Thomas Facon, 2018, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This summer, I interned with Professor Daniel Rubenstein, conducting research on livestock grazing on the land surrounding the Mpala Research Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya. From fecal DNA analysis and GPS mapping data of animal movements, the goal of the project was to have a holistic account of both livestock and wildlife grazing. By attaching programmed cameras and GPS mapping units to the livestock, I analysed visual grazing evidence from the cameras and was able to map their movement across the savannah. I also performed vegetation transects along their tracks in order to garner some idea of what vegetation types they encountered on a daily basis. Finally, from analyzing what they actually ate, using fecal DNA analysis, we pieced together a more complete picture of livestock grazing habbits. I gained invaluable skills in many different areas ranging from communication to technology, and I was really able to immerse myself in the world of field research. I am passionate about farming and ecology, and hope to continue to conduct livestock grazing research for my senior thesis.