Bard professor Felicia Keesing received a grant from the NSF to take undergraduates to the Mpala Research Center in Kenya (about four hours from Nairobi) to conduct their own research projects. Keesing and colleagues had set up a series of plots to test human impact on the savanna, and to examine the indirect effects of poaching.


Housing in a Kenyan “bonda”

Each student designed a project based on the three different types of plots that had been set up: an exclusion plot which excluded all large mammals and allowed only very small animals entry; a control plot which allowed entry to all animals; and a cattle plot, which excluded large animals but allowed ranchers to graze their cattle.


Exclusion plot

I looked at differences in mouse behavior between exclusion plots and control plots. It had previously been discovered by Keesing et. al. that mouse populations (Saccostomus mearnsi) double where large mammals are absent. Could the absence of large mammals cause changes in small mammal behavior? While I found a significant difference between male and female levels of aggression in all plots, I found no difference in behavior between the control and exclusion plots. Research continues on the effects of poaching on the savanna.


Observing mouse behavior


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