Friday, 13 June 2014

Explorer's Journal

Along with the Young Explorer Grant that I received last year comes the ability to post to the Explorer's Journal, the blog for Nat Geo Explorers. My first post went up a few days ago and I am excited to share it with you. 

Once you're given a log-in, you have it for life; so watch this space for many more to come!

Monday, 24 March 2014


Renosterveld is known (or at least should be known) as the richest bulb kingdom in the world - this means that more bulb species occur in the Overberg renosterveld than any other area on Earth of the same size. Here are some of the stunning species I've encountered thus far in the genus Moraea

 Moraea macronyx

 Moraea gawleri

 Moraea debilis (Endangered)
Known from fewer than 5 locations

 Moraea tricolor (Endangered)
Between 6 and 12 populations remain

 Moraea tripetala

 Moraea fergusoniae

 Moraea bituminosa

 Moraea lewisiae subsp. lewisae

 Moraea tricuspidata

 Moraea inconspicua
(no this one isn't dried out or old, this is full bloom for this strange little Moraea)

 Moraea setifolia

 Moraea melanops (Endangered)
Known from just 3 locations

Moraea ciliata

Monday, 4 November 2013

History Being Made

Welcome to the Very First Renosterveld Reserve - Ever!

After six years of work and collaboration between the OLCT and the World Wildlife Foundation, the farm, Haarwegskloof, has been purchased and thus preserved into perpetuity. Just a few weeks ago the contract was signed declaring the OLCT managers of the property.

This area of the Overberg (north of De Hoop) has been identified by many different surveys as an area of high conservation priority due to its high botanical diversity, relative abundance of many of the large Threatened birds of the area, and general continuity of indigenous habitats. In conjunction with the veld on two neighboring farms, this area makes up the largest remaining tract of true renosterveld left on Earth. It is a long-term goal of the Trust to secure the veld on the other farms and eventually even to connect this new renosterveld reserve to the great Nature Reserve of De Hoop.

The farm harbors many rare and unusual plants found in few other places (if anywhere). Many of these rare species can be found on the farm's quartz patches. The quartz substrate in these small areas differs enough ecologically from the surrounding shale to host a suite of species not found anywhere else.

Quartz patch on neighboring farm, Plaatjieskraal

Gibbaeum haaglenii, Endangered, Quartz specialist

Ficinia overbergensis, Endangered, Quartz specialist

Odette Curtis, Champion of the Haarwegskloof deal, with Polhillia curtisae
a Critically Endangered legume found nowhere else on Earth but Haarwegskloof 

This purchase not only marks the first renosterveld reserve in history, but another first as well; the farmhouse on Haarwegskloof will soon become a research station dedicated to the research and understanding of the incredibly biodiverse and poorly-understood lowland renosterveld. 

Haarwegskloof Farmhouse and future research station

This really does mark an important step toward the understanding and conservation of a critically endangered habitat within a changing landscape.

I'm Mobile!

Who would've thought my first car would be any of the following - manual, a pick-up, or driver's side right? 

After months of learning the region, sorting out an international drivers license (only to find out I don't actually need one), and a few driving lessons, I finally picked up my own personal vehicle today. Thanks to Mick Dalton and the Overberg Crane Group for generously donating the use of their bakkie (pick-up) to the project. I look forward to collaborating with you to help map the land-use patterns of the large threatened birds of the Overberg (namely the black harrier, blue crane, Denham's bustard, and karoo and black korhan).

Beyond becoming a master navigator, the past few months have been an epic scramble to photograph as many renosterveld remnants and species as possible while the veld is in full bloom. It has been a spectacular opportunity to witness the diversity of bulb plants that the renosterveld has to offer (it is the bulb capitol of the world, you know). To date I've taken over 3,000 photos and am back-logged a few hundred photos that I haven't even had a chance to edit yet, let alone share. My next major focus, as the flowering season slows, is to get these photos onto iSpot and into a format easily accessible to the public. So keep watching your emails and I'll send out another update soon!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hit the Ground Running

     Just thought I'd kick this blog off with a brief recap of my first few weeks on the project. In the future, this will primarily be a photo blog aimed at sharing photos of my project and experiences with those interested as well as... making less work for me than a standard blog - this way I can spend more time on the veld instead of writing about it.

     The weather in the Western Cape this time of year is bipolar. Days of rain and cold are followed by sun, and prime conditions. The wind is a constant no matter. Despite the generally unpredictable weather, we've had a few incredible days in the field. It's inspiring to finally see the land that I've been working to get back to for the past year, and seeing it in full bloom is an added incentive to keep working. We've already found new subpopulations for three Endangered species (sites where the species weren't previously known to exist).

Aspalathus rosea
Gladiolus vandermerwei
Lampranthus debilis
     In addition to spending time in the field, I've also been traveling with Odette to learn the area I'll be working in for the next year. Last week we explored the northeastern extent of our working range and spent two nights on farms in the area: Grootvadersbosch Farm, a farm that's been in the Moodie family for 6 generations, and the farm of the Trust's Chairmen, Dirk van Papendorp called Voorstekop. We were graciously invited to stay in his modest guest house.

Grootvadersbosch Farmstead
Dirk's guesthouse, Voorstekop
Not what you were expecting? Neither was I...

Anyway, I'll have some time to relax this weekend then back to work next week. Stay tuned for more photos.