Monday, June 26, 2017

Word from Beatrice our new Research Assistant!

Well its turning out to be a busy winter season here at the Maru! Of course winter here is not quite like that in the northern hemisphere, day time temperatures hover comfortably around 25-30 degrees Celsius.  This month we are happy to welcome Matt, our new intern, and Beatrice our new Research Assistant.  We've also been working with student researchers from Opwall, a great British based research and education organization.  But enough from me, below are Beatrice's first impressions of her stay with us! Stay in touch to hear more from her and our other research partners.

"Almost two weeks since I first arrived from France! Looking for an opportunity to work in an environmental research program, I applied for a position as a research assistant here, at the Maru Research Center. And so far, I couldn’t be happier!
I was warmly welcomed by Justin Kraus, the head of the program, after a four-hour drive from Lilongwe airport to Mzuzu. With amazing food and a good night’s sleep, we were all set to leave for Nkhata Bay the next day. As we arrived into town, we saw the beautiful, huge Malawi lake, it almost looks like the sea! The research center where we are staying is a 20-minute walk to town, in Chikale. I met the two interns, Charlotte and Fergus, at the center, which was -to my surprise- not too shabby at all. Justin showed me around, I helped with getting the scuba gear ready for diving and, before I knew it, dinner was ready. Vegetarian curry with chapattis, delicious! The next day was to be my first diving experience. We reviewed the theory and first skills I would have to perform and off we went! It was quite scary at first to be honest, though I am feeling more and more comfortable under water now.
Before I knew it was the weekend, Charlotte having gone away with some friends and Justin heading back to Mzuzu, Fergus and I spent the weekend at the house enjoying the lake and coming up with new recipes to cook Malawian staples. Wanting to discover the town I headed down to Nkhata Bay. The streets were loud and busy: it was market day. I walked around, went to the shops, etc. Everyone seems very friendly and helpful. Watch out for the cars though!
Charlotte and Justin having come back, we headed once again to the lake for a dive. As part of my open waters, a fun dive was scheduled and it was great! All these beautiful cichlids everywhere, the clear blue water, what a sight! During the week I got to join Charlotte and Fergus on their weekly water quality monitoring survey. We measured the pH, temperature, turbidity, total dissolved solids and counted micro invertebrates for the SASS test on six different sites belonging to two different rivers, both flowing into the lake. It was very interesting to learn from them and exciting to get started on the research program! Justin and I went out diving a couple of times working on my diving skills, and the rest of the time was consecrated to learning the theory and of course learning the names of the cichlids in the area and being able to recognize them. Which isn’t always easy…
We went out in the evenings, where I discovered Nkhata Bay’s nightlife, which is very entertaining. There are all kinds of local restaurants with good food, hustling bars, there is even a cinema! Fantastic!

I really believe this experience will be both knowledgeable and a lot of fun!"