Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ondiri Swamp - Kenya’s Only Quaking Bog and the Second Deepest Wetland in Africa

The Ondiri swamp. Logs are used to facilitate the safe crossing across the peat.
The Ondiri swamp. Logs are used to facilitate the safe crossing across the peat.
The Southern Bypass has crossed many topographical regions on its path around the city. The 17.1 billion project begins from Mombasa Road to Kikuyu. One of the fascination structures is the 121m box culvert that will allow the smooth flow of water from the Ondiri Swamp a few metres across that is the only quaking bog and the second deepest wetland in Africa after Doula in Cameroon.
Truant boys dig off the macrophytes making a hole in which they dive and swim underneath the floating peat. If you do not identify the light from where you dived in, you will float away to darkness. - Mr.Wainina of  MCDI  (Standard Digital)
The MegaProjects Kenya team incharge of this the Southern Bypass project came across this interesting swamp that has a history dating back to the colonial times. Ondiri swamp lies at some 1km from the Kikuyu township and is an important source of the Nairobi river. This swamp difers from any other because it has a covering of macrophytes growing above the water. This mud like cover known as peat can hold a human being's wight at some points on the surface and a jump on the surface sets of a series of waves across, a clear sign that one is 'standing on water'.
The peat has some grass cover which has fooled some to forget and plunge into the deep dark waters below. A series of wood planks has been laid ontop to aid in crossing accross but at some point in the middle of the lamp one has to be careful.

The water moving below the peat is very clean are clear.
The water moving below the peat is very clean are clear.
Ecosystem destruction in Ondirí wetland dates back to the colonial era, which was marked by extensive deforestation. Currently the ecosystem is highly threatened by various activities within both the wetlands and riparian land. This includes dumping of solid waste and uncontrolled water abstraction. There are several water pumps around the wetland, which are not metered meaning that it is impossible to gauge the level of water abstraction.

In addition, there are fears that the water in the wetland has been reducing. But again the out flowing river does not have a gauging station. Kikuyu town also lacks a sewerage system, which increases the likelihood of pollutants seepage from septic tanks. Previous conservation initiatives mainly fencing and tree planting by forest departments in the 1990’s collapsed due to lack of community ownership of the process and enforcement.

A quacking bog is made up of a layer of vegetation floating over water. You can walk on the vegetation, but if you jump up and down the whole bog quakes.
A quacking bog is made up of a layer of vegetation floating over water. You can walk on the vegetation, but if you jump up and down the whole bog quakes.

The Ondirí wetland is oval in shape and local legend has it that it used to be an open lake in the early part of the last century and indeed the name itself is Gikuyu corruption of old lake (Undirí). However as deforestation and subsequent erosion accelerated, the lake came to be covered with floating reeds on peat such that now it has an extensive reed mat that covers more than 95 percent of the wetland to form a quacking bog, the only one in the country. A quacking bog is made up of a layer of vegetation floating over water. You can walk on the vegetation, but if you jump up and down the whole bog quakes (Macharia and Thenya, 2007).

Ondirí is a unique and an important wetland. As noted earlier, Ondirí is Kenya’s only quaking bog and the second deepest wetland in Africa after Doula in Cameroon. But despite the size and benefits of Ondirí wetland to this country it has received only scant attention from researchers, writers, natural resource environmental management and the large conservation driven organizations. Equally the governments both central and local have done little to conserve the wetland for posterity. Media mention of this wetland is also scattered and limited in scope.

The lake came to be covered with floating reeds on peat such that now it has an extensive reed mat that covers more than 95% of the surface
The lake came to be covered with floating reeds on peat such that now it has an extensive reed mat that covers more than 95% of the surface

The major diatoms at Ondiri Swamp were Amphipleura pellucida, Navicula gawaniensis, Pinularia tropica, Eunotia tenella, Melosira ambigua, Nitzschia subrostrata, Surirella sp., Eunotia pectinalis, Cyctotella iris, Nitzschia latens and Strauroneis phoenicenteron which are mainly associated with larger and more open wetland. The younger level was dominated by Navicula tenella, Navucula el Kab, Nitzschia linearis, Navicula halophila, Gomphonema gracile, Navicula. salinicola, Frustulia rhomboides Eunotia pectinalis and Hantzschia amphioxys which are associated with smaller wetlands.

References: Paleoclimate of Ondiri Swamp - Julian Awuor Ogondo, Standard Media

Acknowledged Source: MegaProjects Kenya Blog

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Email Etiquette: Some of the basics that you need to know

The technological advancement today has made email part and parcel of many people’s lives as they have almost replaced the traditional letters. We need email addresses to join social networking sites, to either keep in touch with family/friends or to simply go about with our professional work. Therefore, there is no doubt that whoever is subscribed to any of the social media platforms, has an email address. That’s how important email is to us in today’s world.

Often times, we complain and lament about receiving too many emails and having no time to read through them all. Some people have close to 5 email accounts that they have to check on daily basis for fear of missing out on important communication. Being one of the people with multiple email accounts and one who has suffered poor email etiquette but at the same time guilty of poor email etiquette, I thought to myself about the value of emails and decided to share some of the email etiquette on twitter, now summarized in this blog post. The common mistakes that people make and what to avoid when using email. In no particular order or category, the following are my findings based on my knowledge as a user.

Photo via
1. Read email in its entirety: When you receive an email, please read it in its entirety before thinking of replying. If you must, read it more than once. This is extremely important because some people do not put the key points in the initial paragraphs and you could miss important information by reading it partially. Reading the entire message informs your reply.

2. Acknowledge receipt of Email: When you receive an email that requires a detailed response and you are too busy to reply immediately, acknowledge receipt. It is so rude to receive an email, read it and completely ignore it. A simple message such as “I acknowledge receipt of your email and I will respond to it as soon as possible” is a sign of respect for the sender and appreciation for their time to send you an email. Please make sure you actually reply when you are ready to.

3. Out of office auto responses: When you leave an out of office auto response, please do not let it exceed your return dates or when you are able to respond to your email. It is very unfortunate to indicate a date only for a sender to receive an out of office auto response a week past your return date. Always deactivate it as soon as you are back to work. If you work with a team, It is polite to share the email of an alternative contact person in your absence.

4. Clear Subject Line: When writing formal emails, make sure the subject line is clear and that your main points are captured in the first paragraphs. Avoid writing what is irrelevant to the subject or purpose of the email. Read morehere

5. Emotional Emails: When you receive emotional emails or emails that require tough decisions to make, do take sometime before you reply. Give them deep thoughts and reply from a logical point of view and less from an emotional one. This is so because emails can be saved and used many years later for reference. They could be used against you in the event that you over reacted in your response to such emails.

6. Replying to all: When emails that may require individual feedback are sent to all recipients;- say on a mailing list of dgroup, Try not to REPLY TO ALL especially in workplaces. Some people reply an email to all (even to over 1000 people) with a message like “Thanks for the email”. This not only distracts people from productive work but fills their inboxes too. If you do not have to, do not reply but if you must, you can do it to only the sender unless you are required to reply to all.

7. Official Email addresses: When you have an official email address, keep the conversations through it strictly official. You can never know who is stalking your email at work. Do not use your official email to discuss your private business or family issues. Because when your leave that workplace, it will be deactivated and remember that your employer may have access to it.

8. Forwarding emails: Desist from forwarding “Funny”emails to dgroups or mailing lists because it annoys people. Know who to forward what to. Just because something is funny to you does not mean it will be funny to everyone. Also do not forward a whole chain to someone as you might send information that they do not need to know about. Where necessary, Edit messages before forwarding

9. Email Signature: If you choose to have an email signature, make sure that all the information indicated is correct and up-to-date.  Your telephone contacts should have your country code to cater for friends who leave beyond your country boarders, your social media links must also be accurate. Try to include as much details about your alternative communication channels. For example; a link to your blog, alternative email as well as Skype ID

10. Simple language: When writing an email, keep your language simple. Today, people receive hundreds of emails on daily basis and using jargons in your emails only increases the burden that they have to deal with. You will not impress anyone by using ‘big language’. It will only get your messages deleted. Also avoid using shorthand like many youthful people do when sending SMSes. Not everyone is excited about shorthand especially for formal emails. For example writing “gr8” to mean great, “4get” for forget.

11. Email Usernames: When choosing a username, Try to use your actual name(s) or initials because this becomes your Identity. Funny addresses raise suspicion and messages from them could be treated as junk. Using your name makes it easy to identify your emails or give them priority.

12. Delivery Notifications: When you send an email that you consider important, activate your settings to notify you when the recipient opens it. This is very important to track who has received and read or attempted to read your email. It also gives you a clue about those who take long to respond to emails even if they read them as soon as they receive them.

13. Sending yourself a copy: When sending a job, consultancy, assignment or scholarship related email, it is important to send yourself a copy too. This is good because in the event that they require you to resend it, you can easily locate it, edit it and forward it.

14. Sharing Friend’s email: Just because you know a friend’s email address does not mean that you should share it with each and everyone especially without their permission. Also for event organisers, it is so rude for you to add one’s email to your organisation’s or company’s mailing list without their permission just because they attended your event and left their details behind including their email addresses. Please seek permission.

15. Do a spell check: This is a function that is ignored by many email writers. Before sending an email, proof read for consistency and understanding. Once that is done, run a spell check and correct any grammar errors before you click send

If you are the kind that keeps on forgetting to respond to your emails on time, there is good news for you. There are services that can help remind you. Both free and paid for; ‪  or‪ 

 Please add any other tips in the comments section!!

Re-blogged from The Citizen Journalist

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TWAS-CNPq Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme

The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) in Brasilia, Brazil, and TWAS offer up to 10 postdoctoral fellowships each year to young scientists from developing countries (other than Brazil) who wish to pursue postdoctoral research in natural sciences.
28 July 2014
Minimum degree held
Minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 months
01-Agricultural Sciences
02-Structural, Cell and Molecular Biology
03-Biological Systems and Organisms
04-Medical and Health Sciences incl. Neurosciences
05-Chemical Sciences
06-Engineering Sciences
07-Astronomy, Space and Earth Sciences
08-Mathematical Sciences
Age limit
Sandwich option
Programme Details
  • TWAS-CNPq Postdoctoral Fellowships are tenable at research institutions in Brazil for a minimum period of six months to a maximum period of twelve months. They are awarded to scientists from developing countries (other than Brazil) to enable them to pursue postdoctoral research in the natural sciences.
  • A list of research institutions in Brazil where TWAS-CNPq Fellowships are tenable (CAPES-Conceito 5, 6 and 7) is available for download here: CAPES List.
  • CNPq will provide a standard monthly allowance which should be used to cover living costs, such as accommodation, food and health insurance. The monthly stipend will not be convertible into foreign currency.
  • Information about living conditions, such as possibilities of accommodation, transportation, and any other issues related to the candidate's stay in Brazil must be obtained locally, directly from the host institution. Neither TWAS nor CNPq can provide this information.
  • The research activities are developed in Portuguese in most institutions, but communication will be mainly in English.
Applicants for these fellowships must meet the following criteria:
  • Be a maximum age of 45 years on 31 December of the application year.
  • Must not hold a visa for permanent or temporary residency in Brazil or in a developed country.
  • Hold a PhD degree in a field of the natural sciences.
  • Be a regular employee in a developing country (other than Brazil) and hold a research assignment there.
  • Provide evidence that s/he will return to her/his home country on completion of the fellowship.
  • Not take up other assignments during the period of her/his fellowship.
  • Provide an official acceptance letter from the host institution (please refer to the sample available at the CNPq weblink . Only CAPES-listed (levels 5, 6 or 7) Brazilian institutions are eligible (see point 2 above).
  • Prove knowledge of Portuguese or provide a certificate of proficiency in Spanish or English (if these languages are not the candidate's mother tongue).
  • Have an updated Curriculum Vitae on CNPq’s Lattes Platform (see note on online applications below).
  • Present a detailed research plan agreed by her/his host supervisor.
  • Be financially responsible for any accompanying family members.
Submitting your application
  • Applications to the TWAS-CNPq Fellowships must be submitted online only.
  • The call for applications where you will find the programme details, eligibility criteria, required documents and certificates as well as the online application form is available via
  • Applicants must be aware that CNPq and TWAS will not accept applications submitted by any other means except via the online application form.
  • The call for applications for 2014 is currently open and will remain open until 28 July 2014. No applications will be accepted after the deadline. Therefore, it is recommended to submit your electronic application as early as possible.
  • Incomplete applications will not be accepted.
  • Applicants should submit the Acceptance Letter from a CAPES-listed institution to CNPq when applying. Without preliminary acceptance, the application will not be considered for selection.
  • Queries concerning the call for applications to the TWAS-CNPq Fellowships programmes should be directed to:
  • Applicants should be aware that they can apply for only one fellowship per year. With the exception of theVisiting Scientists programme, all other fellowship programmes offered by TWAS and OWSD are mutually exclusive.

Contact Details
• TWAS Fellowships Office
ICTP Campus, Strada Costiera 11
34151 Trieste, Italy
Phone: +39 040 2240-314
Fax: +39 040 2240-689
• National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)
International Cooperation Office (ASCIN)
SHIS Quadra 01 Conjunto B, Bloco "D",
Edificio Santos Dumont
Lago sul Brasília, DF, CEP: 71605-001
Phone: +55 61 3211-9441
Fax: +55 61 2108-9442