Monday, August 31, 2009

A bonza bbq day!

As we awoke to the tunes of disneys enchanted (courtesy of knowles) we all prepared for the first day in the field of our final week. D+ is sweeping through the camp and some of the team have been making fairly regular (and musical) trips to the toilets!

I checked in on the cats by the WSPA van and mine is happy and still meowing away, whilst andrews has already found a happy home! We picked up dr waridi and ramadan and went off to sample in the northern district.

We sampled two farms today, both of which had lots of bulls which were quite fiesty (bruises from kicks ahoy). Following our lead lots of the cows were suffering from sloopy stools but seemed in otherwise good condition. We came accross 2 cases of suspected ecf, both of which we took lymph node aspirates from. It will be interesting to see what these yield back in the lab in London.

Unfortunately Caz developed a migraine when we were back at the lab. One of our first aiders lizzy was on the case straight away and got her the necessary drugs and rest she required! Will and Andy both successfully emasculated three tom cats in the afternoon under the watchful eye of one our good friends here, Dr Ramadan. 

In the afternoon Andy, Andrew and Tom went to market to buy us lots of tasty tuna fish for a bbq. Meanwhile Siobhan, Caz, Will and I went to sizzle in stone town (twas a scorcher of a day) and indulge in a bit of shopping. Lizzy, Fran and Niall held down the fort back home downloading pictures onto our computers from our sampling days.

The day came to and end with a bbq in our back garden (with our two friends lolly and fran who were chomping down some of the tit bits quite merrily). We had some gorgeous ginger and lime tuna with rice and vegetables.

Fran and will then entertained us in the living room with some of their many stories!

Looking forward to visiting a charity school tomorrow,
Bye for now
The hatch-meister ;)))))

Start of final week

Tonight the captain of our ship took to the kitchen and cooked up a Zanzibar style fish masala dish worthy of restaurant service (with better portion sizes) to set us up for our last week on the island.

We have three more days of sampling in the north of the island before presenting our preliminary findings and outlining our future plans to the Department of Livestock and Development staff on Thursday. My part of the project has been to conduct a face-to-face questionnaire to farmers with the aim of providing a context to our more laboratory based research (and hence my unhealthy affinity for clipboards in all of the photos). I began the construction process months ago whilst on rotations as a total rookie to this secret art by gathering as many relevant papers as possible. Very slowly, with the help and endless patience of my supervisiors at college a 30 question survey began to evolve. By our departure date I was fairly happy with the 50 crisp copies of surveys tucked in my lugguage, which delve into basic farm structure and management, disease awareness and finally more specifically about ECF and the infect and treatment vaccine.

Our whirlwind first day in the field threw up a few immediate challenges to my plan, with our only two interpreters working hard on gaining farmer copliance for blood and tick sampling it became clear that my best efforts at learning Swahili would only get me so far. In addition to the language barrier, farmers on Zanzibar are only availabe to us for sampling for a narrow window in the morning and so we have always been pushing the clock to get all of our samples. Never the less with a few alterations, perseverance and talking over bucking cows I've managed to survey about a third of the farmers we have met.

Inputing the survey data into a spreadsheet has been an evening job, but continues to highlight useful questions that need more work and less useful ones which can be cut. Most of the farmers I have spoken to have had good knowledge of the disease and many can describe recent cases. A growing population and urbanisation are forcing farmers to move to a more intensive way of farming to maximise the productivity of their land. For this to work it is essential that diseases such as ECF are addressed.

It's been a huge learning curve, but I hope we will be able to help the farmers of Zanzibar move forward.

Soz for the dry blog, time for bed ready for another early start!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saved by the Tweets

The plan for our day off was very simple, all we had to do was make our way home to Stone Town from the north tip of the island.
But never take anything for granted in Africa.  I decided to head off home before the rest of the gang to get some work with data done and go to the market (also I don't really like the beach).  As soon as I got 10 minutes away, my car started making horrid noises.  I needed to call our friend Daude who rented us the cars, but unfortunately my vodacom call credit had run out.  Thankfully, I had some data left on my android so I was able to tweet the group for help. 
The cavalry arrived (liz-mo, caz-mo, and Niall-mo) and saved me from being stranded on the side of the road surrounded by curious children pressing their faces against my windows.  We then were able to call Daude and he sent a man out with a fresh car with haste.  Best rental car place ever!  ( shout izout!)  So the cavalry kept me company while Daudes man worked his way across the whole island and also entertained the crew of kids as it expanded to over 20.  Caz and lizzy practiced some swahili and Niall showed the kids some of our mobile devices.  I was a bit frustrated with the car so I sat and watched, only contributing the music of T-pain which sparked a brief roadside dance party.  Eventually we all made it home for a nice family style italian meal topped off with some birthday chocolate for Cazoline.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Field blitz and a Rank birthday

Well Friday is never a quiet day in Zanzibar! With our ever helpful vets required at 10am back at the centre for an essential talk to all the vet assistants on the island we managed a day's work in 2 hours... it was hard, personally sweaty (the banter regarding my random knee sweat continues a pace) and pretty stressful but ultimately satisfying.

Niall, our new techno-man, had a bit of a baptism of fire in the use of the androids in fieldwork - ironically using old fashioned pen and paper to record his observations.

After The Hag and Alex checked their cat spays were out of the woods (they were happy and healthy) we headed out to the coast to celebrate Caroline Louise Rank's birthday - yes that's the 3rd of the trip!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Planting aubergines with the African Ladies

Alex helping Dr Ramadan

Eggplant,zoo,spay,niall,rain,edta,tick flag,car

Busy busy busy, too busy to blog yesterday. Field work continued on Wednesday as per usual, and us girls helped/hindered some ladies plant aubergine in an agricultural school. Later we got a VIP sneak preview of an as of yet unopened zanzibar attraction...the zoo. We were flattered to be asked for our advice about both the welfare of the animals and tourist potential. We had a frolick with the wilderbeest and zebra which running free with the guinea fowl,and had a horseride around the grounds.

Next was tidy/shopping time in preparation for our special guest Niall on Thursday. Today we visited a government farm, and with a herd of 153 and a crush it was the closest we have seen to the British system. Since it was the only sample site for the day we had time to take a good survey. The dream team perfected their field tick collection by stalking cows with the ceremonious tickflag. Success made Toms day! The low tick burden due to good management on the farm meant light work in the lab so Alex and The Hag went to help dr Ramadan spay a couple of stray cats-quite a contrast to life in the QMH.
The arrival of an extra set of wheels was followed by the arrival of Niall with some essentials-EDTA tubes, suncream newspapers and...chocolate. We enjoyed a meal at the old favourite Forodhani street market, and now we are back at HQ playing cards- GOOD TIMES!

Over and out...lala salama

Lizbo and Shish x

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monkeys and Mangroves

Jambo bloggers will and caz here,
Another exciting day on isle of spice! The tone of the day was set early on with a exuberant chorus of our new favourite song- Jambo Jambo Wana (closely followed by Coco-coconutti!) Sampling in the north continued with the cattle seeming wilder and less used to handling, resulting in a face full of faecal matter for Frannie (much to the delight of the team and the 20 plus onlookers.) Our clinical exam of one sick calf with a high temperature, enlarged lymph nodes and pale mucus membranes resulted in treatment for suspected ECF.
Becoming more efficient in the lab gave us time afternoon to visit Jozani Forest. Our guide Hasaam carefully navigated us through the wonderful world of endangered red colobus monkeys, wild pigs, civet cats, kite spiders and last but not least the red AND yellow legged millipedes. We were sent on our way with a salute from a carpet of waving crabs (as weird as this sounds its true!) before ending the day on a high with the boys treating us all to a homemade squid supper.
Bye for now

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hi ho, hi ho its back to work we go!

After the weekend's 4 S's - sun, sea, snorkeling and sunburn a slightly "rosy" team were back in the thick of fieldwork today... and what a day!

A heavy rainstorm as dawn broke cleared the sky of all but the lighest whisps of cloud. With no protection afforded by cloud cover, the sun blazed relentlessly down on our intrepid troup as we busied ourselves at the first farm of the day. In contrast to the sheltered nature of many of the farms visited so far, this farm was open field, exposed and sparsely vegetated with the cows (or us!) offered little shade in which to seek refuge from the heat. Many of the cows were thin, several were ill and all seemed exhausted, offering little resistance to being examined and sampled by the team.

The second farm demonstrated the juxtaposition of environments which exist on this island as we trekked through heavy undergrowth cast in shadow by an impressive palm tree canopy to reach our destination. Once again the hospitality of the locals surprised us as we were given several watermelons as gifts - lunch was looking good!

Lab work completed and the watermelons duly eaten we hit Stone Town to take in the impressive House of Wonders - now a museum but originally a sultan's palace - with its astounding views from panoramic balconies. Superb end to another tiring but fantastic day on our URT adventure!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ready for the week

This weekend we all decided that we should use our days off to get in touch with our inner tourists, so we all dipped into our wallets and got a few cheap rooms at a place on the beach in the far north of the island.  Was not 4 stars by any means, but the view was great and team sunbathe (everyone but this guy) soaked up some rays.  In the case of frannie, a bit too many rays.
But we left the sterile world of tourism and we're back in our humble abode and are spending the evening with ramen noodles and the laptops compiling survey responses and backing up the data from our android devices.
This week we will start sampling the northern half of the island, and on Thursday we will be joined by Niall Winters from the U of London Knowledge lab who is going to be evaluating the devices' role in supporting our work.  He will also be staying with us so he is in for some fun indoor camping with the team!  We will try and show him around the island a bit now that we are practically locals. :)

That's all for now, hope you enjoy the slideshow in the left bar of the site.

- The Hag (not a nickname of my choosing)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Siobhan adopts a school of children

We woke this morning as smelly as we went to bed with the on going water shortage and the duty breakfast makers were horified to find an empty 'larder', never the less we got out to our sampling area in the central part of the island ok. The team split between 2 villages again to maximise our coverage, one team went with the super efficient vet director Dr Waridi whilst the other headed off with the more laid back Dr Ramadan. We took many lymph node aspirates from calves with enlarged lymph nodes for cytological examination. We are having to perfect the Giemsa staining slightly due to humid conditions.

Everyone is now slick in their positions in the field and the lab and using the android phone technology to enter physical exam findings on every cow.
We had to work even quicker than usual to let the locals prepare for Ramadan which starts Saturday or Sunday depending on the moon. 

Because of the impending holiday, the local kids had the morning off and had plenty of time to swamp will and siobhan with adoration.  They could not take bloods because the kids wanted to hold hands.

Overall it was a great albeit smelly day but the team has relaxing and safe plans for the weeend.  Woop!!

-Andy, Lizzy, andrew

Thursday, August 20, 2009

23 years in the african jungle

Today is the 20th of august 2009... special, why? Because it is my 23rd birthday!!! Wohoo :) We woke up to some fine music listening to the delights of the lion king and some p diddy / puffy / diddy / sean combs (naturally). The group bought me a nice bday hat and some dog food (what makes lolita and fran happy, our resident dogs, makes me happy!). We chomped down our breakie and headed out for another day in the field.

Today we were sampling cows from Jendele and H/mchana to the east of the Central District. As per usual we split into two sampling teams and managed to gather a good number of lymph node aspirates this time around. The farms here seemed to have a higher stocking density although they were mostly not co grazing. Some of the calves were sick with enlarged lymph nodes. Caz sampled a local african toilet at one of the farms (squatting skills much improved) and I learnt how to say its my birthday in swahili - something like 'leo-seko-yakuzaleewa!'

Tomorrow we all swap roles (e.g. person scribing on phones will now be collecting ticks and carrying out the clinical exam). I headed off to the house early to prepare lunch with Siobhan while the others completed the lab work for today' samples.

This afternoon we have been without water and mostly catching up on our sleep and doing the odd bits and bobs around the house. Andy and Will have 'showered' in the sea and the dogs have had my birthday treat. Off to a nearby bar for some well deserved drinks and nosh now!

Off and out,
Alex ;))))))))

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Heading to the deep south...

It's suprising how easy it is to leave one's bed early when the African sunrise awaits you - its a completely different prospect than 6am in Potters Bar when its raining outside and your wrapped in a warm duvet!

Field work continued at a fast pace but with two days of experience behind us and the androids working smoothly the two subunits of our entrepid team perspired rather than sweated in completing our sampling in the deep south of the island.

The villages and farms of this southen region of Zanzibar provided the team with a real sense of what life on this wonderful island is truely like for the locals away from the tourist driven hussle bussle of Stone Town and private beach resorts where honeymooners lounge in luxary sipping cocktails on the famous pristine white beaches which appear to melt into sapphire blue ocean. Estute and educated in the welfare of their animals; families working together in rural production lines to ensure no time is wasted; young children still nervous around us but with an infinitely superior grasp of English than our fledging attempts at Swaheli; mango trees lining the roads rooted in deep red earth.

Our foray in to the deep south left us feeling that we'd begun the journey into the discovering the Zanzibar often hidden from the average tourist. More please!

Science update!

Andrew here again with a boring science blog, interesting to those nerdy types such as myself.

We had decided to travel as one group for sampling for this trip and then split into two teams on each site.  Farm is not the right word for these sites, cooperative grazing would be best.  At some sites there are 20 some animals owned by 4 different farmers and all managed differently.  Many cows are just teathered to a tree on a long rope for a half a day and allowed to graze, then the farmer will tether to a different tree the next night.  Makes for lots of interesting data in terms of how much animals who share pasture share ticks and infections. 

Our lab space at the dept of livestock and development is pretty nice considering, howeve, having done all my research at either the RVC or UPENN, two of the cushiest places to do research in the world, it can be hard to adjust to the "mcguyver" style of research here, but as a team were doing it.

We saw our first case of severe clinical ecf in a calf today, and it was very interesting.  The calf was around 2 months old and was so lethargic I was able to take its blood without any restraint whatsoever.  Otherwise the signs were just as the textbooks say.  The calf was not vaccinated, but the surrounding animals were so we will eagerly await the results on the genetic makeup of its parasites. 

Enough geekiness, the rest of the gang is at the crazy market so I'm sure they will have some more exciting stories to blog shortly.

-Andrew Hagner, URT Leader and resident geek

Monday, August 17, 2009

Here's the photo

URT win papaya on day 2

Today we started as we mean to go on with a regimental start at 0630, team breakfast and matching safari gear. We picked up our hosts at the lab before heading to the south of the island. I was riding in the cheap seats in the boot. The farmers were very welcoming and in stitches at Caz's temperature attempts, although they consoled her with gifts of papaya - friends for life. The phones came in very useful for recording the core physical examination and even stood up to rain (which we defitely didn't sign up for). The drive home was even more spicy than usual as we over took dala dalas into oncoming traffic while Andrew had an anaphylactic rection to the suncream on his face and one working eye. Never the less we made it home without incident. A super efficient sorting session in the lab crushing ticks and spinning PCVs meant we were home by 1600. The cars were sorted for the morning and we grabbed a few minutes R&R in the fading sun. Grabbing an early night ready for another busy day in paradise. OUT.
Caz & Andy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cleaning shopping eating

Following frannys birthday (complete with an orange posing as a cake) we went on a weekend mission to the beach. lack of directions and signposts meant we ended up offroading it... but the beach made the chaotic trip worth the while. this morning was spent scrubbing floors etc and half the group got busy buying supplies.the afternoon was spent preparing kit and lab equipment for the early start tomorrow morning.over and out

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First mobile blog

We got our mobile android devices up and running so now we can keep better in touch with you all!  The staff at the dept of livestock and development don't work Saturday or Sunday so were spending the weekend making our house a home/habitable, getting reorganized for Monday, and exploring the parts of Zanzi that are not cow related.   We are adjusting to life here well I think.  Tomorrow expect some blogs from the rest of the team.  

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day one of sampling

As kerry said on my behalf, we all safe and sound in zanzibar but are having issues with our mobile internet, but in the meantime I am using the computer at the Department of Livestock and Development in Zanzibar.

The staff here are all wonderful, Drs Waridi and Ramadan met us at the ferry and organized so much on our behalf. We also met with the director of livestock development and discussed how valuable our work would be to him in terms of deciding which vaccine cocktail to be used.
We collected 60 samples today and learned alot of lessons about how we need to be organiozed for our next day of sampling on Monday, when I am sure we will work like a finely tuned machine.

The farmers here are very willing to have us take samples and examine their cows, perhaps too willing! If we samples all the farms that Dr Waridi could arrange for us we would be doing PCR until we are old and grey.

Back to work, hope to get mobile internet up asap so we can give more updates, but in the meantime call the below number if you need to speak with one of us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arrived in Zanzibar all safe and sound...

They have arrived, had a nice meal, and are getting settled in their accomodation.

The team is having trouble with getting their internet sorted but the phone works in case of emergency. The number is +255766080848.

They hope to have the internet working soon and will post on the blog as soon as they get the internet working on their phones.

- Kerry (Andrew's wife) from London.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stopover in Dubai

The flights worked as such so that the team has a long layover in Dubai, so some of the team who have never been here are exlporing a bit while those of us who have been here before are resting, and blogging obviously. All systems are a go with our plans to pick up the sim cards in dar es salaam and catch the ferry on thursday morning. The last ferry of the day leaves a few minutes after we land tomorrow in Dar es, so we will be staying the night in Tanzania's big city tomorrow night.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Leaving Tuesday!

It's been 17 months since 9 vet students came together to plan the latest chapter in the RVC Undergraduate Research Team's long history. Raising the funds through the generosity of RVC alumni, grant applications, college fundraisers and marathon sponsorship has been an adventure in itself, however here we are just a few days before our early morning flight to Dar es Salaam and it's clear that the adventure is only just beginning. The past few weeks have been challenging as we juggle rotations at the Queen Mother Hospital at college with making final logistical arrangements and last minute tweaks to the research plan. Our recent involvement with Google has developed enormously and we will now be collecting farm information and physical examination data on five smart phones. This will not only reduce the amount of paper we need to take and assimilate on the island, but the feedback we provide will valuable in developing the systems which are being put in place to help pastoral farmers and veterinarians in East Africa. We will be updating this blog regularly over the next four weeks, allowing you to follow the trials and tribulations of collecting ticks, bleeding cows and conducting interviews through the local lingo five thousand miles away on Zanzibar. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of those who have so generously supported the team in enabling us to reach this stage.