• Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

It is important to develop efficient methods for monitoring forest bird communities in Madagascar in order to know whether conservation measures are working to conserve important biodiversity features. Acoustic methods can be an effective monitoring approach to monitor organisms which produce vocalisations, such as birds. In this project sound recordings made simultaneously with standard bird point counts across the Mariarano forest will be treated as a representation of a whole bird community rather than trying to classify individual species. It will then be possible to derive monitoring indices based on the acoustic dissimilarity between pairs of recordings made at a network of sites across a landscape and through time. This approach will allow comparison of the power of automatic acoustic methods and standard monitoring to estimate alpha and beta diversity. It will also be possible to explore whether environmental covariates from satellite remote sensing such as Landsat data can allow estimated acoustic dissimilarity to be modelled across whole landscapes using generalised dissimilarity modelling. Sound recordings from previous years can be used to test whether temporal differences in bird communities can be detected between years and whether any differences are associated with forest disturbance.

Madagascar Mahamavo Research Objectives

Madagascar boasts some of the most spectacular biodiversity in the world: lemurs, tenrecs, baobabs and over half of all known chameleon species. Much of this biodiversity is endemic. The Operation Wallacea surveys are completing research on the dry forests and associated wetlands of Mahamavo in the northwest of Madagascar.

Madagascar has declared 17% of its land as protected areas, but much 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 national parks 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 documenting the biodiversity value of the adjacent wetlands with a view to getting this area upgraded to Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).

  • Develop an independent research project and write a formal proposal
  • Attend lectures and field bases practicals on Madagascan ecology and conservation
  • Learn to identify Mahamavo bird species from their call
  • Develop comparison data between acoustic methods and standard monitoring to access bird diversity
  • Contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the avian communities of Mahamavo
  • Learn how to organise and analyse large data sets
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Antananarivo
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £269 or $390 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Antananarivo costs around £26 or $38.
  • Visa costs of €25 (30 days) or €35 (30-60 days) to be paid in cash on arrival in Madagascar.
  • Park entrance fees – £20 or $29.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified. Visa costs are all in EUR.

Climate
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 requires you to walk long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand which can be tiring.

Creature comforts
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.

Locations

  • Madagascar
  • Antafiameva
  • Mariarano
  • Matsedroy

Want to get involved with this project?

Preparation

Want to get involved with this project?

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  • Madagascar – Forest Birds

    Posted on 10th August 2015
    Written by Peter Long, University of Oxford & Solohery Rasamison, University of Antananarivo Photos Courtesy of Deena Wilmott Since 2010 we have been monitoring forest birds in Mariarano, western Madagascar, by conducting point counts at 150 locations across the forest on multiple...
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