CSU Ph.D. student returns from month-long learning experience in Kenya

Tomas Pickering a Ph.D. student in the in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University recently returned from a month long trip (May-June) to northern Kenya. 

Spending the majority of his time in Samburu County, Tomas spoke with those leading local non-profits and community-based conservancies, along with many local livestock herder families.  His travels provided him an opportunity to learn about the area, current problems, and the Samburu culture. Tomas hopes the relationships he built on his trip will benefit future collaborative work with Northern Rangelands Trust and community-based conservancies affiliated with them.

Tomas’s research focuses on livestock grazing management practices and its relation to wildlife populations, distribution of income, and human and livestock security.  In January he plans to travel back to Kenya to attend the Kenya Pathways Conference.  Tomas has shared three photos from his travels below.

Francis Lekanta helped Tomas connect with the Samburu people, which led to many insightful conversations. In the photo to the right Tomas and Francis had just finished talking with Francis's grandmother. Tomas was honored to meet her and enjoyed listening to her stories about the songs she loved to sing growing up.  She also educated Tomas about Samburu marriage ceremonies. Both Francis and his grandmother have contagious smiles and laughs.

 

 

 

 

 

Early one morning Gabriel Lengamunyak took Tomas to visit his father and mother far from town as they herded livestock across the rangelands. Gabriel’s parents keep their goats, sheep, and camels close at hand for a regular supply of milk. Tomas tasted the milk and found it to be pretty tasty.  He described it as salty with a smoky flavor from the calabash (wooden container). 

 

While climbing Mt. Ololokwe a man named John guided the group to visit his livestock that was grazing on a mountainside. Tomas conversed with John and his family, learning about grazing strategies and Samburu customs.  He also had the opportunity to help with milking the cows. This wasn’t Tomas’s first time milking cows but this was the first time he met cows that were completely relaxed around people. John challenged Tomas to drink as much milk as possible, as Samuru men take pride in their ability to drink large amounts of milk and eat large amounts of meat in one sitting.  After 2 - 3 liters of fresh milk and a belly ready to burst the group continued on the hike. 

Tomas welcomes questions about his research and can be reached at: tomas.pickering@colostate.edu