The Expedition - 2009

  Bushmeat Identification Workshop
Mweka College of African Wildlife Management
Organized by the High Tech High African Bushmeat Expedition
July 11- July 14, 2009

Dr. Vavra and his students returned to Northern Tanzania after the success and international recognition of their documentary “Students of Consequence.” The expedition team investigated wildlife for two weeks through the Ngorongoro Conservation area, Rift Valley, and Serengeti. After their expedition, the students returned to Mweka College of African Wildlife Management to perform the awaited workshop teaching molecular techniques for species identification. The intensive hands-on wildlife forensics workshop was designed to be a practical lesson involving innovative methods for identification of confiscated bushmeat.  The eighteen participants for the course were from Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Kenya.

The four-day workshop covered the theoretical and practical aspects of DNA barcoding for species identification.  Additionally, methods of specimen collection and record keeping were discussed.  Participants were introduced to fundamental concepts in molecular biology, which were necessary to form a foundation for the practical components of the workshop.

Information on practices performed by participants and organizers was exchanged. The final outcome of the course was to provide a set of recommendations for partnering agencies and countries to implement and refine approaches practiced and discussed in this workshop. Suggestions for the next phase of training and implementation of an operational wildlife forensics lab were also made.

Workshop description:  This intensive hands-on workshop will be a practical lesson involving innovative methods for identification of confiscated bushmeat.  One of the primary goals will be to develop viable means for appropriate laboratories and institutions to process and accurately analyze evidence, without characterizing features, which could come from the field, marketplaces, or transportation hubs. 

The course will begin with an overview of methods related to conservation forensics.  All participants will have the opportunity to conduct the complete process of DNA barcoding.  We will start with field collected tissue of poached wildlife and samples of domestic species in the form of jerky (dried and salted meat), or recently killed specimens.  Participants will begin with a tissue sample, extract DNA, isolate DNA, amplify DNA and analyze the DNA for sequence alignment for species match.  All steps in the process will be conducted at Mweka excluding the DNA sequencing which will be done following the workshop by partners in the U.S. 

Throughout the four days, information on practices performed by participants and organizers will be exchanged.  The course will also involve the development of a set of recommendations for partnering agencies and countries to implement and refine approaches practiced and discussed in this workshop.

Conservation Outcomes Expected From This Project:

*Use of DNA barcoding to identify and monitor source locations impacted by the illegal commercial bushmeat trade

*Development of a localized network of Tanzanian environmental groups to implement the barcoding technology

*Increased awareness of the bushmeat crisis in Africa by the Tanzanian population

*Increased awareness of the bushmeat crisis by the American public through further study and publication of current and future HTH projects dealing with conservation forensics

*Development of corporate partnerships to facilitate necessary funding for future project advancement

Workshop Participants

Expedition Team



Dr. Jay Vavra

"I visited East Africa, lived with some Maasai, and fell in love with the landscape, people, and the incredible diversity of wildlife. Research collaboration with Oliver Ryder, and inspiration by Jane Goodall, made me dream about integrating biotechnology and conservation science to improve existing conditions in Africa. The work of my students, and support from collaborators, has made this dream possible."



Megan Morikawa

"When I began my science fair project working on an alternative means of DNA preservation, I saw that its applications were numerous. I thought ‘if students here in San Diego can identify the species of a trace sample in an in-house lab, why can’t students in Africa?’ With the incredible resources at High Tech High, that speculation became a reality. In this pilot expedition, we hope to send the message that conservation is a concept anyone and everyone can work towards.”



Zac Sheffer

"Being the videographer of this expedition, I will be a link between the world; and the places, people and wildlife during our planning and trip phases of this expedition. I was also a member of last years expedition team and filmed for the team."



Bryndan Bedel

"Conservation is not just about the future of humans; it's about valuing everything that constitutes Nature and then having the willingness and the heart to act on that belief.  That's what our journey to Africa is all about....sharing  newfound wisdom so that humans and animals can share the benefits."


Brittney Nguyen

"I started working for the African Bushmeat Expedition because it was a way for me to apply my knowledge and passion for science towards solving a problem that I care deeply about. With my involvement, I hope to not only help with animal conservation but to spread awareness of the issue as well."

Expedition Blog - 2009

The Expedition - 2008


Field Guide