Wednesday 21 October 2015
From forests to deserts- The Namibian experience
By Lauren Melchionda, Intern with the NDP Aug 2015
I love trees. I love stratified bark, whorled branches, and long taproots. Most of the biology that I took part of in my undergraduate career happened in the Vermont forests. My woodsy scientific upbringing instilled in me a passion for conservation and the environment. As I approached the end of my third year in college, I sought out internships to gain more experience working in the natural world. The Namibian Dolphin Project Internship leapt out at me as an opportunity to study new creatures in a totally different environment. I applied, was accepted, and a few months later I found myself on a plane to Namibia!
Namibia could not have been more unfamiliar to me. There was sand instead of soil and rather than studying plants, I was studying marine mammals. There was definitely a learning curve. Dolphins are harder to find and much harder to photograph than conifers and angiosperms. Despite the adjustment, working with these animals was a life changing experience. Our boat, The Nannuuq, was very small so I really felt like I was a part of the cetaceans’ habitat. I got to see humpback whales, bottlenose and Heaviside’s dolphins, seals and penguins, all while working! I grew particularly fond of the Heaviside’s dolphins which swim and play right along the side of the boat!
Working with The NDP equipped me with many useful skills. I learned all about cetaceans, data collection and entry, and working on a boat. This was also a great opportunity to learn about the Namibian culture, a place I previously knew nothing about. I got to work with people from all over the world and the diversity in all of our homes, educations, and interests made the summer extremely enriching. Working with cetaceans and with all of the different biologists made me realize that even though we study different subjects and come from faraway places, our love for science and passion for conservation is universal.