The sweet smell of sagebrush permeates the air in much of Botswana, accompanied by the nightly ritual of lions roaring, and the occasional chorus of elephants wandering through camp in search of a midnight snack.
This is where Emily Hruza fell in love with Chacma baboons.
Fascinated by these primates, the School of Natural Resources fish and wildlife major found herself asking questions about the diverse wildlife of southern Africa while on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln summer study abroad trip two summers ago. She knew she would seize any opportunity to return and try to answer some of her questions. Thanks to the Cabela’s Apprenticeship program, she did, returning the following summer to begin her journey as an undergraduate researcher.
Through hours of observations of the watering holes in the Mashatu Game Reserve during dry season, Hruza sought to understand how baboon occurrence might be affected by the presence of elephants, which dig large holes in riverbeds to access water. Through her analysis of the activity of elephants and baboons at watering holes, she found that baboons potentially avoid elephants when they go to drink.
Hruza’s research emphasizes the fact that many species, not just baboons, rely on the presence of keystone species such as the African elephant. Her exploration points to the importance of elephant conservation. With additional data exploration, we’ll have a better idea of how baboons are utilizing water, which could help determine what kind of conservation plan for baboons is necessary.
“It’s been such an incredible honor to receive the Cabela’s Apprenticeship and to work with Dr. John Carroll. It truly is one of my greatest dreams being brought to life,” Hruza said. “I’m hoping my research will be the first of many projects that will ultimately lead to publication.”
Hruza feels her research has increased her confidence and research aptitude, and hopes it will lead her to becoming a field biologist and primate behaviorist.
There is no doubt that this budding primatologist will achieve her goals.
— Catherine Berrick, Cabela’s apprentice
More details at: https://go.unl.edu/d75k