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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
My involvement with African Conservation Experience (ACE) extends back to 2013 when I first partnered with ACE to coordinate a trip to Botswana and South Africa for 10 students at my University, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, I completed two additional trips through ACE in 2015 and 2016 and they also facilitated a sabbatical for me in 2015. I am also planning to involve a younger faculty member to continue the program with ACE in 2018. Given my enduring relationship with ACE, I hope you ascertain that I consider the organisation and the programs they support to be outstanding.
I will focus on the student trips I have taken with ACE. First, the academic content of the trips is amazing. Not only do students see flora and fauna new to them (an exciting experience in and of itself!), but they also learn about biology, ecology, and natural history. Students are exposed to the role that organisms play in the larger ecosystem and heavy emphasis is placed on an understanding of conservation biology and the plight of endangered species.
Some of the activities in which my students were involved included radio telemetry, tracking, dissection, ageing elephants through tooth analysis, and game counts. However, our trips also included lessons on culture and history, the impact of humans on their non-human counterparts and how we perceive wildlife, and possible solutions to human-animal conflict.
Although many of the students on my trips are biology majors, I have had several education majors and they have commented to me how much they learned with little background in the sciences.
The context in which this learning occurs only magnifies its impact and significance. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to expose my students to an experience that will forever impress their minds.
Second, I must speak of the organisation, efficiency, and infrastructure of ACE. I led my trips without additional faculty, but I never once worried about any situation because ACE was always there to help. On one trip, a student tore ligaments in her knee; she was immediately taken to hospital and proper care and medication was prescribed. I did not have to leave the trip and the trip was not interrupted for the other students. On another trip, one student just could not handle the bush and asked to go home (a first for me!). I thought this would be an almost unimaginable problem, but the student was home within two days, thanks to the people at ACE making arrangements, etc. I simply cannot attest more to how satisfied I feel with the structure of ACE; I am completely comfortable under their vigilance.
Finally, I hope you have had the opportunity to work with and see many of the people at ACE who are behind the scenes and upfront, as well. Every person I have dealt with has been competent, reliable, and always helpful.
Stellar people, stellar organisation, and stellar projects. I believe you would have a wonderful experience working with ACE.
Dr. Cynthia “Lou” Rebar, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania