Field Work during Covid-19 lockdown South Africa

Like for many others out there, this year hasn’t worked out like I planned. After less than two weeks of field work at the KMP, the field station closed for outside visitors to limit spread of the corona virus. Not long after, South Africa was in national full lockdown. I had planned top stay on site for about a months, then go for holiday before being back in Sweden later in April. Now I stayed in field for three months instead. At the Kuruman Rivier Reseve we ere lucky to be able to continue our work as normal (but I wasn’t able to collect samples outside the reseve). All in all, now being back in Sweden for almost a week, I am very grateful for how smooth and successful the long-term population trapping on the reserve went this season – 242 animals out of 35 groups in total – a record!

I also got the privilege to trap my favourite mole-rat, “Boboti” for a third time! (Photo above) I find the single females that stay solitary for years before (if ever) finding a mate both empowering but sad at the same way. Social distancing can’t be that difficult for these guys!

Science Outreach

This Tuesday I visited a class of 8-year old students at Lammhults school north west of Växjö as a part of a Science Outreach program at Linnaeus University. I had great fun and was really impressed by how smart and curios the kids were! I hope that I can do more outreach work in the future.

Here is some information (in swedish) about the day.

South Africa September – October 2019

I’ve almost spent two months in South Africa and will be heading back to Sweden tomorrow. To be back at KMP and work with the mole-rats, recapturing groups from last season has been so much fun. We have trapped colonies within the reserve and I have collected faeces samples from almost all animals that we have captured. Freezer has been filling up quickly and it is exciting to get started with a time series of samples from the same individuals! It has also been fascinating to go back to the Kalahari and see it at another season, much drier and definitely harder to dig trap sites. Luckily, I have had a great team with me this time again and together we have had so much fun in the lab and field.

team this season: Andreas, Megha, Daniël and me 🙂

In the end of my stay in South Africa I’ve been visiting Nigel Bennett’s research group at Pretoria University. Here I have had to chance to meet other species’ of mole-rats, included the naked mole-rats! Most likely the strangest animal I’ve seen so far in my life. I’m so thankful for the mobility award from Linnaeus University that I got earlier this year to give me the opportunity to come here and meet other researchers working with mole-rats.

Naked mole-rats!

3 weeks to next field season

Times flies. In three weeks I am back at KRR with a new field team ready to put the shovels into the red soil and recapture the mole-rats colonies from last season. Very exciting, as recaptures this season will give an idea about what microbiome questions we can ask and what samples to prioritise for sequencing. Fingers crossed we will get good replicates and nice spread of groups and individuals in different categories of interest!

Sometimes the holes for the traps are deeper than a meter. This one from last season was very successful; trapped lots of mole-rats here it was worth the exercise! – Photo Cred to Yannick Francioli

Before going south I will travel north to Finland and ESEB and present a poster about the ostrich gut microbiome work I did in Lund before staring my PhD. Feels like long time ago I worked at the ostrich farm but it is less than two years ago. I hope to be able to answer questions about ostriches at ESEB but there is a risk I’m too occupied thinking about next field season with the mole-rats…

SA 2016, first time at the ostrich farm, working on my master’s thesis