Involving Counterpart Students to Build Capacity
Frontier Madagascar have played host to a large number of local Malagasy students from the University of Antsiranana. Students join the marine or forest camps for a set period of time during which they are able to gain valuable practical field skills and experience of surveying and monitoring methodology. We have also hosted a number of students at the Frontier Madagascar Head Office in the town of Diego (also known as Antsiranana).
For example, two students studying for their Natural Science and Environment Degree joined the Forest programme for 7 weeks to undertake their degree dissertations and to learn important biodiversity survey techniques.
Dahlia, 25, in her 3rd year of the degree was able to compare the butterfly diversity in open and forested areas for her dissertation. Butterflies use different habitats and can be restricted to certain environments, and knowing butterfly activity patterns can aid in National Park management and protection of vulnerable species. Butterflies are also commonly used as indicators of ecosystem disturbance, so Dahlia's study will help future researchers to assess the effects of human presence on the forest.
Patric, 24, in his 4th year joined us to investigate amphibian diversity along riparian corridors for his dissertation. Riparian zones are a unique and distinctive transition landscape between terrestrial and stream ecosystems, with structurally complex and diverse habitats resulting from a gradient in soil moisture conditions, encouraging diversity. Riparian areas are critical corridors for wildlife movement, and amphibians are particularly sensitive to the health of these corridors as they have very limited dispersal capabilities and may be unable to navigate even moderately sized areas of unsuitable habitat.
The local students work alongside international volunteers participating in the Forest programme, and they assist in the biodiversity surveys being carried out to compile a species list for the area. The research site is located in forest fragments between two climatically divided protected areas, the Montagne d'Ambre to the north which is composed of semi-evergreen montane rainforest, and Ankarana to the south comprising dry deciduous forest based on a limestone karst landscape. The forest fragments could be acting as wildlife corridors facilitating faunal movement between the two protected areas, or could provide refuge for species displaced from the otherwise degraded forest in this immediate transition zone. Frontier is working to examine the wildlife diversity in this relatively unstudied region and to assess the importance and conservation value of these remaining forest fragments.
In addition to participating in the research aspect of the camp, local students prove invaluable in teaching the international volunteers the right way to cook rice and beans, and the menu often improves dramatically since their arrival! Their presence on camp has also made the mutual Malagasy and English lessons far more interesting and language skills are improving rapidly on both sides. The volunteers and students are all benefiting from the enhanced cultural exchange brought about by their stay on camp.