In just 4 days time, I’ll be on my way to spend three months in Madagascar. Although I’ve known about this trip for the best part of a year, the reality of what I’m about to do is only just sinking in. If you’ve been around me at all lately you’ll know that I’m extremely excited, a little bit nervous, and not very good at talking about anything else!

I’ve been getting A LOT of questions from family and friends about the details of my trip. I’ll be posting as regularly as I can here on my blog to let you know what I’m up to – if you haven’t already, you can sign up for updates via email in the top right hand corner (or follow me if you have a wordpress account).

In the meantime, keep reading to find out a bit more about my epic adventure.

Where exactly am I going?

The place I’ll spend most of my time in Madagascar is Kianjavato, which is a collection of about a dozen villages in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region of southeast Madagascar. More specifically, I’ll be at the Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station (KAFS). The forests in this area, like most of Madagascar, are fragmented as a result of extensive clearing.  Despite this, the surrounding forest is home to an abundance of unique wildlife, including nine species of lemur.

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Kianjavato is roughly where the red star is. Image: Rena Ortega
Who am I going with?

I’m going with OHDZA-MBP, two organisations (Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and Madagascar Biodiversity Project) who run multi-faceted conservation programs focusing on the key areas of reforestation, lemur monitoring and community engagement. They work with local Malagasy people and organisations. OHDZA-MBP run a handful of different research sites across Madagascar, including KAFS. One of the things that attracted me to this company is their Conservation Credits Program, which provides life-changing rewards to locals for their involvement in reforestation work. More on this later.

 

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Views from Kianjavato. Image: Lynne Venart
What will I be doing?

I will be involved in two main programs during my trip – lemur monitoring and reforestation.  KAFS monitors two species of critically endangered lemur – the greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) and the black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegta). From what I can gather, this is going to involve a lot of running through the jungle, finding lemurs, observing and collecting samples.

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Greater bamboo lemur (left) and black and white ruffed lemur (right).

The reforestation project is equally important, and aims to do what you might expect – put vegetation back where it’s supposed to be. I’ll get to work in nurseries, collect seeds, plant trees, and increase awareness in the local community.

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MBP community planting day.  Image: MBP
What am I bringing?

If you looked in my suitcase, you’d know it would be easier to ask me what I’m not bringing. While at KAFS I’ll be staying in my tent, so I’ve got a whole bunch of camping equipment that goes along with that. Unfortunately Madagascar is a high risk area for Malaria and other insect-borne diseases, as well as parasites and even the plague! (Yes, the plague). So a good chunk of what I’m bringing is precautionary medicines. Aside from that, as many field clothes and bottles of insect repellent as I can fit!

Whatever happened to that research paper of mine?

Lots of you will know that I’m lucky enough to be writing up my honours research for publication. It’s still happening, just at a much slower pace than anticipated. The majority of it is written and ready to go, but working with collaborators and multiple authors across Australia mean things are taking a while.

 

So stay tuned, plenty of updates to come!

 

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Black and white ruffed lemur. Image: Robyn Hoskings