“It’s really an incredible amount of data to collect manually,” said Throop. “And having a crew of dedicated and enthusiastic students made this work possible. Often for remote field work like this, we just get a snapshot of what is happening at one or two sites or at a few points in time. It was exciting to be able to collect the data continuously for a few days and at six different sites.”

The students participating in this research came from the University of Namibia and the Namibia University of Science and Technology. They were each participating in the Summer Drylands Program, an intense research experience where students plan, execute and report on an experiment within a short timeframe. 

“The ability of technology to record soil carbon was outstanding,” said co-author and student researcher Vimbai Marufu, who is now in graduate school at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. “What I treasure the most from the experience is what it means to work on an interdisciplinary team and the unexplainable satisfaction of being close to nature.”

And there are plans to continue additional fieldwork in the Namib Desert with a recent grant from the National Science Foundation to ASU. This grant will provide support for U.S. students to conduct research in the Namib Desert in collaboration with Namibian researchers.

“We hope to use this work to help us in understanding how deserts respond to a changing climate,” said Throop. “How biological processes function in the extreme dry of the Namib Desert will gives us clues about how relatively wet deserts will behave under drier conditions.”

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration