Wheeler Dealer

During this summer’s fieldwork, team members and I accomplished huge amount of work. We set up dozens of camera traps and collared dozens of herbivorous animals (zebra and wildebeest) in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Although most of the fieldwork were closely related to my PhD dissertation, this summer was not only about my PhD research but more about wheels.

It is impossible to do fieldwork without a car in the national park which is as large as New Jersey. To drive more than 200 km a day easily became the everyday life. Growing up in Taiwan and studying in the US, I did not get any chance to drive on the left (the US and Taiwan are both right-hand traffic). It was not only the first time I drove on the left but also the first time I drove a stick shift after practicing manual transmission for the driving license. Though I had thought two new challenges concurrently would have given me a really hard time, I, surprisingly, overcame them fairly fast!

To live with cars on a daily basis, we needed to deal with various issues associated with them. Sometimes, when too many people were needed for animal capturing/collaring, we squeezed in a car and at the same time grumbled. Sometimes, when we got a flat tire in the field, we changed the tire and at the same time grumbled again. Sometime, when my advisor tossed a car key to a student and it unexpectedly landed on the roof of the car park, I climbed onto the roof getting the key. This time I was not grumbling because it was too amusing.

Before leaving for Albany, I accidentally injured my leg in Namibia. I, unfortunately, limped and could not walk well enough. When I flew back, in airports, I used a wheelchair all the time. Fortunately, because of using a wheelchair, I was always able to enjoy the priority passing airport security checks. Even with the injury, in general, I think this fieldwork trip was fun and satisfying. What a wheeling journey!

Yen-Hua Huang, Ph.D., D.V.M