THE SOUTH AFRICA PROJECT: OCEANS, COASTS AND WILDLIFE
Join us this summer on a unique, exciting opportunity to explore the diverse marine, terrestrial and cultural environments which comprise South Africa’s spectacular southern Cape. Our field activities will be geared toward understanding the fascinating dynamics of the area, from complex questions in wildlife management to participating in vital marine and ecological monitoring aimed at ensuring conservation of resources in a country with ever-present socio-economic challenges. Through extended time immersed in wildlands and coastal ecosystems, and knowledge exchanges with researchers, managers and communities, we will discover how our studies can support local conservation efforts.
Our program will be centered in “Eden”, an area about the size of Cuba where all of South Africa’s major vegetation types - Afro-temperate forest, fynbos, karoo, grasslands, savanna and the ancient thicket - merge to create a set of ecologically important life zones, including the famed “Garden Route”, a 140km stretch of rugged coastline and home to a dazzling array bird and mammal species. For many, the real attraction of the Garden Route is the coastal and marine life: from invertebrate communities in intertidal areas to the open pelagic regions with an abundance of fish species and charismatic resident and migratory marine mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales. Here, our field work will take us out on the ocean, to remnant indigenous coastal forests, sand dunes, beaches, intertidal zones and steep-sided gorges which slice through spectacular mountain ranges.
Team members will have the opportunity to become involved with innovative field investigations supporting the conservation of this uniquely diverse region of South Africa. We will commence with an initial examination of the natural history and biogeography of South Africa and, specifically, the social-ecological dynamics of the Garden Route. We will then draw upon this knowledge as we delve deeper into the wild and spectacular places this area has to offer, familiarizing ourselves on-site with current coastal and marine research, success stories and persistent challenges, and opportunities facing conservation and ecosystem management. We will finish up inland in semi-arid subtropical thicket examining firsthand how this ecosystem has successfully supported the mega-herbivores (e.g. elephant, rhino and buffalo) that have roamed the continent for millennia but now face a complex array of conservation challenges.
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