Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

Here comes a selection of camera trap pictures taken during the week. A report of our work, findings and live trapping results to follow soon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

The team all arrived safely at the DDCR on Saturday. First stop was the DDCR office for an introductory briefing from Greg about the history of the reserve and its conservation objectives. We then transferred to base camp for lunch and started the team training in the afternoon. This included the GPS devices, which are an essential part of the expedition enabling us to navigate in the desert, find survey points for species counts and record locations of species sightings. The GPS is also an important safety tool enabling the vehicle to be relocated after a desert walk. To practice survey skills and get the data collection started we ventured out close to camp, in quadrat 19, making a circular observation and checking several fox dens for signs of activity. With time left before sunset, Greg and Paul took the expedition drivers: Dirk, Cat, Toby and Andy, for driver training. As well as learning important driving techniques, the sand driving was good fun and everyone managed to get over a challenging dune. Going over the dune ridges is a bit like being on a roller coaster.

On Sunday we split up into three survey teams and went out to set up camera traps and live traps. The live traps are checked first thing every morning and we will check the SD cards of the camera traps for results at the end of the week.

On Monday morning the central team (Andy, Toby and Rick) had an Arabian fox captured in their trap and the south team (Paul, Dirk and Anjum) recorded cat tracks around their trap. Andy, our cameraman along this expedition, was able to get some footage of the fox being recorded and released. Andy also has a drone, which he has been using to get aerial shots of the beautiful desert scenery. Monday night after dinner we took UV lights out to search for scorpions and although they are not very active at this time of year, our efforts were rewarded when we found a small Arabian death stalker scorpion.

On Tuesday we had another trapping success with a feral cat caught in one of the live traps. Although it would be nice to trap a Gordon’s wildcat, capture of a feral cat is important because one of the biggest threat to the Gordon’s wildcat as a species is interbreeding with feral cats, so trapping data on feral cats and the opportunity to remove one from the reserve is useful.

As well as good sightings and data collection for our larger mammal target species including Arabian oryx, sand gazelle and Arabian gazelle, we have seen a lot of other interesting wildlife including pallid harrier, desert whetear, spotted eagle, lappet vulture, McQueens bustard, white spotted sand lizards and Cheeseman’s gerbil. Yesterday evening Paul caught a Baluch rock gecko in the camp fire log pile, which we managed to get some nice photographs of.

Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

Everyone arrived safely at the DDCR. Our day was packed with briefings, theoretical & practical lessons. Writing this, at I am at the office while everyone else has gone to base camp after dinner. I believe they will all be asleep when I arrive! It’s been a long day for all of us with lots of information & learning new skills. Tomorrow we start again at 6:00 a.m., so I hope everyone will have a good first night in their tents. Here are just a few impressions of today.

Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

We have met up with Greg to discuss this year’s science objectives, logistics and methodology of the data collection. Greg has managed the DDCR for over 15 years, so has an impressive knowledge of the area and has been instrumental in the development of the wildlife conservation interest of the reserve, including species re-introductions and re-vegetation by planting of shrub and tree species.

Our plan is to split into three groups of three surveyors for each day’s field work and each group will survey three quadrants per day. The reserve is divided into 45 main quadrants, each of which is  2 x 2 km. Our goal is to survey all 45 quadrants during the course of the expedition, so our data will be comparable with previous years. This will be tough this year as we have fewer people, so we need all hands on deck, working hard please!

The first job of each survey day will be to check if any of live traps have been successful. Then we will undertake wildlife counts from an observation point at the middle of each quadrant, followed by checking of fox dens to record their status (active, inactive or abandoned). We will record any other sightings that are made of our nine target species whilst driving in the reserve between our observation points. On Sunday we will set up our 18 camera traps and check these for results at the end of the expedition. Our main hope with these is to record the more elusive species such as Gordon’s wildcat and sand fox.

The weather at base camp has been very comfortable, pleasantly cool in the evenings and mornings, not lower than 10C at night, with clear skies for star-gazing at night and desert gazing during the day.

We are looking forward to meeting the team on Saturday morning (09:00 in the lobby of the Premier Inn). Once at the DDCR, there will be introductions (to each other and the research), teaching of survey skills and methodologies and some training in off-road driving skills and an opportunity to practice.

Safe travels to Dubai and we’ll see you all soon! Here are some pictures to get you in the mood:

Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

Paul & I have arrived at the DDCR, here is an update on how we spent our first day yesterday…

Other news just in is that our Arabia expedition has just been named amongst “The world’s most interesting (and conservation-focused) wildlife trips for 2018” in “The National”, the local broadsheet newspaper.

More soon.

Field update from our our Arabian desert expedition

Hello and welcome to the first expedition diary entry of 2018 for our Arabia expedition to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR).

I am Malika Fettak, Operations Manager at Biosphere Expeditions, and also your expedition leader for this expedition.

Malika entering data in our Bedu base camp mess tent

I’ve been on this project from the very beginning back in 2012 when we gained our first experience of driving in soft sand (and digging cars out) and I am by now well-versed in the challenges of walking dunes, setting live & camera traps and running a desert camp.

Over the years the study area and wildlife populations have developed significantly and I hope you are as excited as I am to take part in a genuine research & data collection expedition soon, living and working within the magic desert landscape that is the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. We are very grateful to Greg Simkins (see below) for hosting us on this expedition and for being our expedition scientist.

We are also very grateful to Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa for helping with the logistics, especially delicious meals, and to Platinum Heritage for their support of our conservation activities. You’re in for a treat mid-week when they host us at their desert camp.

I’m in the final state of planning and packing up. I fly out to Dubai tomorrow from Germany. At Dubai airport I will meet up with Paul Franklin (flying in from the UK) and together we’ll proceed to our DDCR camp straight away.

Paul on our Slovakia expedition last year

Paul & I will team up as expedition leaders. Paul has led other expeditions before and I’ll show him the ropes on our Arabia project. More about us is on the Biosphere Expeditions website and more about other key people you will be meeting on the ground, the camp, weather conditions, etc. will follow soon.

Now time to rake Greg over the coals! He’s had staff issues and been a very bad boy by only submitting his 2017 expedition report to us today (instead of six months ago!). This means we only have an unedited, un(peer)reviewed draft so far, which you can view/download here. It does detail results of 2017, however, and the thrust of this expedition as a result. I suggest we all tut-tut at Greg profusely over the next few days. The more tutting, the earlier the report for this expedition, we hope.

See you soon and I will be in touch with more details, including a local phone number for emergencies, once Paul and I have hit the ground.

We have flipped the switch!

Happy New Year.

We have now flipped the switch to a new website, a new base currency (Euro), new ways to pay and a new HQ (Dublin).

Here’s an overview of changes again:

If you are an expedition participant

If your invoice is due for payment in 2018, it will be in EUR. If you joined us in 2017 with an invoice in GBP, this invoice will be reissued in EUR about two weeks before the due date. You can see the new EUR expedition contributions here. Our terms & conditions have also changed, but they are identical except for now referring to our Irish HQ and Irish law.

If you invoice Biosphere Expeditions

Nothing much should change, except that the payment will now originate from our EUR account. However, we will continue to pay you in your local currency, so you should not notice much of a change.

If you are an expedition leader

The base currency has now switched, but you can still invoice us in your local currency to be paid into your local account, so not much should change for you either.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped to make this happen. From the outside, not much will change other than our invoices will now be in Euros, but on the inside this was all about pushing back against nationalism and isolation

%d bloggers like this: