Kersey Lawrence is a wildlife ecologist and an award-winning university-level teacher who spends half the year in Africa and the other half in the USA. She is currently working on her PhD, which focuses on trackers and tracking in Southern Africa. She is the owner of Original Wisdom, an experiential education company where she develops and runs courses for students and groups in the United States and South Africa. Original Wisdom courses emphasize science through “hands-on” ecology sessions in the bush; technology through the use of photography, camera traps, GPS, and GIS; and human dimensions through cultural experiences with local communities. With well over two decades of survival, wilderness and tracking experience she is also a highly qualified tracker in her own right, within both the USA and South Africa. She is, in fact, amongst the most highly qualified trackers in the world in the CyberTracker System and is currently the first and only woman tracker in the world to earn a Senior Tracker qualification, which required her to achieve a Track & Sign Specialist (2011, South Africa) and a Trailing Specialist qualification (2016, USA). Kersey is a Track & Sign Evaluator in Africa and has been assessing trackers since 2014. She is also a qualified Dangerous Game Guide on the FGASA (the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) standard with many hours on foot and wildlife encounters under her belt. Kersey has worked for a part of each year in Africa since 2008, which is when her love affair with the African bush began.
I am an aspiring minimalist and believe in self-sufficiency and learning the “Old Ways” that people used to live by: friction-fire, flint-knapping, bow-making, wild edibles, animal-tracking, etc. The name of this site, Original Wisdom, is a play on those words, with symbolism derived by combining the original “old” wisdoms with the original “new” wisdoms that we have available now. An example of that is combining knowledge of animal tracking with camera-trap placement to get the best wildlife photos on a reliable basis. This wisdom is taken further by using those photos to inspire people to be more observant in their own place. Observation creates questions; following up on questions creates knowledge; knowledge creates understanding; understanding creates compassion – and the earth could use some more compassionate people, especially in regard to the “wise-use” of nature.
Professionally, my main income comes from The University of Connecticut (UCONN), where I am an award-winning teacher and a Ph.D. student. My Ph.D. is in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and my current Graduate Assistantship is in the Institute for Teaching and Learning, where I am part of a faculty development team. Outside the University, I’m also involved in program development and instruction that combine my two loves of nature and education in the following forms: home-school, un-school, after-school, adult-ed, mixed-age-group, and traditional pre-k through 12. Because I can not resist the pull of tracking (and I am pretty good at it) I also do consulting projects that include track-based surveys.
My Ph.D. research is based in South Africa, where I spend several month of every year. It should come as no surprise that I study trackers. My dissertation focuses on three areas: 1) an accuracy assessment of trackers where wildlife captured with camera-trapping photos are compared with the tracks in front of the camera-traps as identified by trackers that have been tested by an international tracker evaluation system created by CyberTracker Conservation (most of these trackers are from local indigenous communities); 2) a qualitative and quantitative analysis of tracker evaluations, surveys, and interviews in South Africa to determine how qualified a tracker need be before collecting track-based data; 3) an ethnographic study how the traditional tracking knowledge of trackers in South Africa is changing as a result of the abolishment of Apartheid and with increased educational opportunities. The anticipated completion data for my Ph.D. is 2018.
Click here for Kersey’s Resume.
― Baba Dioum