Human-Environment Research in Western Uganda

Dr. Jeremy Diem, the interim co-coordinator of GGA, spent the last two weeks of May conducting preliminary human-environment research near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in western Uganda. The goal of the research, which is supported by a grant from the Geography and Spatial Science program of the National Science Foundation, is to gain a better understanding of how Congo moisture impacts both rainfall and farmer decision-making in the western Uganda. The co-investigators on the project are Dr. Joel Hartter of the University of Colorado – Boulder, Dr. Bronwen Konecky of Washington University, and Dr. Michael Palace of the University of New Hampshire. Other researchers involved in the project are Dr. Jonathan Salerno of Colorado State University and Nicholas Dowhaniuk of the University of Florida. Both Joel and Nick are National Geographic Explorers.

The May fieldwork consisted of visiting farmers in their fields, holding group interviews with farmers, teaching farmers how to record daily farming activities and weather variables, and establishing rainwater collectors and teaching volunteers how to use the collectors. The same activities are occurring at our other research location 450 km to the northeast near Murchison Falls National Park. The recording of information by farmers, which we call family follows, is one of the first times smallholder farmers in Africa have been engaged in citizen science. The farmers are measuring wind/cloud directions and are identifying clouds. This will be very important data, since the region, and western Uganda as a whole, does not have any weather stations that measure those variables.  The research team also gave a presentation at the Global Livingston Institute on Lake Bunyonyi and met with the Uganda National Meteorological Authority, a partner on the project, at their headquarters in Kampala.

Daily rainfall is being collected so that Dr. Konecky (far right in picture below) can eventually measure the hydrogen and oxygen isotopes of the water samples to determine if a forest, such as the Congo rainforest to the west, or a lake/ocean was the source of the water on a particular rainfall day.



An Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation employee taking the first rainwater samples at the Ruhija collector.



Dr. Hartter teaching farmers the finer points of using a compass to measure wind direction.



Farmers learn how to use a cloud chart and cloud mirror for their daily weather observations.



Drs. Hartter and Konecky talk with a small group of farmers. The man in the blue shirt is the translator.



Drs. Konecky and Hartter presenting an overview of the research project at the Global Livingston Institute on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi.



Dr. Konecky explains rainwater collection and isotope measurements to staff of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority in Kampala.


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