Madagascar

The survey options described below have been packaged into 2 and 4 week expeditions to target the weeks and camps where additional survey manpower is required. Please read the packaged expedition descriptions and then move to the constituent part descriptions.

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Expedition options

Expedition 1 – lemurs and chameleons

Start date expedition 1: 17th June                               
Expedition length:  2 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial only)

There is limited space available on this project

On this expedition, you will spend two weeks in the dry forests of Mahamavo. During the first week you will have lectures about Madagascar wildlife and conservation in the afternoons but for most of the time you will be rotating between a series of research projects. These projects include studies on the structure and composition of the forest, pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes, bird point counts and mist netting, distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night) and behavioural studies on the sifakas. In addition, there are other projects running such as colour change in chameleons, analysis of land change from satellite data, small mammal trapping, mark-release-recapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time.

Expedition 2 – forest wildlife and marine research

Start date expedition 2: 17 June 
Expedition length:  4 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial and 2 weeks marine)

There is limited space available on this project

On this expedition, you will spend two weeks in the dry forests of Mahamavo and then two weeks on the reefs in Nosy Komba. During the first week at the forest camp 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. These projects include studies on the structure and composition of the forest, pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes, bird point counts and mist netting, distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night) and behavioural studies on the sifakas. In addition, there are other projects running such as colour change in chameleons, analysis of land change from satellite data, small mammal trapping, mark-release-recapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time. At the end of the two weeks you will transfer to the island of Nosy Komba. If you are not dive trained then your first week at the marine site will involve completing a PADI Open Water dive training course and then for your final week you then move onto the Indian Ocean reef ecology course which is two lectures each day and two dive based practicals. Alternatively, if you turn up dive trained or just want to snorkel then your first week at the marine site will be completing the Indian Ocean reef ecology course and then your last week will be spent helping the researchers with the 3D modelling of the reefs and quantification of the fish communities from the stereo video surveys.

Expedition 3 – lemurs and diving

Start date expedition 3: 8th July
Expedition length:  4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)

On this expedition, you will spend three weeks in the dry forests of Mahamavo with opportunity to move around the various camp sites, and then one week on the reefs in Nosy Komba. During the first week at the forest camp you will receive lectures about Madagascar wildlife and conservation, but for most of the time you will be rotating between a series of research projects. Having three weeks at this site enables you to try all the projects and continue rotating or to specialise and gain some additional field skills in particular surveys. These projects include studies on the structure and composition of the forest, pollard counts of butterflies, spotlighting for amphibians, crocodile transect surveys, herpetofauna routes, bird point counts and mist netting, distance sampling for lemurs (both day and night) and behavioural studies on the sifakas. In addition, there are other projects running such as colour change in chameleons, analysis of land change from satellite data, small mammal trapping, mark-release-recapture of nocturnal mouse lemurs and others that also require assistance from time to time. At the end of the three weeks you will transfer to the island of Nosy Komba. If you are not dive trained then your week at the marine site will involve completing a PADI Open Water dive training course. If you are already dive trained or just want to snorkel, then your week at the marine site will be completing the Indian Ocean reef ecology course with two lectures each day and two in-water practicals either by diving (if qualified) or snorkelling.

This project has a waiting list

 

Madagascar 1

 

Constituent parts

 Madagascar wildlife and culture course

A series of lectures and practicals in the field to demonstrate different ecological survey techniques being used and how data from the surveys can be analysed.  The course also introduces some of the endemic species and habitats likely to be encountered on the expedition and describes some of the conservation strategies being used in Madagascar.

 PADI Open Water

This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification. This course must be completed if not already dive trained and wanting to dive on the project.

Additional dive training beyond Open Water level is available and can be fitted around your work on other projects so you do not need to specify the additional courses on your options list. Courses include Advanced Open Water Diver (US$220) or Rescue Diver with EFR (US$400 – includes Emergency First Response). The price includes the necessary manual and registration card. Extra courses may not be available at all times and enrollment may depend on the number of people wanting the training. In order to guarantee availability you should let Opwall know at least 8 weeks prior to your arrival on-site.

Indian Ocean reef ecology course – diving/snorkelling

This course consists of lectures and twice-daily practicals. Designed to train you in some of the survey techniques used in the marine environment to assess the status of reefs and their associated fish communities. Techniques covered include stereo-video and underwater visual census surveys for fish communities, 3D mapping of the reefs, line intercept surveys for coral cover and analysis of these using video, belt transect surveys for macroinvertebrates and quadrat surveys. The course also teaches identification of some of the commoner species encountered.

Dry forest and wetlands biodiversity assessment

This option involves helping a large team of academics and specialist field biologists completing annual surveys of a range of target taxa. The teams are based at the main camp in Mariarano or in one of the even more remote satellite camps. Activities include:
• Completing herpetofauna sample routes both by day and night for snakes, chameleons, geckos and frogs.
• Boat based spotlight surveys for crocodiles are also being completed and there are specialist scientists working on colour change in chameleons.
• Nocturnal lemur ecology and behaviour surveys are being completed using an extensive live trapping programme.
• Bird point count surveys and mist net surveys are also being undertaken as well as boat based surveys for the wetland birds.
• Butterfly and damselfly surveys using pollard counts are also being completed at each of the sites.
• Forest structure and composition is surveyed through a number of 20m x 20m forest plots with various indicators of forest physical parameters recorded including diameter at breast height (DBH) of each tree, canopy cover and sapling density.
• Completing lemur sample routes both by day and night, including behavioral studies on the sifakas.

Volunteers will rotate between these survey groups throughout their stay and will get to see much of the dry forest and wetland fauna of Madagascar.

Reef fish and coral monitoring

The team will be gathering data on the Nosy Be reefs using a stereo-video system developed by the University of Western Australia. This system allows a surveyor to swim along transects and video the fish encountered. Then in the lab, by playing back the two video images on a single computer screen using specialist software, not only can the images be freeze-framed to accurately identify all fish encountered, but also size estimation can be done to below 5% error. Benthic communities on the island reefs will be surveyed by laying 50m tapes along depth contours. A surveyor swims along the tape holding it in their left hand and using a video under their other shoulder, filming the tape and adjacent corals. Coral cover and community structure of hard and soft corals are then assessed from lab based analysis of the video footage using the continuous method. In addition, invertebrate belt transects will be used to monitor the populations of key species including sea urchins. Volunteers on this project will be helping with laying transects, collecting data in the water, and completing the video surveys, but will also be heavily involved in the analysis of the images.

 

Madagascar