After spending the last week preparing for the Ecology and Taxonomy test, with both nerves and excitement it was now time to hit the road.
We arrived at Borakalalo to the perfumed greeting of aerosol tick repellent – those little buggers are relentless!
We woke up to unpredictable weather that played games with us as the day progressed. Our group seemed unphased by the weather as we were all very eager to learn and identify grass specimens found in the savanna.
Early Saturday morning we were greeted by the lovely and lively Prof. Mary Scholes.
She opened our eyes to the – evolution of grass and the needed chemical elements in grasses that make the animals say “yummy yummy yummy”… It’s (N)itrogen by the way.
(N)om (N)om (N)om.
I think I speak on behalf of the group when I say we felt honoured to be in the presence of a woman as passionate and knowledgeable as Prof. Mary Scholes. She has a truly captivating way of capturing an audience with her vibrancy and explanations.
Prof. Mary Scholes at work
We spent the day collecting and inspecting samples of grass found around us in the bushveld.
and a collecting we will go
After collecting specimens we were treated to seeing life through a jewellers loupe.
Up close and personal with Themeda triandra
I believe seeing life up-close shifted our perspectives and understanding of the ever so diverse world of grasses.
While doing fieldwork on Sunday morning, I managed to offend a nest of wasps and had a rather stinging interaction… I lost a few specimens tossing them in the air as I escaped the old building which was clearly their territory. Nonetheless, great fun was had while out in the veld!
The day was filled with discovery, amazement and (honestly) some head scratching as we all discussed amongst our teams which, out of 320 possible options within this particular biome, was our piece of grass… We all stuck our noses in our reference books, looked to our facilitators and participated in teamwork in order to correctly identify what we had spent the day collecting.
It looks like a …. to me
It was a triumphant feeling once we were successful in understanding our samples. Thank goodness for our course book – Guide to Grasses of southern Africa: Van Oudtshoorn, Frits: 2014.
Most people do not know how important grasses are to our existence… On Friday we were part of that statistic, but by Sunday we drove home with a whole new appreciation for grasses and their contribution to human well-being, as well as a few little travellers from Borakalalo – bloody ticks!
Thanks to the wonderful team of facilitators for guiding us and hosting this weekend. It is clearly evident that the knowledge and experience that one gets at Bushveld Mosaic is truly unique and well worth it!
Ed’s Note: Thanks so much to student Jemmé for this delightful write up. P.S. Sorry about the wasps.