Salama (Hello) from Madagascar!
I am officially all settled in at Centre ValBio Research Station (CVB) located in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar where I will be based out for the next three months as I conduct field work for my MA thesis project! It was quite a long road to get here, I left on Memorial Day (May 25th) and first took a red eye flight to Paris and then an eleven hour flight to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo (Tana for short). I spent my first few days in Madagascar in Tana getting all my equipment sorted and my research permits in order. The city of Tana has an atmosphere like I’ve never experienced, and the languages spoken there are French and Malagasy (both of which I have no experience!). Luckily I was able to connect with two paleontologists from Colorado (Dr. Joe Sertich and his student Hank Woolley) who helped me to navigate my way through the city as we all prepared for our summer field seasons. I spent yesterday on a ten hour car ride down to CVB with Dr. Patricia Wright and her study abroad group from Stony Brook seeing some amazing landscapes along the way. We finally reached the station in the evening and were warmly greeted by many of the staff from the facility (of which there are over 100 people!). Finally, today I was able to travel to the one of local towns (Ranomafana) and meet many of the locals and swim in the hot springs that are there for 5,000 ariary (about $1.50), which was quite a treat! I will meet my research technician (SOLO Justin) for my project on Monday and I am very excited to make the final arrangements and plans so we can get out into the field and start collecting samples! I will be looking to collect fecal samples from Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia variegata) in fragments near the national park, and I will bring these back to Dr. Baden’s PMEL in order to obtain genetic data from these individuals and run a landscape genetics analysis. It’s cold this time of year in Ranomafana as it is the austral winter, so wish me luck in finding lots of lemurs and especially in collecting their poop!