Kenya Safari Spurs Conservation Innovation

SO MUCH CAN HAPPEN ON A PRINCIPIA LIFELONG LEARNING (PLL) TRIP. You can meet new people, discover new places, explore new cultures . . . create new technologies?

On a recent PLL safari in Kenya, that’s exactly what happened. As Trip Scholar and Palm Beach Zoo Chief Animal Conservation Officer Renee Bumpus introduced travelers to the sub-Saharan wildlife, she shared a simple message: All of us can help contribute to global conservation efforts.

Peter Marsh, a Cal Poly computer science major traveling with his family, got the message loud and clear. To Marsh, this wasn’t just a suggestion; it was a calling. “I reached out to Renee and asked how someone interested in technology and wildlife conservation could help,” Marsh says.

Bumpus connected Marsh with renowned conservationist Dr. Abdullahi Ali, who was looking to alter local attitudes about wildlife by deterring wild animals from entering farmlands. “It’s hard to live around these species,” Bumpus says. “Giraffes trample vegetables or eat everything off of your trees. Lions can take livestock, and hippos destroy things. So, the locals can be really negative towards [the animals].”

Using technology to keep animals and farmers safe—and separate—is not a new concept, but it is certainly a tricky one. Ali was looking to create a deterrent for a specific species when Marsh offered his support. For the next few months, they met weekly via Zoom and discussed creating a device that would use light and sound combinations to keep wild animals away from people and their property. It also needed to be a low-cost, battery-powered, and solar-powered solution; physical barriers such as fencing are too costly.

After extensive research, Marsh proved the concept and created a prototype exoskeleton of the device—readying it for the next phase of production. “This trip changed Peter’s trajectory,” says Bumpus. “He now wants to be involved with conservation.” “It’s our responsibility to be stewards,” says Marsh. “I gained so much from seeing these beautiful animals and want to do more than be a tourist.”

Meet PLL Faculty Member Peter van Lidth de Jeude

Why do you teach at PLL?

I love teaching, and PLL trips and Summer Session are great opportunities to share information about history to a different audience in different ways. I want participants to leave more knowledgeable and enriched in their understanding of a topic. But more than that, I want to fan the flame for a love of lifelong learning.

You’re leading a PLL trip from Prague to Budapest this summer. What excites you about that?

Having led a Principia College study abroad program, I know the tremendous value from the intersection of ideas and locations; it adds a richness that can’t be duplicated. The beauty of PLL trips is having a faculty scholar alongside the travelers. Together, we are sharing in the joy of learning. I’m as enriched by the experiences as they are.

What about the Principia difference?

Our foundation in Christian Science permeates everything we do, including with PLL programs. We are always centered on the expectation of students being unlimited; that makes for a joyful learning community.