I'm raising £500 to let me travel to Madagascar and take part in some scientific research on new conservation strategies.
Who aM I?
I'm a second-year physical geography student at Collingwood College in Durham. I love the outdoors and am a keen environmentalist.
What Am I Doing?
I will be taking part in a four-week conservation project in Northern Madagascar this July, as part of Operation Wallacea (a group of researchers and university academics). The aim is to collect as much data as possible on biodiversity in the area over several years so that we can assess how successful community-managed forest and coral reef schemes have been, and ultimately know how best to expand this idea across the country. My trip will involve:
- Transect surveys, mist netting, and counts, for birds, butterflies and amphibians
- Dive training, building 3D coral reef computer models and recording fish/marine species
- Lectures on bioecology and conservation
- Analysis of landcover change and its effect using satellite data
- Staying in a tent with no toilets, showers or mains electricity
- And monitoring/tracking the lemurs (at least 7-8 species in the area)
Why is this Important?
Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, with an incredible wealth of animal and plant life. Around 90% of its species are endemic (found nowhere else on Earth) making them crucial to protect. The ecosystems of Madagascar are also extremely fragile, with trees taking hundreds of years to regrow and many animals like lemurs needing complex diets impossible to replicate in captivity.
Madagascar, however, is one of the poorest countries on Earth, and the government struggles to protect its unique habitats. Only 10% of Madagascar's original forest cover is left today, with a huge illegal logging industry and a 'slash-and-burn' agricultural tradition that destroys massive areas of forest and leaves land only farmable for a few years.
The existing national park system in Madagascar has limited funding and policing, not helped by entrance fees 'going missing' and a president funded by the logging companies. The country's national parks also contain large amounts of already-damaged land, making the actual area they protect much smaller than it seems.
A few years ago the German government funded a community-managed conservation scheme to be set up in the forests and coral reefs of Northern Madagascar. It needs detailed monitoring to see if it has been a viable alternative to national parks - this is where my research with Operation Wallacea comes in! We'll be looking to identify, clarify and classify the numbers of all the different species in the area and find out exactly how effective this type of scheme can be.
What do I gain from it?
I would love to go into conservation or environmental management in my future career and this is an amazing opportunity to apply skills from my degree and get real-life experience alongside scientific experts, as well as vastly improving my knowledge and skills in conservation and ecology. The project will also be a unique chance for me to experience the different culture and some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet!
Where will the money go?
Any money I raise will go towards my flights and transport across Madagascar itself, since the research sites are very remote and take several days to get to! If we manage to beat my target I can begin to cover some of the other trip costs (like insurance and equipment rental) and be able to buy some books and other useful items to donate to the local villages.
The first £200 donated on this project will be match funded by Collingwood College's 1972 Club Student Opportunities Fund!
Backpacking In Scotland?
You might have heard that I did some backpacking across Scotland as part of my fundraising (as if four weeks in inaccessible Madagascar wasn't enough of a challenge). I walked 100km back from a fieltrip and finished on the fourth day, tired and with sore feet. It was definitely worth it though, and will have been good preparation for all the hiking I will need to when I'm in Madagascar.
I appreciate every bit of support I can get, but you can also choose one of the reward tiers if you'd like to get updated about my trip. I'll be taking my camera with me to Madagascar so make sure to choose the right reward if you're interested in seeing photos of the amazing wildlife, scenery and experiences!
Please tell everyone/anyone you know about this project, or share on your favourite social medium. It makes a big difference, even if you're not able to donate yourself!