Wildtrax is focused on developing an integrative study abroad and field training course where students play an integral role in the success of these research initiatives. The diverse courses, research and experiential learning opportunities for students provide the foundation for understanding the dynamic interface among sociology, ecology and wildlife management. Scientific principles and human dimensions are used to develop strategies and techniques for managing natural and cultural resources. Experiencing the socio-political and ecological variables in Botswana will help students gain an understanding of how culture and ecology are vital aspects to developing successful conservation efforts. Students play an active role in the research from project design, to data collection and implementation and will gain valuable skills and knowledge to equip them for their future. Our comprehensive program ensures that today’s students are prepared to deliver a better tomorrow for people and wildlife! 


PROGRAM OBJECTIVES


The overall objectives are to equip students and interns with adequate knowledge of various wildlife management and conservation issues in Africa and to attain proficiency in field research methodologies. An emphasis will be placed on understanding the patterns and underlying processes of the human-wildlife interface and biodiversity of the Okavango Delta. Through field-based, experiential learning opportunities in the Okavango Delta & Kalahari Basin Ecosystems, the aim of the course is to train future conservationists in understanding and applying research in the field.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the functional heterogeneity of the ecosystems in Northern Botswana and how they drive ecological processes and wildlife migrations along with the threats to the system
  • Learn valuable wildlife management and conservation principles
  • Understand the challenges facing wildlife conservation & community based natural resource management
  • Develop advanced field research techniques and associated skills
  • Understand the social aspects of conservation science
  • Gain appreciation of long-term sustainable conservation management projects
  • Develop competency working in small groups toward a common goal 


LEARNING EXPEDITION THROUGH THE WILDERNESS OF BOTSWANA 


Make your text books come alive as you traverse the length of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site via boat, one of the most iconic wilderness areas on the planet rich with wildlife. Along the way encountering elephant, lion, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and more while wild camping on the islands.  Transitioning from boat to land you will make your way around the edge of the Delta, gaining a different perspective of the wildlife and flora of the system. From here you will follow the waters as they flood down the Boteti river and disappear into the famous Kalahari basin. You will see how this precious life-source provides during the dry season, before making your way to the wet season wildlife ranges of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, where you will explore one of the largest salt pans in the world. You will have numerous learning engagements en route to understand this dynamic system and hands-on experiences throughout to help you learn several field research methods for monitoring biodiversity and implementing mitigation strategies for Human-Wildlife Coexistence.

Throughout the 3-week course, you will be gaining valuable field experience while meeting and learning from many different researchers, NGOs, and wildlife managers. The course will equip you with the ability to apply appropriate research techniques to field studies. Overviews of wildlife ecology, behavior, conservation and research theory are included throughout the course, coordinated by Wildtrax Explorations. The course includes both scientific and social aspects to data collection to prepare you for your interactions with wildlife, communities and different cultures. You will have a workbook to guide your learning while also have training sessions on many different research and monitoring methodologies so you fully understand their applications, along with completing mini-field projects using the skills you have acquired.

These diverse experiences provide the foundation concerning the interface of ecology and wildlife management. Scientific principles and human dimensions are used to explain current strategies and techniques for managing natural and cultural resources.  Our curriculum focuses on how changes in land use and resource availability in Botswana’s ecosystems can be managed to assist local communities while conserving biodiversity. Experiencing the socio-political and ecological variables in Botswana will give you an understanding of how culture and ecology interact to aid successful conservation efforts. This comprehensive program is designed to ensure that today’s students are prepared to deliver a better tomorrow for people and wildlife. 


THE EXPEDITION


DAY 1: Arrive into Maun, Botswana, the gateway to the Okavango Delta

DAY 2 – 8: Embark on a Trans-Okavango adventure via boat, traversing the entire Delta and camping on pristine wilderness islands along the way. During this time, students will be learning how to conduct bird and herbivore transect surveys, predator spoor surveys, dragonfly bio-indicators studies and understanding fish survey methodologies.

DAY 9: Full day cultural submersion in Maun with Bonty of Tharientsho Storytellers. The aim of the cultural induction program is to improve understanding of African and specifically Batswana culture. This understanding will highlight how learning local culture can help researchers and conservationists to maintain and improve rapport during field work and reduce cultural misunderstandings/distrust or miscommunication.

DAY 10 – 13: Journey around the edges of the Okavango Delta’s unspoiled wilderness in the and Moremi National Park via safari vehicle. Here you will meet with villagers to learn about community natural resource management strategies, receive lectures from the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust on wild dog, cheetah and lion research and further develop your research methodology skills and understanding of animal behavior.

DAY 14 – 16: Students will follow the Delta’s floodwaters down the Boteti River, where it disappears into the Kalahari sands. This is an area where humans and wildlife coexist and compete for resources, causing many issues with elephant crop raiding and livestock depredation from predators. Students with have the opportunity to learn from two great experts in the field, Elephants for Africa focusing on the human-elephant interface and mitigation strategies and Oxford University’s WildCRU focusing on the human-lion interface, initiating a Lion Guardian program.

DAY 17 – 20: Change of scenery from the dry season resource of the Delta waters to the wet season resources of the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the largest saltpan systems in the world. Although you will be visiting the pans during the dry season, you will gain an appreciation for the vital role it plays in the functional ecosystem of northern Botswana. Here you will learn about the migratory routes, corridor systems and the effects of fences throughout Botswana. Here you will also have a play day in the vast pans full of Meerkat adventures, quad biking, horseback safaris and more.

DAY 21:  Depart for your home country…or carry on exploring Africa with the help of Wildtrax!


FIELD RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES TRAING EXPEDITION


FIELD RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES TRAINING

Research methodologies are focused on those which are applicable to the conservation priorities identified by Botswana’s Dept. of Wildlife & National Parks, which include Biodiversity monitoring and Human-Wildlife Coexistence. Students will have the opportunity to interact with, learn from and develop relationships with different wildlife conservation organizations and specialists focused in these fields. Organizations will include, but not be limited to, the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Botswana’s Predator Conservation Trust, Elephants for Africa, National Geographic’s Into-the-Okavango research team, and Wildlife ACT.

Students will learn about long-term monitoring projects, from understanding the design to data collection and reporting. Students will practice different methods of  data collection, analysis and understand the application of collected data.


PRACTICAL SKILLS COMPONENT


We expect you to learn, understand and practice each of these survey methodologies to acquire these skills: ​


  • Herbivore Survey Methods: Strip/Line & Spoor Transects & Point Counts
    • Identify and determine ungulate herd demographics 
    • Identify Spoor among different herbivore species
    • Complete large herbivore transects & enter data
    • Identify habitat types within the study areas by identifying different types of grass, shrub and tree species
    • Develop an ethogram & collect focal and scan behavior observations
  • Predator Survey Methods: Spoor transects and camera trapping 
    • Create a predator identikit (Identify species, sex and age of predators)
    •  Conduct a predator spoor (animal tracks) transect
    •  Determine coordinates with GPS
    • Use ArcGIS and make a simple map for leopard territories (optional)
  • Bird Surveys: Terrestrial point counts and wetland continuous counts, vulture nest monitoring
    • Learn to identify different species of birds from sight and sound
    • Conduct a bird survey for BirdLife Botswana
  • Camera Trapping: Grid survey and predator identification
    • Set up a camera trap, collect photos, review & enter data
    • Determine species richness and large herbivore and predator abundance of an area using camera trap (Optional)
  • Community: Wildlife co-existence monitoring
    • Learn about human-wildlife co-existence data collection and mitigation strategies
    • Interact with and learn from communities living within wildlife areas
  • Work and interact with a research team, learning about logistics, data input and management


EXPEDITION LECTURE SERIES


Wildtrax Explorations, Wildlife ACT, Okavango Research Institute and specialized researchers will provide lectures on a spectrum of wildlife conservation topics, including the human-wildlife interface.

The lectures offered will include:

  • An introduction to Botswana & Conservation in Africa
  • African wetland ecology
  • African herbivore & carnivore ecology
  • Elephants and ecosystems
  • Behavioural Ecology, Conservation and Research Techniques
  • Human-Wildlife Coexistence & Community Conservation Introduction
  • Biodiversity Monitoring Methodologies: Strategies, design, methods, application 


FIELD SITES & ACCOMMODATION


Where will you be during your time in Botswana?


On arrival into Maun, Botswana, student’s will stay at a gated campsite in twin dome tents with mattresses. There are male and female communal bathrooms with basins, showers and toilets. Hot water is provided via solar geysers.

Throughout the expedition, each student will stay in their own twin dome tent with a mattress and cot. The wilderness camps will have male/female long drop toilets and bucket shower facilities. Meals will be prepared by an in-house chef in an open communal tent dining area. The fire is burning every night under the magnificent African skies full of bright stars, the Milky Way, and listening to the sounds of the bush!
 
*Locations of the field sites and amenities might change depending on the location of research


































EXPEDITION COSTS


Included
This covers all your accommodation, food and transport between projects, TransOkavango boat trip, as well as park entry fees for any activities or fieldwork . *Please note when in town that we accommodate our students at the local backpackers where they will be camping.

Excluded
All travel & flight costs to Maun or Kasane, Botswana, are for students to cover.  Students should expect to have 1 night every 2 weeks in town. Luxury or unusual food items, including soda drinks, alcohol, sweets and chocolate are for your own account.



African Wildlife & Community Conservation Research expedition -- Botswana


Join Wildtrax in AFRICA doing REAL CONSERVATION with Wildlife ACT conducting REAL RESEARCH for REAL SOLUTIONS! 

Through following our vision at Wildtrax, we have teamed up with the only wildlife monitoring organization in Africa, Wildlife Africa Conservation Team (Wildlife ACT), to provide students access to sustainable research and monitoring projects. Their mission is to save our planets’ endangered and threatened wildlife and wildlands from extinction and Wildtrax wants to create opportunities for students to be part of this mission. Both entities identify science and education as key components to the sustainable utilization and management of wildlife resources; thus, pur collaboration achieves a comprehensive study abroad program in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.


STUDY ABROAD FAST FACTS

Date: July 22 - Aug 11,  2018
Duration: 3 weeks 
University Credit: 4 (depending on the students University)
Location: Okavango Delta, Botswana
All-inclusive course Fees: $4,900