Education, Research, and Service with CARACAL

Friday, October 3, 2014


Our work in Northern Botswana is focused on understanding the interaction between the environment, humans, and animals including wildlife and the implications this has to infectious disease transmission dynamics. Our previous work on diarrheal disease identified critical relationships between the environment and human and animal health.

We have launched a new and exciting component of our research. With community project partners, we are looking at how sanitation can influence diarrheal disease. In particular, how fly densities might be influenced by environmental drivers and how, in turn, flies might influence human health.

The Conservation, Food, and Health Foundation (http://cfhfoundation.grantsmanagement08.com/) is providing critical support to this important work.



















Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org (CC)



Our Wild World | VoiceAmerica™

Our Wild World | VoiceAmerica™



Dr. Alexander interviews with VoiceAmerica to discuss the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.





Friday, March 14, 2014

Alexander and Sanderson highlight critical elements of predator management in complex systems.

Monday, January 27, 2014

With Allee effects, life for the social carnivore is complicated - Online First - Springer

With Allee effects, life for the social carnivore is complicated - Online First - Springer

From small to large, social carnivores are under complex pressures. Our work on carnivores highlights the important interaction between infectious disease and group living species and Allee Effects. We must seek to engage complexity as it will determine the success of our management approaches for system health. Dr Sanderson and Dr. Jobbins (Post Doctoral Research Associates in Dr. Alexander's Lab) work together with Dr Alexander to try and understand the dynamics of infectious disease at the environmental- human-animal interface.

Assessing elephants in the region for infectious disease.
Understanding infectious disease dynamics accross a spectrum of animals both domestic and wildlife is central to our program. Information gleaned is integrated with our active research directed at understanding human behavior and its influence on animal behavior.

Our recent publication (see above) on carnivores and Allee Effects, highlights the importance of understanding the complexities across human, animal, and environmental systems.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Here are a few of the 70 students in CARACALs  Kazungula Primary weekly Conservation Club. We teach them to respect and protect the environment with lessons, crafts, games, interactive activities, and countless bad jokes.  I tried to get a picture with one of them, and this is what happens. I adore my students! -Erica

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Science Daily - Researchers Help People in Remote Africa Respond to Diarrheal Disease


Our new publication provides information on diarrheal disease which might provide important insight into this persistent public health threat in Africa.

Kathleen Alexander, associate professor of wildlife, and Mpho Ramotadima, community extension officer at the Center for African Resource: Animals, Communities and Land Use (CARACAL), check water quality at a public faucet in a Botswana village. Alexander conducts research through CARACAL, a nonprofit nongovernment organization she co-founded in Botswana. (Credit: Virginia Tech)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mpho Ramatadima and Cysco Charlie play a key role in our research program. Here with Dr. Alexander - Mpho is contributing to our knowledge of how aggression over human waste can increase health threats to wildlife and also continues to monitor ecological aspects of our study banded mongoose troops in addition to his work with local communities. Cysco uses his unique skill base in animal tracking to identify where and why animals move across the landscape. This information is key to identifying how humans and animals are linked across the landscape and how our impacts can change the health of the system.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Water quality work continued this field season with both graduate students and undergraduates working on the project. Here Tyler, a PhD graduate student,  and Greg, a Virginia Tech undergraduate, work on the Chobe River during the biweekly sampling of the water and sediment. This long-term study is designed to provide unique insight into the impacts and interactions of human medicated environmental modification and related water quality changes. Keep up the good work guys!!!
Our summer was busy!!! Hundreds of children arrived at the biodiversity center to learn about animals and the research CARACAL and Virignia Tech are conducting. The core component of any meaningful research is the inclusion of education and outreach. Here, Dr. Alexander presents to a school group excited to see the Center.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Banded mongoose offer a unique model to evaluate the impact of human activity on the environment. In our study site, mongoose live closely with humans and are also impacted by their activities both in the form of behavioral change but also disease. Understanding the nature and consequences of these impacts will allow us to better understand how humans are linked to the environment and the feedback that occurs to both humans and animals.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Program research paper profiled on the home page of NSF


Jobbins, Sanderson, and Alexander have recently published a paper identifying the presence of a  public health threat in Botswana previously unidentified - read more at www.nsf.gov

Sarah Jobbin's (left) tests samples in the Botswana field laboratory. Human waste in these systems (below, left)  can be ubiquitous and can  influence contact between humans and wildlife and disease transmission in these systems.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CARACAL UNTAMED - Alexander Laboratory reaching out to assist Botswana

CARACAL UNTAMED - fundraising event and party night!

This amazing event and all the supporting materials were prepared by Claire Sanderson, a post doctoral associate on the NSF project! Way to go Claire!!! We need more people with your heart!



check out our event video 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

 Our program attempts to integrate research with outreach and education. Waste is an important threat to humans and animals in the system. Our educational program incorporates research results into action. Here, children in our conservation and education program participate in a trash pick up day! They had a wonderful time and also contribute to a culture of change where ecosystem function and service is identified and valued. We need to work to sustain those services and the health of the ecosystem, and ultimately the health of the  humans and animals that depend on and are affected by the ecosystem.


Dr. Alexander collects data and water samples from public taps serving the community in Northern Botswana. Water quality changes occur not only in river but at collection points. Waste and water around the tap attracts both domestic and wild animals to the area. Increased interaction between humans - wildlife - and waste has the potential to greatly transform the landscape change pathogen transmission potential and risk. As humans change the environment, these change come back to influence the health of animals and humans. Our recent work identified that the highest level of drug resistance in banded mongoose (above) occurred  in the Chobe National Park. Under this program, we are attempting to identify landscape features that promote exchange of microorganisms and the spread of antibiotic resistance. Where are the linkages between humans and their natural environment?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wild Animals Found Resistant to Antibiotics- project publication

Wild Animals Found Resistant to Antibiotics
A journalist assesses the work of our team and the implications to human and animal health. You can download this paper at www.caracal.info.
 

Friday, April 19, 2013

 At the an environmental fair, CARACAL staff use the animal collection to provide hands-on experiences of nature for the community in the study area. Even the elderly joined in and experienced the un-experienced!














Stefanie, a CARACAL staff member, climbs into the fun!














Kennedy, A CARACAL staff member, encourages everyone to try and touch a snake - no mean feat in Africa!!!



Experiencing nature and learning about its wonders in a safe environment provides the opportunity for communities to develop an appreciation of resources value that is identified at a personal level - a key to developing improved stewardship.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Our Wild World | VoiceAmerica™ | Talk Radio | Online Talk Radio

Our Wild World | VoiceAmerica™ | Talk Radio | Online Talk Radio

Join special guest, Dr. Kathleen Alexander PhD, DVM  Associate Professor in the  Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech and CARACAL Biodiversity Center, Botswana. Dr. Alexander's research work has focused on the intersection between public health and biodiversity looking at linkages between sustainable livelihoods and health of the ecosystems on which we depend. She  has been selected as one of three, African regional experts by World Health Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity secretariat to participate in a regional workshop in Mozambique to present to national health and biodiversity experts from various African countries on integrating health and biodiversity into policy and planning. The objective is to "contribute to the implementation of the Convention on the Biological Diversity in the WHO African Region, by providing a forum to national health and environment/biodiversity experts from African Parties to the CBD on actions to be taken in their respective countries".  We will discuss the complexities and importance of biodiversity conservation and the need to incorporate broader vision into dialogue and practical applications.  LINKS: http://fishwild.vt.edu/faculty/alexander.htm  www.Facebook.com/caracalbotswana, www.caracal.info, www.blogspot.healthbotswana.com
Together with Dr. Vandewalle and Mr. Sutcliffe, Dr. Alexander provides certificates of completion to youth graduating from the research internship program in the study site. In this program operated under the NSF project in collaboration with CARACAL (www.caracal.info), youth from the Botswana Youth Council conduct research with VT graduate and undergraduate students and VT/CARACAL staff. This program is run in collaboration with the Chobe Safari Lodge. Students receive hands on training in hospitality and service skills  and wildlife disease research. Botswana youth are unemployed and unoccupied, a chronic problem recognized by the Government of Botswana. The Botswana Youth Council was established by Government  to provide a source of communication, training, and opportunity for youth. Our program works in collaboration with the Council, providing  training that will facilitate future employment. The program is also designed to inspire Batswana youth to see the value and to motivate interest in science and discovery. Increasing participation and professional development of citizens in coupled human - environment research is an important first step in realizing real and lasting impact.The program is also designed to instill an ethic of service and outreach in Virginia Tech students working under the NSF program. Our Botswana youth program provides importantly for both Batswana and American youth as we seek to identify leadership in sustainability and successful management of the ecosystems on which we depend.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The team works hard to gather data regarding the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in the human population as they work closely with the hospital staff. Data are compared to our environmental microbial resistance assessments.  Human health is linked in complex ways to the health of the ecosystem. Understanding the linkages connecting humans and the natural environment is key to identifying ways to manage these systems in a holistic manner.



Dr Jobbins (above), post doctoral associate in Dr. Alexander's lab, presents project findings on antibiotic resistance, her work on transmission of microorganisms across the landscape is providing important insight into the manner in which humans and the environment are linked and how these linkages affect the health of both wildlife and humans.