Landscapes are the product of living nature (i.e. animals and plants), humans, and the physical environment: understanding how these factors relate to one another and how they affect biodiversity is one of the goals of landscape ecology. In the Mahamavo landscape in Northwest Madagascar, we collect data on lemurs, forest birds, and reptiles to build knowledge concerning spatio-temporal patterns of biodiversity. However, in order to make resilient conservation plans for a dynamic future characterised by land cover change, climate change, human population growth, and infrastructure development, we need to be able to understand the processes that are affecting the distribution and density of species across the landscape. Students on this project will have access to our extensive dataset (biodiversity and environmental data), as well as actively contribute to data collection on surveys throughout the field season alongside the science teams. Statistical analyses would be used to assess biodiversity, nestedness, or species rarity patterns (for example) for various populations, families, genera, or feeding guilds in relation to the human (e.g. villages, tracks, and farmland) and physical environment (e.g. vegetation health, proximity to rivers and lakes). Students could include analyses relating to forest patch size, edge effects, isolation, and compactness towards understanding the likely consequences of further habitat fragmentation in this changing landscape.
If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.
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).
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 30 degrees 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. This project does not require walking long distances but if you wish to part-take in other surveys they can be long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand.
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.
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