Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kaz's Lagoon and Lwamunda Swamp

Around Lake Nabugabo are these very cool swamps. The ecology group got to go to two different swamps. One was on the edges of Lake Nabugabo and was called Kaz's swamp. I'm not sure what the official name was, but Dr. Chapman and her research team call it Kaz's lagoon. The swamp is dominated by miscan- thidium, another plant that does well in water logged areas with low dissolved oxygen content. Since we can't cut papyrus down to use to keep from getting wet, we got to don waders. We laid out minnow traps and then took them the next day to see what we found in the different areas. We learned how to identify different types of freshwater fish, and one of these pictures shows a psuedocrenilabrus multicolor. The name is such a mouthful we call them blue lips, and they are actually the fish I am working on for my summer research grant back in Montreal.

The last picture is from Lwamunda swamp. We met up with the primatology group and in groups, we got to ride in a pickup truck and head to Lwamunda swamp which surrounds Lake Nabugabo, but is 3km from where we were. There, we did some seines, and some of the primatology group donned the waders to chase the fish into the seine nets.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lake Nabugabo

Lake Nabugabo is a satellite lake of Lake Victoria, only about 4km from the shores of Lake Victoria. Lake Nabugabo separated from Lake Victoria relatively recently, only about 4,000 years ago. This makes Nabugabo an ideal study lake to try and understand Victoria's ecosystem. Lake Victoria is the size of Switzerland and bordered by 3 countries, making diversity and ecosystem studies very difficult. We were only there for a few days, but the sunrises there were some of the most beautiful we saw on our trip through out East Africa. The lake is fished by the locals for Nile perch and tilapia, and there is even a resident female hippo there. She is solitary however, as any potential mates were likely hunted. I believe CFSIA names her Henrietta. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of her.

At Nabugabo, there are vervet monkeys, which we didn't see in Kibale. Like the baboons in Kibale, the vervets liked to hang out near our food areas; however, we don't have to worry about three inch incisors on the vervets (though they do have teeth!)

Monday, January 28, 2008


At Kibale, there is a long term butterfly research project going on. Or ecology class had the opportunity to tag along with the researchers for a day as they censused fruit eating butterflies. There are beautiful butterflies in Uganda, and while the most common fruit eating butterfly (B. smithi) was good lucking, but didn't have spectacular colours, some, such as the African leaf butterfly had gorgeous colours. The team was very knowledgeable and had many different projects going on including mark and recapture projects to learn about the life history of some species of butterflies.

The top picture is how you sex some species of butterflies. For the one genus, the bicyclus, brushes between the wings (or lack of in some cases) can be used to determine the sex. It is hypothesized these brushes are used to attract mates (secondary sexual characteristic)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Birds around Lake Nkaruba

Another attempt to link form my website - if this doesn't work by tomorrow, I'll upload proper ones.
Edit: Doesn't want to work for the moment, so uploaded...

Anyways, just like Kibale, the birding around Lake Nkaruba was fabulous. I saw my first African fish eagle, grebes, yellow billed ducks, a palm nut vulture, great blue turacos and a black throated wattle eye. I also took a picture of a random bird flying directly overhead. Upon closer examination (digital has it's advantages!), it was identified as an African grey parrot.

Lake Nkaruba

Hmm, I'm trying a new thing in blogger to link to pictures directly on my website and it doesn't seem to like me. (I give up. I loaded them on, but some of the pictures can be found on my website)

Anyways, there are four pictures here. Lake Nkaruba is one of a series of over 80 crater lakes around Kibale. What makes Lake Nkaruba very nice is that the it is owned by the Catholic church which in turn leases it to a group that promotes eco-tourism. It is a semi-pristine lake with minimal deforestation and agriculture around it. Other crater lakes in the area are heavily deforested and have become eutrophied, causing a detrimental change in the lakes ecosystem.

There, we learned about paleolimnology. A core of the sediment at the bottom of the lake is taken and then analyzed. Looking for certain things, the history of the lake and region can be determined using indicators such as pollen, detritus, leaves and aquatic insects - very cool stuff.

Lake Nkaruba is also an open source of waster for many of the locals. While we were collecting data, a group of locals came down to the waters edge to collect water (last picture)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Work and play

Considering this was a field school, work was a lot more fun than usual. For the primatology group, work included laying on their back observing families of their selected study species for long periods of time. For the environ- ment group, it meant going into the local village and interviewing the locals and playing with the children. For the ecology group, it meant going dip netting for aquatic invertebrates (see earlier post) or putting on gumboots to navigate the papyrus swamps. For everyone, it meant sitting outside under a tree or in the common area and working together on our various group projects. Basically, work was lots and lots of fun, though there was time for 'fun' as well.

An impromptu soccer game was played with the teams being determined by who was in shorts and who was in pants on the large grassy area near the dorms in Kibale.

Even more fun was the football (soccer) match that pitted the locals against us. Most of the students at CFSIA participated, and while we were clearly outmatched, we still played and had lots of fun playing!


Kibale National Park boast the highest biomass of primates of any national park in the world, and when you're living in the park, you believe it! There are two species in this post, the red tail monkey (top picture) and the red colobus. The red colobus is actually an endangered primate, but are so abundant in Kibale, it is hard to believe. They are also incredibly acrobatic with entire families (that can number over 50) jumping and falling incredible distances in the canopy of the forest. These feats are not without consequence as they apparently do suffer an larger number of fractures and injuries.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Around Kibale

In the hand is sorghum, used to make local brews!

Children around Kibale

Whenever we walked through the village just outside of Kibale, we inevitably found ourselves followed by the children from the village. They were great fun to play with, and though there was a language barrier, sign language and big smiles was often all the commu- nication we needed!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Aquatic invertebrates

While in East Africa, we did take a full semester of courses; contrary to popular belief, this was not a three month vacation! Two courses span the entire time we are there, and then there are three modules that offer 2-3 courses while we are there. For the Uganda leg, I took the East African Ecology course.

Though the courses are between 2-3 weeks, they are full time courses, so the number of hours devoted to the course are actually more than what you would get in a normal lecture course. One of our modules within the course was the use of aquatic invertebrates as a bio-indicator of the state of an ecosystem. Many insects we see, such as dragonflies, have an aquatic larval stage, and are very sensitive to the environmental condition of the water. We used dip nets to sample aquatic invertebrates in a high oxygen stream and a low oxygen papyrus swamp. Except for the random army ant that managed to crawl up our legs while we were picking through our dip net samples, we had great fun finding and identifying all the different critters!

Immanuel, his family and farm

One of our research assistants for the ecology course was a wonderful man named Immanuel. He has a large family with seven children of his own and then takes care of many of his sibling's children as well. He has a farm and grows many different crops including ground nuts (like peanuts), matoke (a starchy banana), sweet bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, maize and tea. Here, with two of his children, he shows how you pick the top 2 1/2 leaves. The leaves are picked and sorted and then processed at a nearby tea factory. He also has many cattle, goats, chickens and pigs on his farm, and some adorable puppies as well!