Week 3:
Called it!


Cornell Fellow in Botanical Conservation

Gullele Botanic Garden | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

March 1, 2019

In my last post, I had a feeling that data collection would need to go through some adjustments before it began running smoothly. This has, in fact, turned out to be the case.

To study Menelik’s Bushbuck, I am using camera traps (hidden cameras). This week I had 3 of my 5 cameras up, and it was a week of adjusting, adjusting, and adjusting. It turns out that windy vegetation really sets the cameras off. This is a problem when you’re doing research on the windy side of town in a forest. You can’t exactly remove the problem of wind and plants.

I spent a large portion of my week snuggling up to prickly cedar trees to adjust camera angles as well as flipping through blank photos of moving branches. It was a little disheartening, but I have a plan: if I want to see bushbuck, I have to BE the bushbuck. What this means is patience–the bushbuck is shy and elusive, so I will wait patiently for it to appear just as patiently as the bushbuck waits for humans to disappear. It’s my new philosophy anyways. We’ll see where it gets me.

A camera trap shot of windy vegetation, in other words, what I’ve been staring at.

 

Despite a lack of data, I feel so grateful to have been in the garden every day this week. Seeing the forest, tagging along with the research team as they check on their projects, and practicing Amharic in the van has been super fun. Additionally, I think I’m starting to get my hotplate cooking under control. Cooking for every meal has really made me realize that I’m slowly settling in here: I have a routine to go get fresh bread from a bright green shop down the road in the morning, and the women I buy my garlic and onions from always wave to me when I walk by. The kid I buy my bananas from always teases me about my Amharic, and the man I get my avocados from always takes picking out the best fruit for me very seriously. There’s something soothing in these patterns, though I don’t realize it until I get home after a long day and start boiling some water, because that’s when a new pattern sets in: my neighbor’s kids run out into the courtyard to play, the church across the ravine from me starts singing prayers, and the evening birds chirp along with them. I’ve only been here for a short time, but these sounds are quickly becoming nostalgic for me, and they make me feel so grateful for being able to not just learn from the botanists at Gullele and do research, but also for the experience of Ethiopia itself, which continues to become an ever-deepening mystery for me. I have so many questions; why do the buses here paint their wheels? Why do some women have rows of crosses tattooed on their cheeks? How do they make the tibs (roasted meat) taste so good? And finally‚Ķ where in the world is this bushbuck?!

My questions will hopefully slowly be answered. Until then though, I’m going to be content with fresh bread, fieldwork, and the sound of the hyenas at night.

Talitha McGuire '19

Talitha is a religion and biology major from Flagstaff, Arizona.