Over six months of planning have transpired and we are now less than two days from our departure. As you can see, from the previous posts below, the students have been actively planning their proposed studies (and they recognize the potential limitations). But they have also been doing their background work on Zambia - reading about its people, its history, its culture and its ecology. Likewise, they have been packing and readying for three weeks in Africa, but we (Dr. Bird and I) were not comfortable with the group convening as a camping unit for the first time only in the African countryside.
And so over the past weekend we had a pre-travel camping trip out to a campsite in the Hiawatha National Forest. Students were able to set up their tents together, figure out who "bunks" with whom and look through their gear with a different perspective. For instance, the campsite was both sunny and black fly infested - two students discovered they had forgotten suncreen and bug dope. Others decided their sleeping bags were inadequate. Better to have discovered those things here in the UP rather than out in the African bush! We also went over logistics, we reviewed safety, we discussed the nature of doing field science and I trained them on how to use some of the more sophisticated equipment we will be hauling with us - like GPS units and the parabolic audio recording equipment. (That picture is of Julian testing out the recording equipment on some UP bird songs, while fighting the black flies with his own concoction of a 't-shirt hoody.')
Perhaps most significantly we were all able to spend time getting to know one another in a setting more like the one in which we will be living for the next three weeks. We were able to all acknowledge and agree to the requirements that will be made of each of us in the field (e.g. who cooks meals? who does dishes? how fast can we break camp? etc.). I am pleased (and a bit relieved) to report that everyone is incredibly excited about this trip, and they are all taking very seriously their responsibilities to make it both safe and productive.
We leave on Thursday, and we will try to continue posting as much as we can on the travels. Please feel free to comment on these posts - the students love to see comments on their posts. Cheers~
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!