Week one in the bag!
I will start off and get all my complaining out of the way now – I HATE winter! Ugh. Winter is way milder here of course than say Pennsylvania, but different too. Winter in Cape Town is 50s, cloudy, rainy, and windy. That isn’t terrible, but the dampness gets ya. Also, houses here don’t have heat or AC because in the 50s you don’t have to worry about pipes freezing, etc so most people just bundle up in jackets inside. So it is that damp coldness all the time. No escape.
I just realised it is not possible for me to write escape with out pronouncing it es-capay like Dory from Finding Nemo. Okay total digression there.
Anyway…. we were amped up to be hit by “the worst storm in over 30 years” and the entire city panicked, everything shut down, and we even got the day to work from home so no one had to go into the office. It rained a good bit, hailed some, but overall it wasn’t too bad in most areas. Though some areas did get hit hard enough to cause major damage.
Okay, complaining done and honestly that is all I have to complain about – I am loving Cape Town!
Last Sunday, Jeanne-Maire and Wicus (and Moscow) took me to Newlands Forest so I could go explore and hike around. It was absolutely beautiful and I had so much fun, it’s always great to be out in nature and explore somewhere new.
And with views like that how can you not love it?
I started work Monday and my first impression of UCT’s campus was awestruck. The campus is absolutely beautiful with great, Romanesque style buildings and Table Mountain in the background on one side and this spectacular view of Cape Town and the distant mountains on the other side of the bay. I am currently working in the John Day Zoology building on campus, but we are moving across the way to a newly renovated office in August and everyone seems pretty excited about it.
My lab is comprised of all sort of awesome wildlife projects from caracals and jackals to baboons to sharks to (of course) leopards. Walking into the lab right away you could feel the small family type atmosphere, and everyone eats lunch together just chatting away. I remember thinking “yes, these are my people.” There is just something unique about people that work in animal fields, and I love it. And I have said it before – animal people are my kind of people. My supervisor, oddly enough, is actually in the US for a few weeks, so I have not met him yet. I have jumped right into work though. One of the things I am working on, which right now takes up a good part of my day, is going through old camera trap photos and marking the species and number of individuals in each photo. This may sound a little daunting knowing that I have about 28,000 photos to go through, but the things I get to come across are incredible – huge herds of elephants, a brown hyena with a fresh kill, a sequence of a wart hog running full speed past the camera and the next photo containing a spotted hyena in hot pursuit. So while it SEEMS daunting, I end up finding myself completely addicted and saying “just one more, just one more…” when I am almost done for the day, just in case that next photo is incredibly awesome.
Here is a female African wild cat with a kitten!
Another project that I am working on is expanding on Panthera’s Camera CATalogue site. https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/panthera-research/camera-catalogue (go click and check it out). It is actually a really cool concept. The amount of cameras that Panthera has deployed produce tens of thousands of photos and it takes a long time to analyse that many photos (trust me, I know). We upload them to the Camera CATalogue website and anyone in the world can create an account and become a citizen scientist and help identify species and counts within those photos. There is also an interactive talk board where the public can chat with Panthera researchers (yours truly) about the photos, projects, any questions they might have, or even just share awesome photos that they come across.
I am definitely enjoying the lab dynamic and computer aspect of my position, but I am also super-duper (yes, it’s totally cool to use ‘super-duper’) excited for this spring (or fall for you northern hemisphere readers) where I will be going out to the field to set up my own camera survey! Eep!
So that’s currently my job, in a nut shell. It all very fascinating and I already completely love it!
On the non-work side, I am learning Cape Town, little by little. JM and Wicus took me out to Devils Peak Brewery for some great beers and burgers, most of the lab went out to the UCT pub after work on Friday, I met up with a friend from Namibia, Mekondjo, and we went out and saw Wonder Woman (which was AWESOME by the way, you must go see it), and I got to go exploring at the waterfront see the ocean and get some shopping in.
Overall I would say that week one was definitely a success. I am very excited for things here!
Oh, I nearly forgot! I also checked out a house for rent and absolutely love it. It’s this charming house with a fence in yard and roommates that love animals and are very excited to meet Diesel. I think it is going to be a homerun! If everything goes well, I will be moving in 1 July. I am still working on all the paperwork and dynamics of getting Diesel here, but hopefully he will be here in August. It has been only a week, but I already miss him oodles.
Okay. Now I am wrapping up. Good week. Good people. Beautiful views. Exciting job. Cold weather.