Max Gotts ’

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Project Title

River Crossings and Wildlife Connectivity in the Laikipia Plateau

Presentation Link

View Max's Presentation

Certificate(s): Applied and Computational Mathematics

I investigated the role of rivers in impeding megafauna traffic along wildlife corridors to understand the potential impacts of the proposed Crocodile Jaws Dam in Laikipia County, Kenya on wildlife migrations and ambulation. Wildlife corridors allow animals to move between protected land based on seasonal patterns, weather variation, and prey abundance. The Crocodile Jaws Dam will back up to the Ewaso Ngiro River to create a large lake; since animals cannot comfortably cross lakes, this construction may pose major problems for animals that presently cross the river. We used a mixture of fieldwork and modeling to investigate this problem. We collected field data on wildlife usage of key river crossings using animal tracks, and determined whether individuals crossed or not. We also collected data on environmental variables such as river speed and depth, physical geography of the surrounding area, grass cover, and substrate type. Then, we used these variables to create a model to determine whether or not Crocodile Jaws Dam will limit animals from moving across Laikipia’s landscape. Performing this research provided me the opportunity to contribute to a scientific project, to enjoy Kenya’s incredible savanna ecosystems, and to work with knowledgable colleagues to protect key megafauna in a changing world.



Internship Year

2022

Project Category

Biodiversity and Conservation

Organization(s)

Mpala Research Centre -Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya

Mentor(s)

Kimani Ndung’u, Researcher and Field Instructor, Mpala Research Centre; Dino Martins, Chief Executive Officer, Turkana Basin Institute; Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University