Running after hyenas: Q & A with Hadley Couraud ‘13, in Kenya

Kathryn Walker
Co-Features Editor

Hadley Couraud

Hadley Couraud graduated in Spring 2013 with a major in Biology and a minor in Peace Studies.

Hadley Couraud doing tests on a hyena in the African Mara with research co-workers (Photo: courtesy of Hadley Couraud)

Hadley Couraud doing tests on a hyena in the African Mara with research co-workers (Photo: courtesy of Hadley Couraud)

While at Goucher, she was on the Cross Country and Track and Field teams, and was also involved in Earthworks and Goucher Leadership Council.  (She also happens to be a 4th generation Goucher student) 

What are you doing now that you graduated?:
Now a recent graduate, I am working as a Research Assistant for Michigan State University’s Mara Hyena Project; I am living in a wildlife research camp in the Maasai Mara studying the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). The job description hails as purely scientific, “monitoring demography and behavior … bimonthly prey censuses … collecting and processing fecal, blood, and tissue samples.” However, I am presented every day with a certain truth: Contrary to the juxtaposition often posed, biology and peace studies are inextricably intertwined.


Couraud doing some chemical tests on a Hyena DNA sample (Photo: Hadley Couraud)

Couraud doing some chemical tests on a Hyena DNA sample (Photo: Hadley Couraud)

Why work with hyenas?
Thought by many to be the cowardly scavengers of the Mara (who all sound like Whoopi Goldberg, right?), hyenas are in fact some of the most effective predators on the savannah, more likely to have their kills stolen by lions than the other way around. One of the most fascinating things about them is their social complexity – they live in societies whose complexity is more on par with primates than any other animal group. What we are learning and seeing now more than ever however, are the hyenas’ resilience and adaptability in the face of burgeoning human influences. These anthropogenic disturbances are broad, but include livestock grazing, the increasing number of lodges and tourists, and the burgeoning town of Talek which lies just on the opposite bank of the Talek River which partly defines the northern border of the Reserve.  However, the hyenas are but one piece of evidence of how changes in the region are impacting the stability of the ecosystem.  It is vital to see that the changes we see in hyenas’ biology and behavior have causes and ramifications beyond a biological perspective.

Has Goucher guided you?
Coming to Goucher, I knew exactly what direction I wanted to take in my studies. I was going to pursue a Biology degree and enter the field of wildlife conservation with the vision of working internationally to study wild species and conserve them. Then I came to Goucher, and three experiences changed my vision. The first was studying abroad in Tanzania, where I studied community wildlife management for a month – and began to see for the first time how important people were in the story of wildlife conservation. The second was my ecology class, when I learned the language and workings of ecosystems, and began to see how impossible it is to isolate a species and work for its conservation without considering every actor in the environment. Finally, I took my first Peace Studies class, which hooked me into becoming a student of the discipline. With these three stepping-stones, I have begun walking a new path, one heading into the unknown, but in the direction of the intersection of conservation, community, and human rights.


Best part of your job now?:
Recently, I became one of our trained darters for the project, and that has been one of the neatest parts of the job. Using a rifle powered by pressurized CO2, we dart/tranquilize our hyenas to put on GPS collars and/or take blood and bacteria samples and body and teeth measurements. I love getting to be so hands on with the hyenas and when it’s your finger pulling the trigger, there is an element of responsibility, respect, connection and gratitude for the animal that is really powerful to experience.

Eats: The land of pasta & carbs

Kathryn Walker
Co-Features Editor

I will always, till my last dying breath, be a Carb Consumer.  I will eat endless bowls of winding noodles, savor the soft insides and warmth of a fresh baguette, dole ladles and ladles of oatmeal into a seemingly endless bowl.  Carbs equal energy, plain and simple, but have also provided me with some of my most favorite memories around the table.  The spaghetti dinners with teammates, the pancakes flipped from my grandma’s stove, the radiating warmth of the boulangers’ baguette under my arm.  Scientifically, there are reasons and nerve endings and endorphins that fuel my carb-cravings; but sentimentally, I just love eating any and all sorts of carbohydrates.
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Goucher Eats: Winter winds and warm thoughts

Kathryn Walker
Co-Features Editor

In the depths of this winter arctic tundra, I seem to have switched over to an almost entirely hot-liquid diet: hot tea, hot coffee, hot soup, hot cocoa, hot stews, hot whatever. Most recently, I even tried making “hot” ice cream by pouring some next-to-boiling coffee over top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream (spoiler alert: the ice cream melts). When the winds are a’blowin’ and my fingers freeze almost instantaneously and my nose resembles Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s, I reach for something that will transform me from a human icicle into a human capable of functioning sans shivers.
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Goucher Eats: The time capsule of a 12 year-old

Kathryn Walker
Co-Features Editor

I had quite a fair share of freaking out moments while home for Winter Break: freaking out about school, freaking out about life after school, freaking out about split ends in my hair, freaking out about finding those split ends while at school, and even occasionally, freaking out about freaking out.  Maybe it’s because I’m graduating from college in less than five months.  Or maybe because Winter Break was the most time I’ve spent at home in a long, long time.  Or maybe because access to Nutella and peanut butter was at an all-time low.  But in any case, right in the middle of this, my mom presented me with an ultimatum: “Clean your room or you can’t use the car.”  And because you can’t live in suburbia without a car, and because you can’t go calm your nerves at happy hour in suburbia without a car, I responded with a growl and stomped up to my room.

For the next three hours, I sorted through the heaps of clothes on the floor that had become my temporary laundry basket, the drawers full of “treasures” that consisted of ticket stubs and empty wine bottles, the half-finished art projects that lay scattered across my desk.  Left and right, I was tossing and stuffing tchotchkes into trashbags and liquor boxes.  With Beyonce blasting through my laptop speakers, I worked my way through years and years of accumulated junk without a pause until I came across a time capsule of sorts: an essay titled “My Future: Dreams, Wishes, and Goals By Kathryn Walker.” May 25, 2004.

10 years ago.

An artifact from my brace-face years.

Here are some of the highlights of the Dreams, Wishes, and Goals of my 12 year-old self:

1. The one that made me actually laugh-out-loud: Triple major in English, Asian studies, and Forensic Science.

2. The ones that have actually come true: To travel the world and go to France and the United Kingdom; get a tan without burning myself.

3. The one that made me roll my eyes back into my head: Maybe be valedictorian??????????

4. The one that is too strange to comprehend: Develop a Bostonian accent.

5. The one that made me feel like I was having a conversation with my 12-year old self: Retire to a tropical place that has really good food (beach included).

6. The ones that are ironic and comical and have very slim odds of ever happening: That all the Philadelphia sports teams win national championships and that I go to all the parades. 

7. The ones that made me fairly impressed with my past aspirations: Create a way to help people NOT pollute the environment.

8. The ones that are basically impossible now: Get an endorsement deal with Nike as a star of the US Women’s National Soccer team. 

9. The ones that I’m still chasing after: To travel the world – All of Asia, Russia, Spain, South Africa; learn how to surf.

10. The one that only my 12 year-old self would have ever thought possible: Eat all the good food in the world while being a world renowned author, first Lady President, and a resident of Maine.

And then the conclusion: What will happen if they don’t come true?

Well Future Self, if they’re not coming true, you better get a move on.  

It’s funny to see how all along food, travel, and adventure have fascinated me.  A sign perhaps, for future Post-Goucher Endeavors? Maybe, who knows.  But in any case, here’s to not freaking out anymore, baking roughly five million cookies, graduating college with pizazz and gusto, and then taking some advice from my 12 year-old self: learn how to surf (and maybe learn a lot more along the way).

Goucher Eats: Feasts and families

Kathryn Walker
Co-Features Editor

WATCH OUT! TURKEY COMING THROUGH!”  my mom bellows.  I dart quickly to the side, missing the fire-hot turkey by mere inches as I make my way to the table.
“MASHED POTATOES! PIPING HOT!” my dad yells from the other direction, forcing me to leap back across the room.
“Ok! I – gahhh!”
“KHAK – CATCH!” my brother Matt calls out, tossing a wad of napkins across the table, hitting me squarely in the face.
Welcome to Thanksgiving, Walker style.
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