For the second year, students from Central Wyoming College’s Alpine Science Institute (ASI) will travel to East Africa to participate in a month-long Tanzania Scientific Research Expedition (TSR). Two ASI students, Jada Antelope, of Ethete, and Tawna Herrera, of Cody, will join with a half-dozen students from throughout the United States on the multi-faceted expedition to Tanzania to study a variety of scientific interests.
Jacki Klancher, ASI director of instruction and research, will accompany the group on the trip, a joint effort between NOLS, CWC’s ASI and the University of Wyoming. The expedition will be led by James Kagambi, a veteran NOLS instructor and guide with countless ascents of Kilimanjaro to his credit. For the first week, the students will live and travel with Maasai tribespeople in their village, immersing themselves in the culture and language of the Maasai, before undertaking the scientific aspects of the expedition, which will take them up Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.
Each of the students will design an individual research project and hypothesis, which they will be required to refine and test during the expedition. Scientific topics will include geospatial science, microbiome sampling, field ecology, life zone relationships at high elevations and glacial ablation. Weather permitting, the group will summit Mount Kilimanjaro, and conduct their study projects on the ice-covered summit.
Antelope, a new arrival at CWC, will be beginning her studies in Expedition Science in the spring. Antelope will be enrolled in classes in digital mapping and mountain environments classes upon her return from Tanzania. She has five years of experience with the Montana Conservation Corps and is anticipating participating in an air quality research project along the length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route this summer. The Great Divide Route offers 2,700+ miles of off-road cycling along the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, to the Mexican border. Antelope will be accompanied on the Great Divide by CWC Expedition Science student Ryan Towne. The pair will use GPS-enabled portable air quality monitors to measure and map air quality in remote areas along the route.
Antelope said she is excited about the new opportunities, having been introduced to the TSR expedition by ASI and former Tanzania research students Aaron Strubhar and Gabriel Spoonhunter, while all three were working for the Montana Conservation Corps. She intends to train at CWC for a career in global information systems.
“I’d love to experience spending time with another tribal culture; it would be amazing to see traditional ways from another continent,” Antelope said. “I intend to finish the Tour Divide. Biking is something I have never done at any great length. It’ll be very challenging and, honestly, pretty crazy to attempt, but I’m so stoked for the journey of it all. My goals are to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and to enjoy every single second of it.”
Herrera is a biology major at Northwest College in Powell. Herrera will also be taking distance classes in cartography and in mountain environments at CWC in the spring and hopes to be selected to participate in ASI’s Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition (ICCE) to study glacial changes, microbiology and archaeology on Dinwoody Glacier in the summer.
“My goals are to be able to successfully gather samples and provide excellent and useful data, and also to hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro,” Herrera said. “I expect this trip to be a life-changing experience. I would have never thought that I would conduct scientific research in Africa. This opportunity gives me the chance to go on an adventure doing what I love to do.”
Both Antelope and Herrera are aided in their education by CWC scholarships and grants from the Colorado-Wyoming Alliance for Minority Participation (COWYAMP), which supports and encourages participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. The pair will participate in microbiome sampling and high elevation research on Kilimanjaro.
This is the second year in which ASI students have participated in the TSR expedition, Klancher said. Last year, five CWC students joined four students from other institutions to conduct research in the same area. This year, the group will depart on Christmas Day and plan to return on January 27.
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to partner with NOLS, UW, and so many other organizations to provide these spectacular research opportunities to our Alpine Science Institute students,” Klancher said. “Once they complete their studies at CWC, they are already well-trained in research methods, outdoor exploration, data analysis, and presentation. Our hope is that they will be inspired to advance to four-year degrees (and beyond) and continue to participate in scientific exploration and discovery.”