On Saturday 15th September, international and Kenyan researchers, funders. community leaders and trusts met at the Tony Lapham Predator Research Hub in the Mara to exchange the latest research findings on predators and human-wildlife interactions in the Mara ecosystem and to discuss the creation of a new Greater Mara Research Co-ordination centre to address key wildlife conservation  and socio-economic development issues in the Greater Mara ecosystem.

Topics covered included the population dynamics and poisoning of vultures (MMWCA), the migration and feeding habits of Marshall Eagles; the evolution of fencing and roads and their effects on migration routes of wildebeest  in the Athi-Kaputiei Plains (Movement of Life Initiative, Smithsonian USA in collaboration with University of Glasgow and University California Santa Barbara), the impacts of clan hierarchy on population dynamics in spotted hyenas (Michigan State University and the Hyena Project), geographical distribution of human-wildlife conflicts (Kenya Wildlife Services), economics of different conservancy models (Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association) and development of the Kenyan Data Cube for open data access and earth observation of the Greater Mara Ecosystem (Sekenani Centre, Maasai Mara University).

The meeting participants agreed that it is a crucial time for the Greater Mara, and that actions are needed now if wildlife populations are to be conserved and sustained.

The partners agreed to co-ordinate their research efforts across the Mara and collaborate on tackling the most urgent issues such as the impacts of new roads and infrastructure on wildlife corridors and human-wildlife conflicts. The group also discussed plans for creating a new research hub on land that had recently been acquired for this purpose.

The European Space Agency Advisory Committee on Earth Observation (Professor Jacquie McGlade Director of Sekenani Space and Resilience Research Centre on far right in first image) in Mission Control at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana ready for the launch. Aeolus in the Launch Tower with the VEGA rocket system. A successful launch  at 21:20 GMT (23:20 CEST, 18:20 local time) on 22 August. 55 minutes after launch, Vega’s upper stage delivered Aeolus into orbit and contact was established through the Troll ground station in Antarctica at 00:30 CEST on 23 August. September 12th first wind data is released,  showing large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth’s surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams.

  

Named after Aeolus, the ‘keeper of the winds’ in Greek mythology, this novel mission ADM-AEOLUS (Atmospheric Dynamics Mission) carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

Aeolus will measure winds around the globe and play a key role in better understanding the atmosphere and how wind, pressure, temperature and humidity are interlinked. It will also improve weather forecasting and climate change modelling. In addition, the data from Aeolus will be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health, something of huge benefit for Africa and Kenya.

The satellite is being controlled from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Controllers will spend the next few months carefully checking and calibrating the mission as part of its commissioning phase.

The first wind data from ESA’s Aeolus satellite is now coming in. The image shows large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth’s surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams. As the satellite orbits from the Arctic towards the Antarctic, it senses, strong westerly winds called subtropical jets (shown in blue) each side of the equator. Orbiting further towards the Antarctic, Aeolus senses the strong westerly winds (shown in blue left of Antarctica and in red right of Antarctica) circling the Antarctic continent in the troposphere and stratosphere (stratospheric polar vortex). The overall direction of the wind is the same along the polar vortex, but because the Aeolus wind product is related to the viewing direction of the satellite, the colour changes from blue to red as the satellite passes the Antarctic continent.

This is just the first step. The Sekenani Space and Resilience Research Centre at the Maasai Mara University will be using these data and many others from a wide array of platforms to tell us what is happening in our environment.

 

Maasai Mara University and Wuhan Botanical Garden of Chinese Academy of Sciences have partnered to jointly support scientific research through equipping University Laboratories and promoting staff and students exchange programs. The donated equipment will help promote research and innovation in the university Laboratories. Receiving the equipment was the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mary K. Walingo together with the commission for University Education and members of the university staff.

A team from Maasai Mara University comprising of the  Director (Linkages and Collaborations), Director (PSSP & TVET), Director (Sekenani Resilience and Space Research Centre) and Ag. Deputy Registrar (Academic Affairs) held a meeting at Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) offices to discuss implementation of Mara TVET Training Project. A collaborative project between MMARAU, MMWCA, Base Camp Explorer, Norwegian Institute for  Nature Resources (NINA), Norwegian University for Life Sciences (NUBU).

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