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Giraffes, elephants, warthogs…and statistics, the ZSL experience in Kenya

By on November 13, 2012 in EDGE Fellows, EDGE Updates

We promise it’s not all statistics! The next update from Nikita Shiel-Rolle shows that there is light at the end of the statistical tunnel…

As you know, the key to the future is education,” is what a young boy from the Makongeni community told me the other day as I was walking back to the camp. I immediately agreed with him but his words “As you know” stuck with me, he said it with such certainty as though there was no doubt in his mind that I knew education was the key to the future. Perhaps this is something that I know, but it made me question as to how many young Bahamians his age would share the same conviction towards education – that there was nothing more important than finishing high school and moving on to University.

For those of us in the EDGE training workshop there has been no lack of mental stimulation between statistics, R, GIS, media, behavioural observation and oh did I mention statistics….. my brain has not had a chance to rest. Despite my pre-statistic fears I can say I have conquered standard deviation, the chi test and I even understand what a parametric test is and how to test for assumptions.

I have accepted that this clearly is just the beginning of my newfound relationship with statistics and, as Dr. Rajan Amin has made clear, the key to conservation is solid statistics. We could not have asked for a better mentor.

Taking a break from statistics we took a trip to Shimba Hills as we learned about behavioural observation. It was there that I had my first encounter with large African mammals such as giraffes, elephants and warthogs. On a safari ride driving through the reserve during the afternoon we really didn’t see anything until it started to cool down and got closer to 5pm. Despite the beauty of these wild animals, I am not ready to trade my underwater world for the grasslands of East Africa.


As part of an evening lecture series each EDGE Fellow as well as the teaching team have been giving short presentations about who they are and what they do. It was my turn tonight and I was happy to talk about Young Marine Explorers (the environmental non-profit that I run in the Bahamas) and my plans of connecting Bahamian youth with coral research. What I was not expecting was to be on the verge of tears….. who really thought anyone could cry over science?….. apparently I have that special ability. This time in Kenya working with the other EDGE training participants has been an inspiring experience for me. I have always wanted to be involved in conservation science but for some reason I was taught to think that environmental education was as close to science as I would be able to handle. These past two weeks have showed me otherwise, which was why I nearly broke down into tears this evening presenting about my EDGE species Dendrogyra cylindrus. I know this EDGE Fellowship is going to launch my career as a Conservation Biologist and this is something that I am really excited about.  We are getting to the end of the theory section of the course which means next week we will finally be out of the classroom and underwater where I belong.

The EDGE Conservation Tools training course forms part of the EDGE Fellowship programme – to learn more click HERE