Monday, January 11, 2010

[Caitlin] a day of firsts......

i did a lot of things for the first time today. helped change a flat tire in the field, saw African painted dogs up close and personal (so awesome!!), hunted successfully for 250,000 year-old hand axes and got rolled on by a massive pregnant sheep.

now i know what you're thinking - flat tire, okay. painted dogs, cool and unusual but it's Africa so it makes sense. ancient tools, also somewhat logical. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SHEEP??

the bulk of this course is spent working on small group projects. the goal is to facilitate interaction between computer scientists and biologists, and with our powers combined, solve some interesting problems (and be captain planet). the project i am working on involves looking at social networks in sheep, and hopefully discovering a way to predict who the key individuals in the network are using network properties and behavioral data. we have individually marked and collared all the sheep in our herd, and will be using a combo of video, direct observation and GPS data to answer our questions. our cs guys will help with visualization, network analysis and whatever else we might need.... so awesome!

with that basic project design in mind, we trooped out to the field to wrassle ourselves some sheep. we picked out 20 individuals from a large herd, and individually pinned, collared, described and photographed them before letting them free. man, was it a lot of work! i had never realized just how strong sheep are until i tried to hold one down. i was kneeling on the ground next to it, holding it tightly around its massively pregnant belly. the rest of the team was working on securely attaching the GPS units to its lanyard collar and everything was going smoothly. then mama sheep decided she didn't want to be held anymore, and, all of a sudden, i was on my back with a sheep on top of me! i kept my hold so that the others could finish their job. i sure looked ridiculous though - there were plenty of kenyans as well as people from our course standing around laughing at me! i was quite happy when we were done with the collaring and i could get up and dust myself off.

the afternoon also held some adventures. we decided to paint ID numbers on each sheep so that we could consistently identify them in the video footage. this involved dan making a paintbrush from a stick, working with the herders to retrieve all our sheep from the communal boma (corral), and then struggling to hold the sheep down while we painted them. question of the day - how many people does it take to paint one sheep? answer - 3 to hold, 2 to paint, and 25 to stand around and laugh at the silly foreigners painting sheep! in the meantime, we also learned the swahili words for the numbers 1 thru 20, and got to meet some cool locals.

quote of the day:
mama 1 - "papa 1, papa 1, do you copy?"
papa 1 - (silence)
mama 1 - "papa 1, papa 1, do you copy?"
papa 1 - (silence)
mama 1 - "papa 1, papa 1, we have a flat tire! DO YOU COPY?"
papa 1 - "there's an ostrich off to the left!"
mama 1 - "papa 1, we have a flat tire!!"
papa 1 - "does everyone see the ostrich?"

1 comment:

  1. “mama1” and did you finally see the ostrich?