Studying lakes in Naivasha, Kenya

​In May of 2015 I was offered the opportunity to travel to Kenya for a one month field course as part of Western University’s Collaborative Program in Global Health Systems. The goal of the field course was to explore the underlying causes of global health challenges throughout Kenya. Before joining the course, I had never heard of global health systems. Like many students with training in physical sciences, I strived to conduct my research as far away from urban centres as possible to minimize the impact of human activity on the natural phenomena I wished to study. My perspective towards research shifted when I, alongside a group of four other Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholars, conducted a community needs assessment of fishermen in Naivasha, Kenya. Together, we assessed the fishermen’s idea of implementing aquaculture in nearby Lake Naivasha. We also consulted other stakeholders to determine if there was a way to accomplish this goal sustainably. Next, we formalized the fishermen’s original idea in an oral presentation and written report. The report was distributed to all stakeholders involved, including representatives within the Kenyan government. Our report included detailed instructions for a pilot project to be conducted by students at a nearby university. The results from this pilot project would confirm whether aquaculture would compromise the water quality of the lake. Working with such a diverse group of people in Kenya made me a more effective communicator and showed me the importance of multidisciplinary research. Now, rather than struggling to consider my research in isolation of human influence, I am excited about community-based research.       

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