Field School: Madagascar Past and Present

Sadabe, Northern Illinois University and the University of Antananarivo are pleased to announce this one-month, six-credit field school from June 7 – July 7, 2019. Dr Mitchell Irwin and Dr Karen Samonds (NIU) are the lead instructors and work with Dr Freddy Ranaivoarisoa (University of Antananarivo) and Mr. Jean-Luc Raharison (SADABE).

The primary purpose of this program is to provide participants with the opportunity to learn first-hand about primate biodiversity, extinction, forest fragmentation and conservation in Madagascar, one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots. We will focus on building an experiential knowledge of (1) Madagascar’s existing biodiversity, especially its >100 primate species, (2) the 17 primate species that have been lost to extinction in the past few thousand years, and (3) the complexities and challenges of conservation in this third-world nation. This course is intended to expand upon students’ theoretical background in either primatology, biology, or conservation biology.

Students and instructors will begin the field school with an excursion to Andasibe, where we will see the iconic Indri and learn about the conservation and development activities coordinated by Mitsinjo. We will then work in Antananarivo, where we will have an opportunity to hear guest lecturers and observe fossils of the giant extinct lemurs. Students focusing on extinct lemurs will collect original data, while other students will observe captive and free-ranging lemurs (and practice data collection methodologies). Next, we will travel to Tsinjoarivo where we will spend the majority of our trip. Here students will see the lemurs that have been studied for 14 years, and apply ecological and behavioral sampling techniques as they work on targeted brief research projects in the surrounding forests. Finally, student groups will also learn about and participate in local conservation efforts and meet local community associations. After our time at Tsinjoarivo, we will visit Sambaina (a subfossil site on Madagascar’s central plateau) and present research results at the University of Antananarivo.

Space is limited to 6 students (students need not be current students at NIU, as students from other accredited four-year universities may apply through NIU). Qualified applicants will be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. The content of this field course will be geared towards students interested in (1) Anthropology (especially, but not exclusively, physical anthropology and primatology), (2) Biology (especially those students interested in ecology, animal behavior and conservation, anatomy, paleontology and extinction), and (3) students interested in Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies. However, students from all majors would be welcome if a tangible link between their specialty and the course content can be established. Non-traditional students are welcome.

Any and all questions are welcome via the link below.