The Curious Case of Ann Schwendener

Ann Schwendener is not aging backwards like Benjamin Button. However, she caught herself a case of curiosity, and found a cure in traveling the world. Ann’s always been a curious person. Since she retired as an executive director for a local non-profit in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Ann’s been on more than two dozen Earthwatch expeditions across the globe. Her desire has been to explore, meet new people, and discover things new to her from the projects she joins. During her travels, she has uncovered some fascinating tidbits about nature, and perhaps a tad bizarre.

As Ann put it: “If there is someplace I want to go, I go now, because the people and wildlife could vanish by the time I am truly ready to go.”

Did you know: Hippopotamus have been monitored running as fast as 20 miles per hour?

Hippopotamus may look slow, but can run 20 miles per hour

This didn’t sound right when Ann told me. But I looked it up, she was right, and I became a true believer that she was a wealth of knowledge. In fact, male hippos actively defend their territories which run along the banks of rivers and lakes, and females can also be quite quick if they sense anyone coming in between their babies. Yikes, you may wish to stand back!

Ann shared this fact she learned from her time on Crocodiles of the Zambezi in Zimbabwe in regards to why it is so important for volunteers to not come into contact with hippos, or if viewing them, to do so from a distance.

Did you know: The Samburu people have integrated new technology into their strong and proud culture?

The Samburu people have integrated new technology into their strong and proud culture

The Samburu people have integrated new technology into their strong and proud culture

Yes, it’s true. Samburu people have to relocate their homes every 5 to 6 weeks to ensure their cattle can feed from fresh grazing grounds. After they move, they build fresh huts from mud, hide and grass mats strung over poles. Yet, in many way, they are at the forefront of current technology.

Ann pointed out that during her adventure on Samburu Communities and Wildlife, there was technology in abundance.

“Where there were men in colorful costumes doing traditional dances, tucked into their waistbands were not only their toothbrushes, but also their cell phones!”

Did you know: Each Grevy zebra’s stripes are different, and as accurate as a fingerprint for identification?

Each Grevy zebra’s stripes are different, and as accurate as a fingerprint for identification

Each Grevy zebra’s stripes are different, and as accurate as a fingerprint for identification

I sure didn’t know that. But Ann explained that she learned this interesting fact while on Conserving Grevy’s Zebra in Kenya. Digging into the Earthwatch archives, I found that indeed each zebra has a unique stripe pattern as identifying as a fingerprint. In the field on expeditions, each animal is photographed, added to a database, and periodically re-identified. This allows researchers to determine how individual animals travel across the landscape, and with whom they keep company, socially.

Did you know: Lemur eat dirt to neutralize poison from bamboo they eat?

Lemur eat dirt to neutralize poison from bamboo they eat

Lemur eat dirt to neutralize poison from bamboo they eat

Ann picked this factoid up while on Madagascar’s Lemurs. The earth is full of minerals useful or needed for producing strong healthy, bodies. Apparently, lemur enjoy dirt as part of their diet. Yum!

Did you know: Armadillos always have four babies at a time?

Armadillos always have four babies at a time

Armadillos always have four babies at a time

No they don’t. YES, they do. Ann learned this stateside while on the Florida Armadillos expedition. Indeed, armadillos have four babies at a time, always all the same sex. They are perfect quadruplets, the fertilized cell split into quarters, resulting in four identical armadillos.

“Armadillos have one egg, and it divides. Then it divides again. I discovered this while chasing armadillos around a tree plantation in Florida.”

What’s Next to Satisfy Ann’s Curiosity?

Ann is always on the hunt for exciting travel, and has three more expeditions planned. In December, she is traveling on Restoring Prehistoric Landscapes on Easter Island. In 2013, she is giving two of the new Earthwatch Expeditions a try, including Animals of Malawi in the Majete Wildlife Reserve and Investigating Whales and Dolphins of the Norwegian Arctic.

I asked Ann what she hopes to do on her upcoming 2013 animal adventures.

“You never know what you are going to do because the work changes over time. I’ll do what they need me to do. There are different animals and they are just fascinating to watch.”

I asked Ann what she hopes to discover.

“We’ll see. I’ve swam with dolphins off Sarasota Bay before. People swim with dolphins, and we are convinced it’s good for us, but I’m not really sure it’s good for the dolphins. It will be fascinating to see if it’s good for dolphins to be encouraged to swim with humans.”

I can’t wait to see what Ann’s curiosity leads her to uncover next!

One thought on “The Curious Case of Ann Schwendener

  1. The Earthwatch teams will not have the pleasure of Ann’s curiosity, wisdom, humor, and work; as she passed away June 21, 2014. She will sorely be missed.

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