|Limnology team boat sampling among |
Past the family of 10 hippos, I rode with the limnology (water quality) team in a boat towards the Namibian border. We turned around just before the Botswana Defense Force checkpoint. No need to attract unnecessary attention. Four small aluminum boats packed with up to nine scientists each, flailing assorted butterfly nets, glass water probes, and PVC tubing attract enough attention on their own!
Every day, AquaRAP teams go out in four separate boats: fish, plants and invertebrates (sampling crabs, shrimp, mollusks, spiders, dragonfly and water bugs), limnology, and water birds. What makes AquaRAP special is that the teams of experts take their measurements independently in the same spots on the same day, providing a complete ecological snapshot of the area. Other scientists in almost any discipline can come back to the same spot later and compare measurements.
PEOPLE: Meet Jane Nengu
TOOLS: Techniques for species collection
ISSUES: Checkpoints and fences: Botswana's beef industry
SPECIES: Diversity along the Okavango
With my lap filled with water quality meters, I hung the glass pH probe over the side while Roger, one of the fish guys, straddled the two boats to keep the probe from being crushed. The dissolved oxygen meter beeped and went to zero. "It's buggered!" exclaimed limnologist Jane Nengu, shaking the machine. Luckily, after a few jiggles, the machine came back to life and gave us our reading: 6.7 mg per liter. Field biologist have to work fast in the field, repairing and sometimes improvising their equipment out of everything from bare wire to enamel dinner plates.
|Fish team pulls in seine net.|
The boats met on a small sandy island full of lagoons, baby hippo tracks, and lazy crocodiles sunning themselves, and the hard-working scientists broke for lunch. Well, all except the fish team who kept seining as the rest of us ate.
LEARN MORE: Crocodiles caught in the trade.
A few of us wandered off to visit a cormorant nest full of chicks right where we had seen a seven-foot crocodile (a small one) when we first landed. Crocs love this sandy habitat with deep pools and reeds to hide in while they wait for the baby chicks to fall out of the nest as they learn to fly. What may seem cruel at first is a necessary part of the ecosystem. In the same way, although charging hippos pose a serious threat to people, these two-ton trailblazers break up the stream channels all over the Delta allowing water to form pools and lagoons, rich in nutrients and life. As they say in the bush: "That's Africa, baby!"
– Reported by Jensen Reitz Montambault
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