Each year, the bachelor students at my university get the opportunity to go to Tanzania and perform their own small research project there in the context of their Bachelor project. This year, there is finally a group that chose plant ecology (declining the opportunity to work with monkeys, lizards or exotic birds!).
This means I get the chance to supervise a project, which I think is a fantastic opportunity! There is no traveling involved for me, though. I will be in Sweden at the time, but I will help guiding them through preparation and processing of experiment and results. I experienced this fantastic Tanzanian trip myself, back in 2010, and I am happy to revive these glorious days with unforgettable animal-encounters again, albeit from the side-line.
The major win for me is that I will receive some information on the processes occurring in the tropics. The students will look at gap regeneration and microvariation in a savanna grassland, a topic closely linked to my research in Belgium and the subarctic. Their small contribution of data will indicate if comparable processes are going on in the tropics.
You will have to allow me a moment of nostalgia and let me flip through the pages of my photo album once again… At the time, I was less ‘into plants’ than I am now. We studied hand preference in vervet monkeys, adorable little cuties with more opportunistic behavior than fear for people. (They did not always use their both hands, like the one in the picture!)
What made the whole field campaign unforgettable were of course the visits to some of the worlds most impressive national parks. If the students would keep one eye open for vegetation gaps, while using the other to absorb the fantastic environment, I would already be really happy.
I just hope they come back with some nice stories and pictures to share.
At my university we made jokes about the non-plant biologists. Most undergraduate students were pre-medical and the rest were wildlife biology. However, thanks to my favorite professor, a few of us converted to plant ecology. Even one of the PhD candidates transitioned from her wildlife adviser to join my favorite professor.
I guess it always takes some time and enthusiastic examples to get into the world of plants :D. But I don’t think I will ever regret it!