This expedition is split into three components. The first five nights will be based in Lilongwe Research Centre helping to assess the biodiversity of the many green spaces, wetlands and river corridors in the area. The groups will be split into smaller teams that will assist with various research activities including carnivore monitoring, bat surveys, bird surveys and vegetation assessments. You will also take part in a cultural exchange with a local community group to share ideas about interacting with local wildlife. The next six days will be based on the shores of Lake Malawi in Nkhata Bay. The groups will be split into those learning to dive to PADI Open Water level, qualified divers helping with the dive-based research surveys and snorkelers helping with other parts of the research programme. The final day will be spent in Liwonde National Park, giving the opportunity to see many of the charismatic megafauna of the area including elephant, hippo and rhino.
Biodiversity has never been more in danger than it is today. With human encroachment expanding, the wild areas in which biodiversity is traditionally thought to thrive are diminishing. But what about species that have found a niche outside of these “wild” areas? Species that have learnt to live alongside humans in the most unorthodox of places? Lilongwe – Malawi’s capital – is small and rural in comparison to many African cities and maintains healthy populations of several carnivores, including hyena. So if the predators can survive here, what unstudied biodiversity is supporting them?
Opwall and its scientists are working with local experts from Conservation Research Africa to monitor the biodiversity of this area and use this data to inform human-wildlife conflict mitigation. Spotted hyena and other carnivores are monitored through camera trapping, while bat diversity is studied through trapping and acoustic methods and is used as an indicator of overall biodiversity. Together we aim to also develop new invertebrate and bird monitoring in the area to establish baseline biodiversity estimates for these groups.
Lake Malawi has more species of fish than any other lake in the world, but most are more closely related to other species living in the lake than to species living elsewhere. It appears that speciation is happening within the lake, but surprisingly little is known about how this occurred. Our lake research centre, The Maru, conducts underwater population and biodiversity surveys of the Lake’s cichlid fish populations, a water quality monitoring programme and a fisheries monitoring programme. The goals of each of these programmes are to gather more detailed baseline data sets of cichlid population dynamics in the Lake, its water quality and its fisheries and to assess the extent to which correlations between the three datasets might help explain changes within them.
In Malawi the “windy season” has just started. It is hot most days (temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees) with only occasional rain. During the evenings the temperature drops but still usually stays above 20 degrees.
Fitness level required
Low. There are some short walks over rough terrain, but most of the work either requires very little walking or is from a boat.
Facilities in Lilongwe are basic (bunk beds, bucket showers, latrine toilets). Nkhata Bay and Liwonde are a little less rustic (bunk beds, running water for hot and cold showers, composting toilets). All sites have cell phone signal but no wifi.