Melissa Fedrigo's Experience

Arriving at ITFC on April 16 2009, I was greeted by half the staff, welcoming me and expressing their anticipation of my arrival. The accommodation I was shown was spacious, warm, and instantly felt like home as it would be for the following three weeks. A quick tour around the station made clear how self sufficient the station is, with solar power and rain water collection in each building, while at the same time having wireless internet! However, I especially appreciated the beautiful lookout from the shower window over Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The next day, I started my fieldwork , as I could not waste time. I spent time sampling in the Northern sector, down in the Mubwindi swamp, around Ruhija and the bamboo zone, my favorite. Hiking up and down the slopes of Bwindi for hours is strenuous, but I definitely felt rewarded by the successful collection of data, as well as the beautiful surroundings. The rich diversity of flora and fauna makes Bwindi most idyllic. From monkeys to baboons, gorillas to elephants, you are bound to run into some type of wildlife during your time in Bwindi.

mel1.JPGEach day, a group of seven of us would set off for our data collection. The senior field assistants were experienced and knowledgeable about species names and locations throughout the forest. Casual labourers, helping with trail cutting, allowed for interaction with the local community and ensured the project was in some way helping support the local economy. The other student volunteers present at ITFC were an absolute essential part of my experience. Their support, friendship, laughter and great company was truly a valued part throughout these weeks. Also, the friendly support staff at the ITFC is always willing and available to help and make your work go smoothly and enjoyable. The enthusiasm about research at the ITFC among all staff members makes you feel like your work is important for a greater cause and can make a difference.

On a personal level, this experience taught me a lot about myself. There was plenty of time for relaxing, taking a walk through Ruhija village, admiring the beautiful scenery while still accomplishing all the data collection required. My time at Bwindi was short but definitely some of the best weeks of my life! I look forward to visiting again in the near future and encourage anyone to take the opportunity to visit this beautiful place if given the chance. I know I would go back in a heartbeat!

My field research at Bwindi included the recording of the species and diameter of trees  greater than 10 centimetres at breast height, from 15 transects, each 200 metres long and 20 metres wide. The transects were located across a broad range of vegetation types, slope aspects and slope gradients. For a subset of the trees, also height was assessed, to develop a relationship between tree height, species and diameter for biomass calculation. Data collected in the field will be used in combination with remote sensing and geographical information data to test and adapt existing methods for assessing biomass, and derived from that, carbon, from radar and other remote imagery. So far, these methods have been developed and found successful in relatively flat terrain. My work is a first test for its use in an environment of steep slopes: and Bwindi is certainly a good place for that!