When May rolls around most college students start thinking about how much time to spend at the beach, where to go on Saturday nights and how awesome it is to be pretty much care free for the next four months. Not Max Nyquist. He spent four weeks as an undergraduate research assistant gathering data for a conservation study on the effects elephants have on the environment within several private game reserves.
Name: Max Nyquist
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa & Sodwana Bay, South Africa
Major: Environmental Science, Conservation Biology track
Career Aspirations: Conservation Biologist and Field Researcher
Where was the exact location of where you were?
For the first three weeks of my trip I was doing research on Thanda Prive Game Reserve and connected reserves in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. For the final week of my trip I was diving in Sodwana Bay, South Africa.
What was the premise of your trip?
The premise of my trip was to personally gain experience working as a conservation biologist, and to help gather data on an ecological issue involving elephants and their eating habits. Because elephants are such destructive eaters, scientists are concerned that the destruction of the environment they cause may be affecting biodiversity within these confined private game reserves.
How did this trip help your future career plans?
This trip showed me what every day work would be like if I were to become a conservation biologist. The trip gave me some great experience working and performing research in the field, which is something that I am interested in doing for a career.
Something you learned during this trip that will stay with you forever?
I learned a lot of small things while on this trip that will stick with me. Some of these things include how to be more observant and cautious while working in a dangerous environment like Africa. Others include bird, animal, and plant identification. I also learned how to scuba dive while on my trip, which was an awesome experience.
How did you become involved in the organization that led you to go on this trip?
The organization Operation Wallacea was introduced to me my freshman year at Clark in my Intro Biology class. I was very interested immediately. I began to raise money to get involved in the program after contacting the group letting them know I wanted to go to Africa.
What was the most surprising data you found out about elephants?
While we did not actually gather data about the elephants specifically, I did learn some things about elephant behavior. I learned that elephants are very protective of their young, very skittish, and I also learned that they are extremely wasteful eaters that often only eat the best leaves off of bushes and trees.