The wilds of South Africa is the most amazing backdrop for my month long environmental science work placement in the Skukuza Indigenous Plant Nursery, Kruger National Park, South Africa. The placement consists of many different projects including an art exhibition within the nursery and conservation management.

The main project I have been involved with for the first portion of my placement is the collection of biomass loading data pertaining to the South African grasslands and savannas for management purposes. The objective of this study is to evaluate the biomass loading on land plots prior to burning which occurs every two or five years depending on the location and loading. The equipment used during this project includes a disc pasture meter and a cyber-tracking system. Coordinates are taken and 95 datum points recorded per burn plot. The first day in the field we were unable to collect all data owing to a cheetah a kill at one of the data collection starting points. The next plot we recorded also had its wildlife adventure as we encountered a large, fortunately placid, bull elephant. For obvious reasons the rangers above accompanied us in the field.

My experience has been further heightened through helping veterinary researchers test rhinos for relocation to other national parks and the opportunity to travel solo through the park to collect the head veterinarian for South African National Parks who had accompanied Charlie Boorman, the English adventurer, along the South African and Mozambique boards. Apparently Charlie is making a documentary about South Africa. This entire experience is difficult to put in words, I have travelled the world and this is truly the most amazing and exhilarating trip I have experienced so far.

This once in a life time opportunity was made possible through Dr Sheila Peake of USC International. The opportunity for students to travel to South Africa was made possible through funding from the University’s Global Opportunities (GO) Program.

Caroline Berkeley