During the summer of 2012, Ph.D student and Faculty Research Assistant, Giuseppe Molinario, conducted field-work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Much of his time was spent in Kinshasa where he worked closely with USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) HQ team in coordinating ongoing research and operational activities. Additional time was spent with various government affiliates and NGOs, who are part of the ever-evolving Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) landscape, in the Djolu and Inongo villages of the Equateur and Bandundu provinces respectively.
Said Molinario, “In Djolu, I camped at the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) compound, and with AWF, Observatorie Satellital Forets d'Afrique Central (OSFAC) and Office National des Forets International (ONFi) colleagues we travelled via motorcycle to the village of Ingungo, about an hour away, where our field sites were located. We walked through 33 km of primary and secondary forest - often knee-deep and swampy - and active and fallow fields, stopping to take qualitative and quantitative observations of land cover in previously selected plots using a stratified, random approach. A week later we returned to Kinshasa and then flew towards the village of Inongo. On the banks of Lake Mai Ndombe (“black water lake,” as a result of leaked tannins) in Lingala, we were hosted by Jean Robert Bwangoy (of South Dakota State University) at the Ecological Restoration Associates (ERA) compound. ERA runs a REDD project in a former logging concession in the area and kindly provided the logistics for our field work. We travelled across the lake by boat, rode motorcycles to reach our areas of interest, and camped in villages along the way.” In total, roughly 300 land cover observation points were gathered between field sites. The observations collected are being used to validate the Forets d'Afrique Central Evaluee par Teledetection, or FACET, forest cover loss 2000-2010 map produced by Dr. Peter Potapov and colleagues at UMD. The land cover observations will also be used to improve future forest cover classifications for the region, and answer questions about the process of agricultural land use conversion of forest cover as part of Molinario's Ph.D research.
While a productive and generally safe excursion, Molinario admitted the occasional mishap. For example, “We were nearly lost on a boat, in the middle of the lake, at night with a thick fog and no lights. Later, I hit my foot – hard – on a log while riding a motorcycle through the dense forest. Nevertheless, the trip was a success and I hope to get back there before next summer to collect more data and keep working with our Congolese colleagues.”