Progress continues, long after the trip ends29 June 2014, Christchurch, New Zealand
It may have been 18 months since I returned from Nigeria, but it is never far from my mind. I have been busy identifying the plants, learning plenty of new taxonomic terms along the way. There are now close to 1000 images on PhytoImages from the trip.
I contacted Marco from the West African Plants - A Photo Guide website, and he was very happy to take my photos too. Our little reserve is a biodiversity hotspot so has many plants interesting plants that are not found elsewhere.
International researchers are now finding my images on these websites and requesting them for their publications, so the Project is getting even more of a profile as a research destination.
I am still working on identifying plants, now that the easy ones are done it takes a bit longer, and sometimes I can only get them to genus level.
To help the field assistants collect good photos I have created a brochure to photographing plants, available here: Which Part of the Plant should I Photograph. (PDF, 5.2MB). A spanish version is also available after a request by researchers from USA researchers who are working in Central America.
On cold winter nights I long for the warmth of the Nigerian forest, even if it has hairy caterpillers and stinging plants. I dream of all the plants still waiting to be photographed.
The first 500+ photos now online11 June 2013, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ
It has been several months since I returned from the field station, but the work continues. My evenings and weekends are still full of thoughts of Nigeria as I sort the photos and identify the plants. Every photo I look at brings back the memories of the day I photographed it, from the sound of the birds in the forest to the itch of the caterpillars crawling down my arms.
The first set of photos have been uploaded to PhytoImages with the keyword Ngel Nyaki. These are all species that I have identifications for. There are still many more plant photos to follow, so I will be busy for some time to come.
The identification process has been fun, working my way through the various flora and online keys to try and narrow down the options. I have recruited experts from around the world to help identify species where I cannot find good description information. Some of these collaborators have expressed interest in working with us further - so watch this space.
I have found the website West African Plants - A Photo Guide very useful, but it does not contain many of our plants - so I have offered them my photos. By including my photos this website will become more useful to future researchers at our field station and at other sites in Africa as well.
16 December 2012, Christchurch, New Zealand
Made it back to NZ, after a long tiring journey. Ended up having 2 nights in Yola as the flights were full on Thursday due to the American University starting their christmas holidays, luckily I had a day up my sleeve for just such an event. In Nigeria, this sort of incident happens regularly so you have to be prepared to go with the flow and hope it all works out in the end - which, from my experiences, it usually does.
Arrived in Lagos at 2pm Friday, in time for the 5pm check-in for my Emirates flight.
So after flying back to the other side of the world my eyes are a bit bloodshot, my brain a bit fuzzy and my head ready to hit the pillow.
With a good nights sleep I should be all set for a day in the office. This will also me my last day in the office for the year as my next adventure starts Tuesday!
But wait there’s more, so much more
11 December 2012, Ngel Nyaki Forest Reserve
Tomorrow morning I begin my journey home, it will take 4 days. But there is so much still to tell you. Today was no less busy than any other day. We were on the path by 7:30 am today, and not back for until almost 2pm for a late lunch.
Todays mission was to go down to the stream at the bottom of transect 5. Today was the day of the caterpillar, with hundreds descending from the canopy on silken threads. I took over 350 photos, mostly of plants, not the hairy caterpillars.
During my time here I have taken over 3500 images, I have over 500 of them in the database already, leaving a lot to still add to the database. This is a job I can continue to do during the journey home.
Prince, one of the Industrial Training (IT) students from Gombe State University arrived last night for 5 days. Each year the Project hosts up to 6 IT students at the field station, for a period of 6 months. They are BSc degree students who are based here to gain research skills. He is starting on a grassland survey and will really benefit from the photos that I have taken of the plants, as we will now be able to identify most of the species.
Even though we have many different researchers here, there are so many yet to be asked scientific questions. Each night we hear bats, what role do they play in pollination and seed dispersal in the forest? Coffee trees grow in the villages, could they be grown as a cash crop? Is burning the grassland the best land management practice? Insects – where do I even start, we know almost nothing about what is here? Could eucalyptus trees, for timber and fuel, reduce the impact on the plateau forests?
So if you, or anyone you know, are interested in researching in a little forest in not-so-remote West Africa, I can definitely recommend this one. The climate is awesome and the people are absolutely fantastic.
Each year Hazel produces an annual report for the Project. It covers the research and activities happening at the field station, from the conservation club to the dung beetle research. They can be viewed and downloaded here. There is also a Facebook group you can join to stay updated on activities with the Project.
There are so many more stories waiting to be told here, but they will have to wait until my next trip.
Early in the morning I will go with Bamanga, our driver, to Jalingo (5.5+ hours) then take a car to Yola (2.5+ hours). Thursday I will fly to Lagos via Abuja. On Friday evening I will board an Emirates flight to Dubai, then another to Sydney, then another to Christchurch. Arriving Sunday afternoon. Monday morning I will be in another world, back sitting in my office, dreaming of my next adventure.
I hope you have enjoyed joining me on this African adventure, it has been fun writing.
Descent of the hairy caterpillars, there were heaps of them in the forest today.