Anchal Padukone, 2016, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This summer, while based at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya, I studied the effects of holistic cattle management on livestock and rangeland health, people’s livelihoods, and on wildlife. Holistic grazing methods involve concentrating livestock in small areas and moving them frequently across grazing patches. This method is used to aid soil water and nutrient flow, and to prevent the long-term depletion of grass cover caused by continuous grazing over an area. In two neighboring group ranches that had employed different grazing systems, I studied several possible effects of holistic grazing: on biodiversity, overall plant cover, livestock milk yields and growth rates, and animal movement and distribution patterns. I also conducted some preliminary statistical analyses of our collected data, which suggested higher biodiversity and plant cover in the holistic grazing area. I honed a wide range of analytical and fieldwork-related skills, and grew familiar with equipment and software I had never used before. I had the opportunity to speak with scientists and students from a variety of backgrounds, and learned about the wide scope of research being pursued at Mpala. From this valuable summer experience, I gained a deeper appreciation for ecology and field biology. I hope to continue studying savannah ecosystems for my senior thesis and beyond.