In June/July last year I was in the rare and fortunate position that I could take some time off work during the summer. It had been a busy year with work up to that point so I decided to take up an outstanding offer from friends at Operation Wallacea to take a voluntary position of Ornithologist at one of their research camps. A vacancy was available at their Madagascar site and having never visited the country I thought it was a great opportunity not to pass up on.
The site is based in Mariarano, in the North West of Madagascar not far from the town of Mahajanga. There is a community forest with no official protection. Timber extraction and hunting occurs on a small subsistence level though much of the ecosystem remains intact. The camp is on the edge of a deciduous forest with a Mangrove esturine system nearby. The climate at the time was hot and dry.
My job was to co-ordinate and run point counts along preset transects throughout the forest. These point counts have been done during the same summer period for several years, therefore building up a long term data set that can be used to identify biodiversity changes over time. Small groups of students joined myself and Malagasy university students in order to learn about birds and survey techniques. Several university students were also collecting and using the data for their own dissertation projects.
Over the four weeks I spent in camp I had many opportunities to join in with the other surveys taking place (herps, mammals, inverts, etc) and also had many opportunities to photograph the amazingly diverse forest that I was staying in.
Finally I had a few days at the end to visit the rainforests of the east which I'll do a second post for.