The second group of the Arabia 2019 expedition is now underway after completion of training on species identification, research methodology and use of equipment and traps.
We have split into three groups each day. The first job for each group is to check the live trap and grid of ten rodent traps in the area of the reserve they are covering that day. On most days each group then goes on to complete circular observation counts of target animal and plant species in two of the reserve’s quadrat squares. By the end of the week, the plan is that a circular observation will have been completed on all 62 of the reserve’s 2 km x 2 km square quadrants, giving us good data on the distribution of oryx, gazelle and the main plant communities. The team have also been collecting plenty of random observations while driving and walking within the reserve. Today we recorded lappet-faced vulture, hen harrier and toad-headed agama among many other species. Our rodent traps were successful this morning with a couple of captures of Cheeseman’s jerbil.
Our placement student Areej is enjoying being out in the desert getting some field experience in conservation research. The experience and talking with Moayyed and Greg also provides some ideas regarding prospects for work in the field of wildlife conservation within the UAE. Areej was rewarded on her birthday with the capture of three Cheesman’s jerbils in the rodent traps.
The camera trap results from the few days between groups 1 and 2 recorded a group of ten lappet-faced vulture, a Bonelli’s eagle and a female pallid harrier. We will collect the SD cards again on Friday and the results will be analysed in full by Moayyed after the expedition. As well as the science, we are managing to do a bit of litter picking in the desert, Elena is showing particular enthusiasm and energy for this.
Tomorrow is our last day of circular observations; the whole reserve will then have been covered by our citizen scientists. We will celebrate with dinner at the Arabian Adventures camp and on Saturday morning we will have a debrief from Greg to summarise what the team has achieved this week.