Field Notes From Kenya

Kenya

Sunset over Tsavo East National Park, near Banks’ research site.

A few weeks ago we heard from John “Buck” Banks, a professor of Environmental Science in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program at UW Tacoma, and an adjunct professor with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Banks has just wrapped up a month in East Africa conducting field research at a forest regeneration site on the Kenya coast. The work is part of an ongoing, interdisciplinary project in collaboration with local ornithologists and a forestry faculty member from Michigan State. “We were doing a second expedition to look at the recovery of the restored forest during the dry season,” says Banks. “We did a wet season sampling back in May and June.”

The project site is a five-hectare section of forest about three miles inland from the ocean. It had previously been farmland until 20 years ago when the area was replanted with native tree species. After two decades, the forest looks fairly mature and developed, says Banks, but it has fewer birds and insects, and generally hasn’t recouped the biodiversity of surrounding healthier forests.

Sykes monkey

A Sykes monkey lurks around their field site.

Using 27 test plots, Banks and his collaborators were looking at different components of the forest’s biodiversity, including tree recovery rates, arthropods and birds. Among the questions they’re trying to answer is why the bird and insect populations haven’t returned to the levels they find in nearby reference forests.

In the next few years, Banks plans to broaden the project and continue monitoring the forest’s growth and recovery. It follows similar research he’s previously conducted during the past few years looking at the links between forest birds and the arthropods they eat, and elephant disturbance in nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Banks posted regular updates on his blog, so check out some of his recent notes and photos—including their struggles with forest antelopes and “rambunctious” monkeys sabotaging their fieldwork!

Photos © Buck Banks.