can already tell from other posts, after a long flight heavy with anticipation, we have landed without much trouble in Zambia. Our ground transport arrived just on time, so we loaded up and set off to get some quick supplies in Lusaka. A brief scare when my cash card would not work at any ATM (which was the way we were to get cash in Zambia) but that eventually sorted out once in Livingstone.

Once loaded onto the transport (a 25 passenger bus) we drove the 8 hours to Livingstone and Victoria Falls – everyone was fighting sleep, trying to keep eyes peeled on the African landscape, but most gave in to the sleep at some point in the journey.

We arrived in Livingstone and checked into our hostel/campsite and pitched our tents. Fawlty Towers (see link at right) also threw in a small twin en suite room, which is great for recharging out batteries and locking up our gear.

Yesterday was an adventure down to Mosi-Oa-Tunya (the local Tonga name for Victoria Falls, which translates to “Smoke that Thunders.” There was a tremendous amount of water – to such a degree that Dr. Bird commented that it was a bit “overwhelming.” The falls themselves were amazing, but it seems the best thing was the hike down into the Zambezi gorge below the falls. Down there, the mist from the falls is so ecologically influential that it creates rain forest conditions in the midst of the surrounding desert-like mopane.

This means that there is a whole different flora and fauna to enjoy there, and the students had a great time doing that. You can see a few sample pictures of the critters seen by the students (all pictures are from me, or from Jessica Kustin). Beetles, spiders, assassin bugs, and many other inverts were on the menu (not literally – yet), including a freshwater crab (a picture posted here for Biology’s Dr. Cumberlidge, a freshwater crab expert).

Perhaps the highlight of the gorge travel came during the trip back up when our troop ran into a large baboon troupe on its way down the gorge. The troupe (baboon troupe, that is) was mainly females, with lots of juveniles and few very young baby baboons. The minor scare of the event was that they had decided to travel down the gorge using the same trail we were using to climb back out – we all had to walk pretty close to them to get out. Apparently our caution was misplaced (we later watched Africans unconcernedly march right through the heart of their troupe), but it was still an event to be so close to these wild (albeit human-acclimated) animals.

Our final activities of the day included shopping at the “curio” markets, where the students got to try their hands at haggling with the local vendors. The vendors are very skilled, but the students did buy some very nice souvenirs to take back with them – where else can they buy genuine African art, made in small villages? And buy it in such a way that the money goes directly back to the village? Not in WalMart, Pottery Barn or Pier 1 Imports!

Finally, for dinner many sampled the bream (a local fish) prepared at a small restaurant here in Livingstone (the Fezbar). It was a great dinner to cap off a really enjoyable day.

Today (Thurs 25 May ’07) we will head back to the falls and students will begin some of their studies – they got lots of good ideas yesterday, and we can hopefully get some interesting work underway.


23 May 2007


We finally made it to Zambia yesterday. Today we went to the falls and they were amazing. We were able to walk down to the boiling point (which is near the bottom of the falls) and we came across a group of baboons on our way back up. Never would I have ever thought I would get such an experience. For all at home I will have many stories when I get back!!!