Doctoral student to display elephant tracking research at Smithsonian
CLEMSON — Clemson University doctoral student Christie Sampson frequently travels to remote regions of the world to work to reduce the conflict between humans and wild animals.
She has worked and conducted research throughout the United States on wolves and on humans and elephants in Sri Lanka and, most recently, in Myanmar.
In April, her research on wildlife tracking will be part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian. Her project involved outfitting elephants with collars with 26-pound GPS-satellite devices.
The Smithsonian has supported Sampson’s fieldwork since 2009 when she worked there as an intern mapping protected areas in Asia.
Sampson is a second-year Ph.D. student in the department of biological sciences.
Sampson’s current research site is a rural area in the southern part of Myanmar where she works with a team from the Myanmar Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and others.
“The research site includes a protected wildlife area that has recently seen the development of reservoirs in an elephant habitat area,” Sampson said. “The available water from the reservoirs has attracted farmers into an area with a large elephant population and the result has been elephants raiding farmers’ fields and other problems.”
Sampson conducted interview surveys in rural areas of Myanmar and found that most farmers would support conservation efforts to protect the elephants as well as their crops. Culturally, elephants are a revered religious symbol in Myanmar.
“Each village must have its own message that supports conservation and resonates to community action,” said Sampson.
Her work may be seen at Walking with Giants: Mitigating human-elephant conflict in Myanmar.