The Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) in collaboration with Gobabeb Research & Training Centre is conducting its 19th year of the Summer Drylands Programme (SDP).
SDP aims to provide Namibian university students with the opportunity to experience ecological field research, developing their interests in scientific studies and giving them first-hand experience of scientific research in the Namib Desert.
This year's research project examines carbon dynamics in the Namib Desert, focusing on carbon flux responses to simulated rainfall events. SDP19 students will be working at six sites, three each in the Sand Sea and the gravel plains, across the climatic rainfall and fog gradient. At each site, students will "water the desert" and continuously measure the soil respiration response over time on vegetated and non-vegetated plots. Vegetation transects and observation blocks will accompany the soil respiration data to inform our understanding of desert carbon dynamics.
Participants in the programme are currently busy with data collection and have already completed three of the six sites, all among the dunes of the Sand Sea. The students will next embark to the gravel plains sites, to see what differences in soil responses they will find there. Upon completion of the data collection in December, SDP students will begin constructing a formal scientific report, informing the public through newspaper articles on their initial results, and preparing for their final roleplay presentation at Information Day 2016 (January 30).