It's finally happening!
If you'd asked me even a month ago whether I'd have a chance to visit the Kruger National Park this fall, I'd have thought you were pulling my leg. And yet, somehow, I was able to get my paperwork and vaccines together, book flights, and get ready to embark on my first-ever international research trip. I'm incredibly excited to have the chance to go and meet my PhD research goals, especially during a global pandemic. COVID-19 has done a number on my academic plans, my motivation, and my mental health, so this opportunity is a welcome break from long-term pandemic stress and anxiety.
I'll be on site for about a month, taking a course on savanna ecology field skills and helping set up a research site on drought effects on savanna vegetation. I'm looking at the course schedule now and just can't believe my eyes---hands-on field work mixed with lectures and other activities? Plans to go out in the field almost every day? A chance to meet all these awesome researchers that I have only been Zoom-ing with so far? It's an absolute dream.
Look forward to more pictures and research thoughts to come. In recent weeks I really have been hitting my stride after a major overhaul of my study techniques and a fresh dollop of academic motivation, and I'm truly grateful and excited that I'll get to see this place in action and meet with collaborators for the first time. For a long while I've been doubting whether I really can make it in academia, and this trip is coming at just the right time to help me figure this out.
Oh, and of course, a month at a world-class research station on an African savanna will be incredibly awesome. There's that, too.
This research funding comes in part from Duke University's Data Expeditions fellowship I earned for my work on eBird data with co-author Lane Scher. I am incredibly grateful for the team at Kruger for the opportunity to take this course, and to my Graduate Research Fellowship support from the NSF (see previous blog post). I also note here that all research and travel will be taking place with strict masking and COVID-19 sanitation guidelines, and that I have followed Duke University's vaccination and weekly surveillance testing protocol. Taking an international trip during a pandemic is not something I do lightly.