In three summers, Angela Harvey’s passion for research and wildlife has given her the opportunity to study on three different continents.
Harvey, 47, traveled to Belize in 2015, where she worked in the coral reefs of the Central American country. Last summer, she worked in the east Asian country of Mongolia and studied a Przewalski’s horse, and a Pallas’ cat.
Przewalski’s horse is a Mongolian wild horse which had been extinct in the wild until recent years. It is named for the Russian explorer N. M. Przewalski, who first described them scientifically in the late 19th century. The Pallas’ cat is a small wildcat.
This summer, Harvey is trekking to Africa to work with cheetahs.
Harvey, a Braselton resident and Buford High School graduate, is leaving June 10 for a two-week trip to Namibia to work with the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
A graduate student at the Miami University in Ohio, Harvey is enrolled in the school’s Project Dragonfly, which is a program offering online coursework in the fall and spring and in-country field work in the summer. The trips are coordinated through Earth Expeditions, an organization which provides opportunities for international trips to support the classroom work.
“Earth Expeditions takes students for two weeks to spend time with scientists in country and do field work with them and look at conservation efforts locals are doing,” Harvey said in an interview before leaving on the trip.
She added she was looking forward to many things about the trip, including working with Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of CCF.
“She’s got a long history of big cat research,” Harvey said of Marker. “Working with somebody of that caliber is always fascinating.”
Other reasons the Namibia trip excites her include the fact that it was the first nation to include land and wildlife conservation in its constitution.
“Part of their constitution includes the preservation of land and animals,” Harvey said. “Wildlife numbers have come back up. Part of my excitement is just going to Namibia with their history.
“They’ve also got a lot of local species that I have wanted to see like the black rhino and several of the zebra species,” she added. “They do have elephants and giraffes. We’re hoping to see pangolin; it’s skunk size and looks like a scaled groundhog.”
Students will meet local people in the area, too.
“We try to connect with the locals in the area to see how the scientists and the conservationists and the local people put it all together and assist each other in infrastructure as well as conservation,” Harvey said. “It’s fascinating working with these people.”
But the concentration of the work on this trip is expected to be the cheetahs.
“The species is highly inbred,” she said. “At one point in time, their population was very, very small. They’ve come back since then. But since they were so small, it’s what we call a genetic bottleneck.
“A lot of their problems come from the fact that their genetics just isn’t varied,” she continued. “That’s some of the stuff that I want to see, how it affects things, because there’s a lot of species that have small populations right now and knowing how to conduct a breeding program, so it reduces as many of those problems as we can is important right now.”
Among the issues cheetahs encounter are parasites, mortality issues and eye problems.
This will likely be Harvey’s last trip as a student in the project. She expects to earn her master’s degree in biology in December and hopes to do research for a nonprofit or university.
“Research has always been kind of a passion for me,” she said.