After I had taken my first degree in forestry, I had the idea of volunteering at ITFC, inspired by many people who had done research in Bwindi for their master’s degrees and PhDs. I had heard lots about ITFC, and had become motivated to join them … so naturally when the opportunity arose, I seized it with both hands. After volunteering for a year, ITFC had received some new funding. This meant that new jobs became available, for which I applied. I felt like I had proved myself, and hoped that the directors had seen my potential through my hard work and reliability – which they must have because I was given the job!
For a year now, I have worked as the TEAM programme coordinator for Bwindi. TEAM (Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring) is a global network of field sites that monitor the numbers and variety of plants and animals throughout the tropics, in relation to climate change. I am responsible for implementing all monitoring activities under TEAM; these include setting up camera traps, setting up and collecting data from the climate station and recording trees in permanent plots throughout the forest.
I have learned a lot in these two enjoyable and exciting years. There have been ‘hurdles to cross’ on many days of the fieldwork, particularly climbing hills (some are so steep that you have to crawl up, rather than walk!). Sometimes we have to cross a swamp, which is very worrying and it is always a huge relief to reach the other side! We also had a tree collapse on a tent while camping in the forest; very scary! A recent big achievement of my team was crossing the entire forest, finding the locations for setting up camera traps – we have covered almost the whole park! Apart from the fieldwork, my experiences as coordinator have included giving a presentation in Lake Mburo during an ITFC workshop earlier this year – many Ugandan conservationists had gathered, and I had never given a talk before. It was nerve-wracking, but very exciting at the same time.
A typical work day for me here consists of organising, implementing and reporting on different kinds of fieldwork. During field days, I often lead a team of 8-13 people and I must control the quality of their work. First though, I started with the climate station – I had to find an appropriate site and clear it, and then buy all of the equipment, and set it all up. It took quite a while, but it is now ready to start recording and I am proud of what we have done. Communication between people is a key part of my job. I like to “make things happen”. In my spare time, I like to read more about TEAM, and many other subjects.
I love the fact that lots of my work is hands-on; I had not had experience working on plots before, and I find it very enjoyable. It is also great to realise how I am gaining confidence by the day, in passing information as well as in management. “Forestry is far more than just trees.” I think that my work with TEAM is very important, because it will help us to detect trends in biodiversity and climate, to be prepared for conservation management in the future.
Note : This blog is based on an interview conducted and transcribed by Alex Pinsker