So, our fieldwork is done. Complete. At an end. Finished...
The team headed out this morning for our last day sampling with a heady mix of relief, satisfaction, excitement and sadness. Things have been tough out in the unforgiving Zanzibarian agricultural environment - a stark contrast to the beach based luxury the island is famous for.
Cow wrestling has been common, near misses from well aimed kicks frequent; the lads have sweated profusely in battling to get blood samples (obviously the ladies have glowed throughout); ticks have often attempted to escape up arms or legs but have been foiled by the honed instincts of the team, well, that and screaming hysterically and flapping the offending appendage... to quote "Its been emotional".
Today's time at farms close to our base outside Stone Town in the west of the country was largely uneventful - a fact belieing the day's importance. The well-oiled URT machine purred with efficiency, even managing the additonal challenge of spotting samples directly on to the storage filter papers (which stabilise the DNA and deactivate enzymes etc allowing it to be transported back to Blighty for PCR) in the field, with ease.
The emotions of the day may have got to me in hindsight... having spectacularly failed in attempts to collect ticks from the field despite several designs of my tick catching machine (in truth variants on a towel being dragged through the grass) I was driven to desperate measures. All I'll say is at least the local children and my fellow team members were entertained as I crawled after cows on my hands and knees and then kicked off my shoes, rolled up my trousers and wandered behind now clearly perturbed cows in my socks, in the hope that some ticks would mistake me for a bovine home and attach. No such luck (note to Andy Gibson please don't post it on Facebook).
The team is set to present its initial findings to the Director of Livestock Development tomorrow morning. We are donating supplies and will be giving some gifts provided by the RVC as a small token of our thanks to those who have helped us so much here. Then its the sad moment for the team to split with some members heading home and others remaining in Africa to enjoy a couple of weeks holidaying.
When we return, the work continues - PCRs don't run themselves, data doesn't perform its own stats tests (sorry Dad you'll be getting the usual call for help!) and reports don't appear out of thin air. Short of attempting Substitutiary Locomotion a la Bedknobs and Broomsticks (how did thay spell go... "treguna mekoides and tracorum satis dee"...) there's no escaping that there's a lot of hours still to be put in!
I guess we've nursed the research project through its conception, birth, the sleepness nights of teething tears, toddler-dom and primary school but now must face the teenage years before our efforts are rewarded with a well-rounded, eloquent, informative and useful adult of a project.