LSU College of Agriculture professor spends year in Tanzania

Tobie Blanchard, Bogren, Richard C.

(02/19/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – Phil Stouffer lived out his childhood dream on the southern slope of Mount Kilimanjaro. Stouffer, a professor in the LSU College of Agriculture’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, spent a year in Tanzania as a Fulbright Scholar.

Stouffer taught classes at the College of African Wildlife Management near the town of Moshi and conducted research on the annual cycle of birds in the area during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“I had worked in the New World tropics in Brazil since 1991, but I had never been to the Old World tropics,” Stouffer said.

In his Fulbright application, Stouffer said, he emphasized his work in the Amazon Basin and his interest in working in Tanzania because the two are on the same latitude.

“I thought it would be interesting to see how these two tropics were alike,” he said. “What I found is they are really different.”

Stouffer described the area where he resided as partly forested along with coffee plantations and small farms. Footpaths crisscrossed villages. It was along those trails that Stouffer and his students spent time observing the many species of birds.

The professor taught ornithology, genetics and conservation biology classes at the college, but he said getting out with the students and observing the wildlife were most rewarding.

“I had a handful of students who were really engaged and often went birding with me,” he said.

Stouffer said his students were more formal than students in U.S. and were hesitant to participate in discussions that might challenge each other or the teacher. Stouffer said this created difficulty in getting good dialogue going in class as he does at LSU.

He also noted that Tanzanian students tended to be older than the average U.S. college student, with many of them having worked before attending college.

Stouffer taught in the College of African Wildlife Management, which trains wildlife professionals who will work in Tanzania’s national parks or tourism industry.

Stouffer wasn’t alone in his excursion. His wife, Kellen Gilbert, an anthropologist on the faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University, and their two sons accompanied him. The children attended the International School in Moshi, and his wife volunteered with several nonprofit organizations.

Stouffer said it was an amazing adventure for his family.

“We spent time with the Hadzabe people,” he said. “It was a very powerful experience to enter the world of modern hunter-gatherers.

He also said they managed to do all of the things tourists would do, including hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro.

The trip did have its frustrations, Stouffer said. The family was without a car early on and experienced intermittent internet outages, water outages and frequent power outages that made holding class difficult.

“They had great cell phone service though,” he said. “I could get reception in the middle of the Serengeti, but I was struggling to get it in Washington Parish here in Louisiana last week.”

Stouffer hopes his research there will help students understand the life cycle of birds in the region. While conducting his study he encountered about 500 species of birds. “I had only seen about 20 of them before,” he said.

Stouffer is using his Tanzania experiences to help LSU students taking his Louisiana wildlife class this semester. They are surveying wildlife in public parks in Baton Rouge.

The Fulbright program provides grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists.

2/19/2016 9:10:29 PM
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