CU Student Sends News from the Continent of Africa

February 29, 2016

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Samih Taylor, a Cheyney University Keystone Honors Academy senior studying abroad in South Africa this semester, captures endangered scorpions as part of her research

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Cheyney University Senior Samih Taylor has spent a good portion of her college education off campus doing marine studies and researching wild life.  The aspiring veterinarian is studying abroad this semester after being competitively selected to participate in a four-and-a-half month program in South Africa that's compatible with her fields of interest such as Veterinary Medicine, Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation.

In order to enroll in the program, the Keystone Honors Academy scholar had to come up with funds, which, despite some major obstacles, she managed to do via scholarships and donations. The money goes for tuition, board, transportation, vaccinations, food, supplies and many other things.

"I just wanted to thank you all again for the tremendous amount of effort and support that you offered me," she recently wrote to her supporters, explaining how she's budgeting and taking advantage of a wealth of opportunities offered to her.

"My first site was Pullen, South Africa. While there, I lived on a reserve for baboons, giraffes, antelope, and species endemic to South Africa's mesic Savanna" (similar to a forest). She's taking four classes: South African Ecosystems & Diversity; Field Research in African Ecology; Conservation, Biodiversity Management; and Protected Area Design in South Africa History and Culture.

Her teachers are conservationists, ecologists, botanists or biodiversity experts. Some of her classes are literally held outside with the class identifying plants or animals that have been caught on-the-spot, conversing on their life cycle, ecosystem and their place in the biodiversity necessary to earth's equilibrium.  

"I haven't learned so much at such an accelerated rate in years," she says of the experience. "I honestly love it."

Taylor worked with three other students on her first research project which required them to take a close look at the habitat preference and distribution of a local species of scorpion. 

"My second project is working with an endangered species of frog -- Xenopus Gilli -- which only lives in about 10 different ponds in the mountains/fynbos. There are about five in each pond and they are the most lethal frog known to man," she explains. "They are highly endangered. My team went to each of the sites for approximately 10 to 12 hours a day," capturing about one-quarter of the entire population. "Xenopus laevis, an invasive species, is threatening the Gilli by consuming their food, taking over habitat space and eating the Gilli," Taylor writes. With help from her group and, sometimes, the park rangers, she caught the Gilli, tagged them with identification microchips and removed the Laevis

Before returning to Pennsylvania, Taylor will complete two more research projects--the last one being her Capstone Research.

"I'll be allowed to conduct a project of my own as a researcher in South Africa's National Reservation on anything we have the means and resources to go through with. I'm hoping to work under a veterinarian on a large mammal."