We’ve arrived at Elsamere on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Soon after first light, we climb into a narrow boat to cross the water to Barton Hill. Time to take a good look at our surroundings.

Munir Virani

We’re joined by two other young biologists who are specializing on birds of prey work. Evan Buechley has worked with condors in the American Southwest for The Peregrine Fund (Munir Directs the Africa and South Asia programs for The Peregrine Fund) and is now studying the augur buzzard population of Lake Naivasha.  Shiv Kapila is a young Kenyan studying the African fish eagles on the lake. Both are following up on studies previously done by Dr. Munir Virani.

We climb Barton Hill, which is on private land. Yellow fever trees ring the shoreline and, as we move uphill, we pass zebra, giraffe, warthog, Thomson’s gazelles and eland (Kenya’s largest antelope whose bulls display their sexual prowess by clicking their knees!). Flocks of cormorants fly overhead and an occasional African fish eagle and augur buzzard pass by, below us once we are on top of the hill.

Munir Virani

Lake Naivasha is an area made famous in the time between the World Wars as a place of colonial excess. Today, we can see the endless hoops of plastic-covered greenhouses that grow a third of all of the cut flowers sold on the European market. Luckily, the rains returned this year, after years of drought, raising the lake levels again, but the water has been compromised as it leaves and as it returns to the basin. Flower farms and the human populations that live in the area to labor within them both need tremendous amounts of water, which is extracted from the lake without regulation. They also return sewage, toxins, and other pollutants that have turned the water into an algal soup. We’ll be learning a lot about this in the days to come.

Zebras wth greenhouses in background / Meera Subramanian

In the afternoon, Munir gives a lecture about Lake Naivasha and Teeku invites us into the world of digital photography. Susan is one of many wonderful staff at Elsamere.

Susan from Elsamere. / Meera Subramanian

Susan on Elsamere's dock. / Meera Subramanian

Welcome to Conservation Media — Kenya, one of St. Lawrence University Blogs and the place where we’ll document the inaugural summer course begun in June of 2010. We’ll be following the adventures of five St. Lawrence students and their three instructors as we embark on a three-week intensive introduction to the field of Conservation Media. We’ll be learning about modern-day Kenya’s major ecological and environmental issues affecting (but not limited to) birds of prey.

Munir Virani, a Kenyan-based conservation biologist who works around the world on birds  of prey research and conservation will lead in-the-field demonstrations of survey techniques, scientific observations, and data collection.  Teeku Patel, a Kenyan photographer, and Meera Subramanian, a New York-based environmental journalist, will then teach participants how to use their new knowledge to create compelling stories about the natural world through words and photographic images. Field trips and guest lecturers will bring an additional depth to the level of learning.

Our five intrepid students — Maria Hall, Arian Jones, Brian Free, Drew Perni, and Chris Wight — range from sophomores to the nearly graduated. They will intimately encounter some of the most biologically rich conservation areas in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, including Lake Naivasha, private conservancies, and the Masai Mara National Reserve, interacting with the local communities as they experience one of the world’s greatest, and most threatened, hotspots of biodiversity.

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