Arabia: Bittersweet ending

Waking up on the last day of an expedition is always bittersweet. You are ready to go home, but always want to stay in the field for even just one more day with the new friends you’ve made working on an important conservation and research project. That is how I always feel, and I’m pretty confiendent this is how everyone else felt on Saturday morning as well.

Of course, the science is the integral part of why we all came together here, but the human connection is what makes these expeditions so memorable as well. In the car on the way to breakfast on the last day, William from Canada was telling me about how he was so happy about the way everyone gelled together so well, even though we are all so different. I wholeheartedly agree!

So, what did we get done over on the expedition this year? Let’s do a quick recap.

In only 2 days, we surveyed all 62 circular observation points, 17 feeding stations, and carried out random observations within each 2x2km cell. The final results show that we observed a total of 741 Arabian oryx, 283 Arabian gazelle, and 95 sand gazelle.

With our small mammal trapping, we captured 28 Cheeseman’s gerbils and 3 Baluchistan gerbils, as well as 4 house sparrows, and 1 white eared bulbul. Finding birds in our rodent traps was always a bit of a surprise!

Our fox den surveys were also successful. We were able to locate 23 new dens as well as check on the 45 from last year, for a total of 68 dens surveyed. Of those, only 6 of them were unmistakably still in use, however, one great side note is that one of them was of a sand fox, which hasn’t been recorded on the reserve for five years!

Our live trapping enjoyed mixed success. We did capture 1 feral cat, but as it was not a Gordon’s wildcat or one of our two target fox species, we were a bit disappointed. However, removing the cat from the reserve has created space for the native predatory species, which should help their numbers grow now.

Lastly, our camera trapping was quite successful. We put out a total of 16 camera traps over the week and were well rewarded with 12,410 photographs! The images captured oryx, gazelles, Arabian hare, red foxes, MacQueen’s bustard, and most interestingly, a Gordon’s wildcat!

The head scientist for this project, Moayyed Sher Shah said, “The results were  fantastic! Without the support of Biosphere Expeditions, getting these kinds of results in such a short time (particularly the circular observations) would have been impossible for the staff here at the DDCR.”

DDCR staff will go through all of these data now in order to write up a report that will provide recommendations for how to better manage the reserve. And hopefully we’ll be able to find some citizen scientists to help out with poring over the enormous number of camera trap photographs as well! I’m already considering having some of my students at university join in the effort.

Of course, all of these data are great – extraordinary, in fact, but it wouldn’t have been possible to collect so much in such a short amount of time without the much-appreciated effort of our citizen scientists. Biosphere Expeditions and our research partners are always so privileged to have such committed people come and spend their time with us in the name of citizen science. So I’d like to say thank you to all of you. Ellen C., Yvonne, William, Ellen W., Anette, Peter T., Petra, Peter G., Jens, Madeleine, Lorna, Albert and Toby. Thank you for taking time away from family, friends, and work in order to make this expedition a success. Hopefully you all made new friends and great memories while contributing a great deal to the DDCR’s research goals.

Safe travels home. Stay in touch and hopefully see you again!

Amadeus and Robin


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