Student Research Projects

In January 2016 we were honoured to have the presence of the Irish Ambassador to Kenya, Dr Vincent O’Neill, accompanied by his wife Bróna, along with the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Prof. Judi Wakhungu, at a launch in Galana, Kenya. We were joined by professors from University College Dublin (UCD) and Pwani University (PU) Kenya, honourable guests from the ADC, KWS, WMA, and many others. The launch of the signing of Memorandums Of Understanding between University College Dublin and Pwani University, Kilifi was an opportunity to get like-minded people together in The Galana Conservancy to see the potential both in the conservancy but also in the local community with the announcement that Friends From Ireland would commence the building of a secondary school in Galana. The Secondary School, the building of which is currently underway by Friends From Ireland, will be a crucial community cornerstone in an area where the nearest available secondary school facilities are 45km away.


Every year since that launch, Friends From Ireland has facilitated a student research project in the Conservancy, which has resulted in a number of completed Master’s thesis, and a huge amount of knowledge sharing between Irish and Kenyan students and academic staff. Our first project was held in June 2016 and was very rewarding for all the participants, the Galana Wildlife Conservancy Staff, University College Dublin and Pwani University Staff, Kulalu Camp Staff, and all those who took part. In addition to the great work carried out in the Galana Wildlife Conservancy, Friends From Ireland further strengthened the Memorandums Of Understanding between the two Universities and our future education development goals. Two MSc Theses, one in World Heritage and one in Environmental DNA resulted.


This project was followed by a second in May 2017. Students came from Ireland, the UK, Kenya, and the USA. Six undergraduates and a PhD student from Pwani University (PU) conducted research on the Galana River under the guidance of Professor Bernard Fulanda from PU. Their focus was on the characterisation of the Athi-Galana-Sabaki system, identifying fish species and aquatic inhabitants. They placed nets at three separate points in the river, which were recovered, at intervals. Species of catfish, tilapia, eel, and African carp were recovered with several shrimp samples. Three Masters Students from UCD conducted scat analysis on elephant, giraffe, impala, oryx, and lion. The aim of the eDNA analysis is to establish the degradation of DNA in the target species when exposed to the climatic conditions of the Tsavo eco-system and in particular the effects of UV light. The services of the Galana Wildlife Conservancy Warden and Scouts in the field were crucial. The sampling timeframes required visits to various areas of the conservancy between 6am and midnight and security of the researchers was a critical concern. They are to be complimented on their enthusiasm, professionalism, and their engagement with all aspects of the project.

Conservation volunteers, working in conjunction with the research students, also commenced work on the “Three Towers” project. These are essentially observation-towers for use by the Conservancy Scouts and researchers and are located in strategic positions. The post on Tank Hill was completed in full and the posts and metal bracing were prepared for the second tower. In addition, all research and conservation volunteers got involved in the further development of the research classroom at Kulalu Camp. A metal staircase was erected and a new lobby area created. The floors were further strengthened, the walls painted and counters installed at lab-bench level. Unfortunately, this classroom was swept away in the devastating floods of 2018. Work on a Permaculture plot also commenced with a view to encouraging such courses in the future.