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The Nyanza Project

A Research Course in Tropical Lakes

For Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, and Secondary School Teachers

PhotoThe Nyanza Project is a research training program in tropical lake studies, open to undergraduate students, graduate students, and secondary school teachers. The program's goal is to provide an opportunity for participants interested in various aspects of aquatic sciences (paleoclimatology, limnogeology, biology, and limnology) 1) to learn what is involved in doing field research on large lakes through active participation and 2) to stimulate graduate study and career interest among students in these fields.

As a member of the Nyanza Project you will have an opportunity to be involved in an exciting research project on one of the world's oldest and deepest lakes, Lake Tanganyika, in central Africa! You will have an opportunity to study and work with scientists who are investigating various aspects of this fascinating lake and doing research on topics ranging from the paleoclimatic history of tropical lakes and the formation of rift valley lakes, to the evolution of numerous species found only in Lake Tanganyika, to the impact that humans have had on the lake's modern ecosystem.

The Nyanza Project is run by the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona for the International Decade of East African Lakes, a consortium of research scientists interested in promoting research and training activities connected with the African Great Lakes. The program is financed by the US National Science Foundation (Paleoclimate Program/Division of Atmospheric Sciences; Division of Biological Infrastructure, with support from the Office of International Sciences and Engineering), and by grants and contracts from the World Wildlife Fund. The Nyanza Project has been funded to run each summer from 2003 to 2007.

The goal of the Nyanza project is to provide a world class training opportunity for:

  • undergraduate and graduate students from the US andTanzania
  • teachers from the US, and
  • early career professionals from Tanzania.

PhotoThrough this program you will learn about the dynamics of tropical lake biology, limnology, geology, and major unresolved controversies in these fields by being a participant in important, ongoing research projects. Students participating in the Nyanza Project will have all of their expenses paid by the program (airfare, room and board, lab supplies), and they will receive a stipend for their field work.

Lake Tanganyika: Exciting Research Opportunities

Lake Tanganyika is the largest (~34,000km2) and oldest (about 10 million years old) of the East African Rift Valley lakes. It is also the second deepest lake on the planet (1470m at its deepest point). The lake basin formed as a consequence of the rifting of the African plate. Many scientists have worked in recent years using Lake Tanganyika as a model for understanding a variety of geological processes that shape lakes and their history. The lake's tectonics, sedimentary geology, and paleoecology are all subjects under active research. The lake's location, long history, and extensive sedimentary deposits (up to 5km thick in some places) have the potential to provide us with a record of African climate and environmental change extending back through the entire episode of human evolution.

Lake Tanganyika offers an outstanding location for obtaining detailed paleoclimate records of the tropics and for understanding the long-term relationships between climate and tropical lake processes. Its location, hydrologic, and depositional setting make its lake deposits sensitive recorders of annual- to millenial-scale climate events. Over the course of its long and complex geological history, it has been a "hot spot" of evolution, with perhaps 600 species of invertebrates and vertebrates that have evolved in and are restricted to the lake. Cichlid fish, various crustaceans, and gastropods make up the bulk of these endemic species. Today the lake houses incredible species diversity, particularly along its rocky, steep coastlines where literally hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates may be found at a single locality. Over 1,500 species of animals and plants have been described from the lake, making it one of the biologically richest lakes on earth, and new species are being described each year.

PhotoSuperb visibility in these near shore rocky habitats (often over 20m) has allowed researchers to conduct extensive studies on the behavior and ecology of its fish fauna. Multicellular organisms are restricted to the upper 100-200 meters of the lake however, because the deep parts of the lake are devoid of oxygen. Below Lake Tanganyika's oxygen-rich surface layer lies a zone of nutrient-rich water. This water mass is periodically mixed by upwelling and turbulence during the windy season into the surface layer, generating very high algal productivity, which in turn supports large zooplankton and fish populations. Although the number of fish species in the open water, pelagic zone of the lake is small in comparison to the coastal rocky habitats, these species are periodically very abundant and form the basis of a very important fishery for the region. Considerable effort by various researchers has gone into understanding the various linkages between climate, the upwelling process, productivity, and the abundance of commercially important fish species.

In recent years Lake Tanganyika, like many other large lakes of the world, has begun to feel the effects of a variety of human impacts, including fishing pressures, an increased rate of sediment accumulation along rocky coasts caused by deforestation and soil erosion in the lake's watersheds, and climate change. A major focus of current research on the lake (and an area of particular interest to several of the Nyanza Project faculty) is understanding the nature of these impacts and their severity. As a member of the Nyanza Project team, you will have the opportunity to get involved in some very exciting and important research projects. Literally hundreds of scientific papers have been published about this lake, many of these by the program faculty. We recommend the book Lake Tanganyika And Its Life by George Coulter (1991, Oxford Univ. Press) or the CD-ROM Biodiversity: The Great Lakes of Africa by A. Cohen and P. Reinthal (available through the Nyanza Project office) as a good starting point for understanding the natural history of this fascinating lake.

Who Can Apply

PhotoThe Nyanza Project is a research training program for undergraduate students, graduate students, and secondary school teachers.

Undergraduate student applicants must be attending an accredited US college or university. At the time of application, students must have either junior or senior status (i.e. students must have completed their sophomore year (but not graduated) by the start of the spring semester or quarter preceeding the summer field program. Approximately fourteen undergraduate applicants from US institutions will be admitted to the program. Admission criteria includes grades, prior research or other relevant experience, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement indicating your reasons for applying. Students may be of any nationality. Students who are members of under-represented minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Graduate students and secondary school teachers may be at any stage in their program or career, and they and must submit the same application materials as undergraduate students. Preference will be given to graduate students who have demonstrated a research interest in tropical lake systems.

Location and Facilities

The Nyanza Project is based in Kigoma, Tanzania, a small port and market town (population 80,000) located on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Kigoma is accessible by air from the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, as well as by road, rail, and ferry. Kigoma has one of the finest harbors on the lake, with easy car and boat access to many excellent field research sites. Directly north of town, the towering mountains of the East African rift drop off into one of the deepest parts of the lake, which is more than 1200 meters deep just offshore! Thirteen kilometers north of Kigoma is the Gombe Stream National Park, world famous from the research work conducted there by Dr. Jane Goodall on chimpanzees. Our base of operations is the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute's (TAFIRI) Kigoma field station, located right on the lakeshore. The Nyanza Project has a wide range of field sampling gear and laboratory analytical equipment for your use in research projects. We also have full access to the R/V Echo, a 12m research vessel owned and operated by the Lake Tanganyika Biodiversity Project, and the M/V Maman Benita, a 40m commercial vessel that can be used for coring, geophysical, and limnological studies, as well as several small inflatable boats and skiffs. While in Kigoma you will stay at the Lake Tanganyika Beach Hotel, a basic, but clean hotel located just a few minutes walk from the lab. Meals will also be at the Lake Tanganyika Beach Hotel.

Program Schedule: Prior to Departure

Application due date: Dec. 20th, 2006 (On-line ONLY)

Notification of acceptance/denial to program: Jan. 15th, 2007

Final deadline for students to accept/decline offers: January 31st, 2007

Once you are admitted to the program, we will be sending you a complete information packet with instructions on suggested readings, what to bring, visas, health information, detailed travel information, etc. We encourage you to contact the Nyanza Project Administrator or the individual instructors to start thinking about potential research projects and relevant background reading.

Program Schedule: After Departure and During the Program

PhotoThe actual training period of the Nyanza Project will run from June 25 to August 13, 2007. You will leave the US and meet with the rest of the US team in Europe on/about June 25-26 (precise flight information will be given to project participants later), and the team will then travel on to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. You will either fly or take the train to Kigoma on June 30.

The program is broken into two segments. During the first week and a half, you will be involved in intensive field and lab studies to bring you up-to-speed on tropical lake studies in general and the Lake Tanganyika system in particular. During the second four and a half weeks, you will work on your research project, either individually, or as a part of a small team. Each student will work closely with one of the faculty mentors on the development and data collection for their research project. During the final two days of the program, students will present their research results to the class in a mini-symposium.

Normally, the work week for the Nyanza Project will be six days, with Sundays being free days. In addition to day-time lab, field, and computer work, there will be regular evening lectures and discussion groups. Generally, lab and field work will be done in the morning (when the lake is calmest), and lectures, computer work, and discussion sessions will be held in the afternoons. Lectures, lab,s and analytical exercises will be tied together throughout the first three weeks of training.

NOTE: The Ability to swim is Critical to several Nyanza Project field exercises. If you cannot swim, you should plan to take lessons to learn following your acceptance and prior to departure for Africa.

June 27-28, Orientation Activities
Dar es Salaam, prior to the train departure for Kigoma.

July 2, The Kigoma Area and the Project
Day-1: Introduction to the Lake Tanganyika environment and philosophy of research.

July 3 - 6 (Morning), Paleoclimatology and Limnogeology
Formation/Geology of tropical lakes, concentrating on the rift valley lakes
Climatology and Paleoclimates of East Africa
Lake Tanganyika Basin Stratigraphy and Depositional Processes
Field Trips to Lake Tanganyika Rift Escarpments (Precambrian outcrops vs. Upper Miocene to Present Lake Deposits)
Present-Day and Paleo-Environments in tropical rift lakes (Paleoclimate variations and impact on Lake Tanganyika Level Fluctuations)
Offshore Field Trip (Seismic data and sediments sampling in a complex structural and depositional setting) Control of the climatic variations and a complex active tectonic setting on the lake basin stratigraphy

July 6 - 7 (Afternoon), Introduction to Tropical Limnology
Chemical limnology of tropical lakes
Primary production in tropical lakes
Weather and climate forcing of tropical lake processes, annual cycles and interannual change
Interpretation of limnological data collected during the week
Research project titles due

July 9 - 11, Evolutionary Biology
Evolution in tropical lakes
Aquatic ecology, resource partitioning, physiological responses, conservation issues
Project descriptions due

PhotoFrom July 12, Research Projects Start
Work exclusively on independent study research projects (fieldwork, lab analysis, data interpretation)
Final written reports (extended abstracts plus data, figures, and tables)
Cleanup and packup activities (depending on departure schedules, cleanup activities will be scheduled in the field)
Presentation of research results in a student symposium

August 9, Train Departure from Kigoma
to Dar es Salaam (Arrival August 11)

August 12, Earliest Departure from Tanzania

August 13, Arrival in the US


It is our hope that students will continue with the research they start in the field when they return to their home institutions. Students may be able to bring samples back to the US for further analysis when required. The faculty mentors of the Nyanza Project will be available to help students develop their projects into honors theses or independent study projects via regular mail, E-mail, or telephone. Students who anticipate bringing samples back to the US must notify Dr. Cohen as soon as possible after acceptance to insure proper paperwork is completed for sample export. All follow up research wok conducted by Nyanza Project students and subsequent publications must be done in collaboration with the Nyanza Project mentor. Detailed instructions on publication rights and responsibilities will be given to students upon admission to the program.

Academic Credit

It is possible for students to receive academic credit through the University of Arizona for the Nyanza Project. However, students wishing to do this will need to enroll in the University for the summer session (UA tuition and fees will not be covered by the project). If you are interested in obtaining academic credit, please indicate so in the space provided on the application form, and we will provide you with the necessary additional information on enrollment and fees. It may also be possible for you to receive independent study credit through your home institution for the Nyanza Project, and we will be happy to accommodate those students requiring documentation to do so.


All of the Nyanza Project faculty have extensive field experience at Lake Tanganyika and elsewhere on tropical lakes. Their complementary fields of expertise will allow students from a wide range of backgrounds and interests to take advantage of this program.

Andrew Cohen


Nyanza Project Director, and
Paleoecology Mentor

Current position: Joint Professor of Geosciences, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona

Research interests: Paleoecology and ecology of benthic invertebrates in lakes; evolutionary ecology and geological history of large lakes, particularly Lake Tanganyika; conservation biology of rift lakes

Education: PhD from University of California-Davis

Ellinor Michel

Tel: +44-207-942-5516
E-mail: ellm@nhm.ac.uk

Nyanza Project Assistant Director/Field Acting Director, and
Evolutionary Biology Mentor

Current position: Research Scientist, Natural History Museum (UK) and Research Associate, University of Arizona

Research interests: Evolutionary biology of freshwater molluscs; speciation mechanisms in ancient lakes, particularly Lakes Tanganyika and Baikal; phylogenetics of gastropods, using morphology, anatomy, and molecular techniques

Education: PhD from the University of Arizona

Kiram Lezzar


Nyanza Project Administrator/Coordinator, and
Limnogeology Mentor

Current position: Senior Research Associate & Adjunct Faculty (Geology Lecturer), Dpt. of Geosciences, University of Arizona.

Research interests: Lake basins sedimentological/stratigraphic and structural analysis, principally using subsurface and deep drilling sediment cores, in correlation with reflection seismic data.

Education: PhD from the University of West Brittany, France

Hudson Nkotagu


Nyanza Local Coordinator, and Hydrogeology Mentor

Current position: Professor of Geology, Department of Geology, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Education: PhD in Geology (Germany)

Catherine O'Reilly

Phone: 845-758-7104
E-mail: oreilly@bard.edu

Limnology Mentor

Current position: Assistant Professor, Bard College

Research interests: Functioning of freshwater ecosystems. Particularly with respect to the affect of landscape change on stream ecosystems, nutrient stoichiometry in pelagic food webs, nutrient recycling in the pelagic zone, and cross-ecosystem linkages.

Education: PhD from the University of Arizona

Jonathan Todd

Paleoclimatetology Mentor

Current position: The Natural History Museum, London, UK

Research interests:


Ismael Kimirei


Fisheries Mentor

Current postion: TAFIRI Senior personel, Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), Kigoma, Tanzania

Education: PhD Candidate (Netherlands)








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