At the moment getting to Madagascar is very difficult because of a lack of available flights. In addition the vaccination rate in the country is very low indeed which means that many of the local communities with whom we work will not have been vaccinated and will be susceptible to any Covid infections that are brought in. Despite this our Malagasy partners and the local communities are very keen to see ecotourism visits like this start up again because they have suffered a significant financial loss and also lost their annual meeting with students from all around the world. We have therefore set up a programme that can run in 2022 if conditions change and these are listed in the 2023 options. If conditions change in Madagascar before the early part of 2022 we will be able to bring the 2023 plans forward and implement a research programme in 2022. However, if you are wanting to be guaranteed to be part of a field research team in 2022, have a look at some of the other countries which are either open already or likely to be in the near future and for which we have developed research plans for 2022.
Mahamavo terrestrial biodiversity research experience
This is a large team of researchers spread across three camps in the Mahamavo forest area. Projects include studies on the structure and species composition of the forest, Pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes, bird point counts and mist netting, and distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night). In addition, there are other projects running such as colour change in chameleons, sifaka population studies, DNA sampling of herpetofauna, mark release-recapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time. During the first week you will have lectures about Madagascar wildlife and conservation but for most of the time you will be rotating between a series of research projects.
Nosy Be marine training and research experience
This is a diving and marine research centre on the island of Nosy Be. For those not qualified in diving the first week will be spent completing an SSI Open Water dive training course, or an Indian Ocean reef ecology course with two dive-based practicals each day if already qualified or by snorkeling if not qualified. After completing the reef ecology course, you will spend your remaining weeks assisting our researchers with data collection and analysis working with the 3D modelling of the reefs, quantification of the fish communities from stereo-video surveys, benthic composition and contributing to a local sea turtle identification database. For an extra charge there is also the option of completing additional SSI dive training in your spare time.
Madagascar has less than 5% of its land designated as Strict Nature Reserves, National Parks, Wildlife Reserves or Wildlife Corridors, and even some of this land is already severely degraded. So the actual area of land under protection is much smaller. An alternative approach to assigning protected area status and prohibiting usage is to develop community managed areas such as Mahamavo, where there is a mosaic of protected and managed areas. DTZ, the German Technical Support Agency, has established a series of community managed forests in the Mahamavo area that appear to be successful and may form the basis for conservation and improving livelihoods in other parts of Madagascar. The Opwall teams here are monitoring how the forest structure and biodiversity in these community managed forests are changing over time to identify whether this management strategy can provide a viable alternative to formal protected areas in terms of protecting biodiversity. The dry forests around Mahamavo have exceptional diversity with two species of diurnal lemur and another five to six species of nocturnal lemurs, two spectacular species of chameleons, three known species of leaf-tailed geckos, and many endemic birds. In addition to the forest work, the Opwall teams are also carrying out long term monitoring surveys in the adjacent wetlands, which have recently been given Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).
Nosy Be is the premier dive destination on Madagascar, but there are few data on the coral reef communities that support this industry. Opwall teams will be gathering baseline data on these reefs, including data on fish community structure from stereo-video surveys, coral cover from video transects and 3D modelling.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
In Madagascar it is the dry season so it is hot during the day (temperatures between 25 and 30degrees Celsius) with extremely little chance of rain. During the evenings the temperature does drop to around 18 degrees Celsius with occasional cold spells getting as low as 14 degrees Celsius.
Fitness level required
Moderate. Most surveys require walking long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand. Fitness requirements for the marine site are low.
Facilities at the forest camps are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi. Facilities at the marine site are a little less rustic with dorm style accommodation and running water for showers and flushing toilets. The marine site does get some phone signal and limited wifi.