Category Archives: summer field course

2016 SUMMER FIELD COURSE

Dear volunteer,

It is a pleasure to invite you for the 2016 Summer Field Course of A Rocha Kenya.

Come and join us! We have an exciting program in July. You will participate in our projects, give a hand with general work, visit different work areas and get a better understanding of how Conservation and Christianity go together. Our Journal Club (studying a scientific paper together) and our Green Bible Study will help you to put faith and creation care in perspective. Staying at our Field Study Center (Mwamba) is a life experience. The same counts for working together with the other volunteers from abroad and our Kenyan staff.

Boundaries of ecosystems.

Boundaries are interesting areas that show ecological interactions of ecosystems. Mwamba is 80m from the beach, and at the Eco-line (boundary between the ocean and a vegetated mainland). You will appreciate the role of wave action and anthropogenic influence in erosion, deposition and pollution. Eco-line studies can be used to generate projections of future behavior of ecological units. This can help us understand, for instance, how sea level rise due to global warming is likely to change the configuration of the coastline and impact negatively on the adjacent mainland ecosystems.

Sabaki River Delta

Is an important bird area (IBA) where ARK monitors and do researches on the birds. It is an estuarine ecosystem containing brackish (mixture of fresh and salt) water with a transitional boundary (ecotone) of the river and the ocean where seeds dispersed by water sprout into vegetation, creating a home for birds and some lower creatures. On-site study offers hands-on experience to help students make logical deductions about biodiversity adaptation mechanisms which enable birds to maintain niches in a changing environment. The course will give participants a chance to participate in bird ringing and bird counts (Mwamba, Sabaki and Mida Creek)

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Snorkeling or low-tide rock pooling.

At low tide you will have an opportunity to observe marine life, including various species of fish and sea weeds or ride in a transparent-bottom boat at high tide to explore more biodiversity, such as corals, that inhabit the blue-green waters of Watamu. This will be instrumental in helping you to recognize how sea weeds, as primary producers in the marine food chain, are adapted for photosynthesis, and appreciate marine life interactions, from symbiosis to predatory. At our marine–debris collection point, students will appreciate the significance of conservation in the restoration of ecosystems.

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Mida Creek and Board walk.

The suspended board walk at Mida Creek is an amazing platform which offers a splendid view of the site, including wading birds, from the mangrove forest canopy. You will also see how mangroves adapt for survival in saline environment, and go for a canoe trip at Mida Creek.

Beach fun

You will help a local group (Watamu Marine Association) with beach cleanup and attend an art workshop to make something valuable out of rubbish and also participate in beach games.

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In addition, you will visit our Farming God’s way project in Dakatcha, learn more about our ASSETS program, visit an ASSETS school and assist Mwamba look even brighter by painting a building and pruning the Nature Trail. A visit to Gede Ruins and Turtle Watch to learn about turtles will be organized. Be sure to also participate in our de-snaring walks either in Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Gede Ruins.

Cyrus Hester from the UK puts it clearly from the 2015 SFC

“If you’re reading this, chances are you’re wondering whether the A Rocha Kenya Field Course is right for you. Is it worth it? What will I be doing? Is it too long, too far, too short, or too close? I had the same debate once… Alright, maybe more than once. Of course, I can’t tell you how your course will go, but I can tell you how my time has been. Put simply: it has been an exciting, encouraging, and unforgettable experience. And, while I can’t say whether you’ll have the opportunity to watch flamingos burst into flight over the Sabaki River or watch juvenile lion fish swim in a tidal pool or hold a mangrove Kingfisher, I can say that you will witness firsthand what caring about communities and conservation can do.”

Logistics of the SFC

The Summer Field Course will be held in July, starting with your arrival (1-3 July) and two introduction days (4-5 July). . On these days you will learn more about A Rocha Kenya, Kenyan culture and basic Swahili, and participate in team-building activities.
The full program will run from 6-27 July, with 28-31 July as ‘Goodbye days’. You are free to stay at Mwamba, go out for a safari or go home to share your amazing experience with friends and family!

The SFC price is $840/780€/£590/ksh83000 and ksh1100 for local students. This covers full board accommodation from 1-31 July and includes all program, outing and transportation costs.

KARIBUNI!
(To register or ask for more information, please contact: [email protected][email protected] or fill out our online volunteer application form at www.arocha.org/volunteer)

Reflections on the A Rocha Kenya 2015 Summer Field Course

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By Cyrus Hester…

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re wondering whether the A Rocha Kenya Field Course is right for you. Is it worth it? What will I be doing? Is it too long, too far, too short, or too close? I had the same debate once… Alright, maybe more than once. Of course, I can’t tell you how your course will go, but I can tell you how my time has been. Put simply: it has been an exciting, encouraging, and unforgettable experience. And, while I can’t say whether you’ll have the opportunity to watch flamingos burst into flight over the Sabaki River or watch juvenile lion fish swim in a tidal pool or hold a mangrove kingfisher, I can say that you will witness firsthand what caring about communities and conservation can do.
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The 2015 Field Course took us everywhere from the bumpy roads of Dakatcha to the brittle cliffs of  Whale Island and the swaying boardwalk of Mida Creek. We’ve assisted with research on tree regeneration, counted migratory birds, surveyed for illegal logging, and visited rural schools – where kids are continuing their education thanks to support from A Rocha Kenya. We’ve learned how farming practices can be amended to improve crop yields and reduce impacts on the land. We’ve also heard that the challenges for communities and their environments remain; be it in the form of poaching, fuel production, climate change, or limited access to basic goods and services. All the while, we’ve been nourished by ugali, chapatis, mangoes, freshly-caught crab, and kind-hearted friends. We’ve been lulled to sleep by the sound of ocean waves and woken by the chatter of birdsong. We’ve braved dense forests, busy city streets, and knee-high mud flats – with each step giving us a new perspective on community conservation.
As the final days of the 2015 field course tick away, I can’t say how your experience will be. But, I can tell you that this is a beautiful place with inspired, compassionate people who work each day to make a difference for local communities and the environment. I can tell you that I am leaving here richer in memories, hope, and Kiswahili vocabulary. Maybe the same will be true for you someday.

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There’s only one way to find out…

SUMMER FIELD COURSE

As narrated by Cyrus Hester…..

The 2015 Summer Field Course has been a very busy and exciting experience so far. We’ve visited local schools bustling with smiling children, watched hundreds of flamingos feed along coastal flats, patrolled dense forests with community elders, and watched baby sea turtles scramble for the ocean. We’ve also had the opportunity to assist with ongoing research. On Monday, July 20th, we paid our third and final visit to the Gede Ruins National Monument and forest regeneration project.
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The Ruins rise out of the East African coastal dry forest like a dreamscape; toppled walls of rough-faced stone standing over wells filled with impenetrable dark and ornate tombs plastered a ghostly white. These are the remains of a coastal, Swahili trading town that reached its peak in the fifteenth century AD. The Omani, Portuguese, and Chinese all paid visit to this place at one time or another in the distant past. But, archaeological evidence suggests that rising hostilities, shifting centers of power, and a falling water table all contributed to its abandonment in the 16th–17th centuries AD. Whatever the causes, the structures fell to disrepair over the coming centuries and natural features came to dominate the area.
In 1927, the site was gazetted as a historical monument and in the early 1990s the first phases of forest restoration project began to turn agricultural plots back into coastal forest. This is where our story meets that of Gede’s. The Research and Conservation team at A Rocha Kenya recently agreed to take up the task of monitoring the long-term fate of the restoration project. A small team of us headed into the forest armed with hand-drawn maps, lists of species, and the keen wits of A Rocha Kenya’s resident ecologists. As Sykes’ monkeys watched from the canopy and pollinators flittered around us, we scrambled between tree trunks great and small to find the little aluminum tags that marked each tree. We noted which were present, which were missing, and which required replacement tags.

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It was a small, but important, task and one which will hopefully help contribute to our understanding of how this under-researched habitat responds to change. We were lucky to have had the chance to spend our time in such a beautiful place, with such a rich history, and all the while contributing to ecological research. I look forward to seeing what comes of A Rocha Kenya’s work here.

A Lifetime Experience

Cross culture is one of A Rocha Kenya’s core values, and it is thus integrated in each and every aspect of our work as a Christian conservation organization.
This July three students from the United Kingdom, United States and Holland joined our team at Mwamba for the summer field course which lasted the entire month.

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During this period they participated in various activities together with help of our staff at Mwamba.
Their first week at A Rocha Kenya was basically on learning about our work as A Rocha Kenya, the Kenyan culture as well as bible study as Christianity is the basis of what we do.

With the help of the science and conservation team they were able prune the nature trails, make sitting benches as well as direction plates/labels in the trails, landscape, paint the rooms and map a roundabout at the car parking area.

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The beautiful view and incredible amount of terns and nests at Whale Island was very exciting for them as they carried out a survey on the breeding success of the terns. This really was a surreal moment for them: standing on the beautiful, untouched rock in the ocean with thousands of screaming birds encircling them. At Sabaki River, it was a mud filled affair as they waded through the mud while doing a wader count.

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Imagine seeing a black-tipped shark’s dorsal fin just meters from where you are rock pooling? Isn’t it amazing? While rock pooling along the shores of the white sandy Watamu beaches, they were able to observe corals and as well as shark’s dorsal fin.A visit to the turtle watch and whale watching was more than amazing for them.

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“I have never imagined in my entire life I would ever have the opportunity to join a forest patrol on a trail deep within the largest coastal forest of East Africa.” remarked Hannah. These students joined the anti-poaching team and an avid birder Mr. David Ngala in Arabuko Sokoke Forest, where they were able to remove snares placed in the forest as well learning more about their work in the forest.they were also able to visit Mida creek as well as Gede ruins(a heritage site at the Kenyan coast).

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It has been a month of adventure and positive experiences for them, “The experiences we’ve had on this summer field course have been unbelievable”. Said Hannah, one of the students attending the field course. “The friendly atmosphere and simple lifestyle will be sorely missed.” added Alex

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They have sure enjoyed the program and learnt a lot, and as they head back home, we wish them all the best and hope they will be good ambassadors of A Rocha Kenya.