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I will be travelling to South Africa and volunteering for three weeks in the Thanda Game Reserve and one week in Sodwana Bay as a research assistant with Operation Wallacea. Operation Wallacea runs biological and conservation management research projects around the world. The reserve lies in the Zululand region of South Africa and is home to the Big Five. The focus of Operation Wallacea's research there is on the impact of the 20+ elephants that live on the reserve. Elephants have often been referred to as 'nature's gardeners' owing to the large impact they have on their environment. Whether this impact is positive or negative is under constant debate. I, alongside fellow volunteers and world-class scientists, will be collecting data on vegetation, game species populations and bird diversity to attempt to quantify these impacts. In addition, we will start looking at the effects of the natural fires that occasionally run through the reserve by comparing these same factors to the fire history of the area. The fourth week will see me in Sodwana Bay, diving in the Indian Ocean, again carrying out vital biodiversity surveys, this time looking for species such as manta rays, turtles, dolphins and whales. These species are under threat due to an increase in global temperatures and it is important to track their progress and locations throughout each year.
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