The Mpala Research Centre (MRCC) was opened in November 1994 at the core of the Ewaso Ecosystem in central Kenya. Defined by the catchments of two perennial rivers, the Ewaso Ny’iro and Ewaso Narok, and by the protracted migrations of over 6000 elephants, this is a vast and diverse savanna landscape supporting prodigious wildlife populations. The importance of this region is that little of it is formally protected, yet wildlife abundance is second in Kenya only to the renowned Maasai Mara Reserve.
MRCC provides a facility for research, education and training suitable for courses with small groups of students. It is a very active research center with many long-term researchers staying for long periods. Thus the bandas and houses on the central site where the labs and lecture room are usually completely or mostly filled. There is also a tented camp along the Ewaso Ny’iro river for student groups and short-term workshops. Professor Rubenstein was awarded an NSF grant to improve facilities and has completely rebuilt the campsite. Now there are larger dining and teaching tents and new sleeping tents. Each looks out on to the river, much like an up market safari tent in a commercial safari lodge would do. New shower tents were installed that are private.
Princeton’s Kenya semester in the field program began in 2006 and featured hands-on courses that periodically include savanna ecology and community conservation, the natural history of mammals, global technology, restoration ecology and field ecohydrology.
The MRCC is administered as a Trust by a partnership among Trustee agencies based in the USA (Princeton University and the Smithsonian Institution), and Kenya (the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service). The latter are the two government agencies mandated to conserve biodiversity in Kenya. The Mpala Research Centre is also a registered Non-Governmental Organization in Kenya and receives financial support and governance from the Mpala Wildlife Foundation, established by George Small '43.