Undergrad Research Assistants
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.
Want to get involved or know more? Submit an Expression of Interest!
Expedition 1 – Forest and Marine Wildlife
Start date expedition 1: 18th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 2 weeks marine)
There is limited space available on this project
This expedition offers a brilliant introduction into Madagascan biodiversity. The first two weeks are spent in the dry forests of Mahamavo. After completing MA001, you will then be working with the survey teams MA002. For the last 2 weeks you will travel to the island of Nosy Be. If not already dive trained then you will be able to complete MA003 before moving on to MA004. If you are already qualified or wish only to snorkel you can spend your final week with the survey teams on MA006.
Expedition 2 – Madagascar Forest Wildlife
Start date expedition 2: 18 June
Expedition length: 2 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial only)
There is limited space available on this project
This expedition is designed to give you a brief overview of what a field research site is like. You will complete MA001 before moving to assist researchers on MA002.
Expedition 3 – Forest and Marine wildlife
Start date expedition 3: 9th July
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)
This expedition has the first 3 weeks gaining an in-depth working knowledge of the dry forests of Mahamavo (MA001 & MA002) before allowing you to experience a week on the island of Nosy Be. Here, if you are not already dive trained then you would be able to complete MA003 or if already dive trained or only wanting to snorkel then you would complete MA004/05.
MA001 – 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.
MA003 – 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.
MA004 – Indian Ocean reef ecology course – diving / MA005 Indian Ocean reef ecology course – 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, 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.
MA002 – 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.
• Volunteers can rotate between these survey groups throughout their stay and will get to see much of the dry forest and wetland fauna of Madagascar.
MA006 – 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.