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