by Charlie Welch, Duke Lemur Center's Conservation Manager
For the first time, the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) has been part of a Madagascar study abroad opportunity for university undergraduate students. DLC conservation coordinator Charlie Welch accompanied Appalachian State (ASU) agroforestry professor Dr. Christof den Biggelaar, and James Madison (JMU) anthropology professor Dr. Roshna Wunderlich, in leading the study abroad. A total of 11 students from both ASU and JMU participated in the traveling class. Unfortunately, Duke’s credit hour requirements for study abroad classes did not allow for Duke students to participate and receive an equal number of credit hours.
The class covered tropical agroforestry, sustainable agriculture, lemur ecology and research techniques, and conservation, with instruction including lectures, discussion, and field work. Although based at Park Ivoloina, the 4 week learning experience was by no means limited to that location. There were 2 field trips during the period – a 4 day trip to the north to visit the coastal forests at both Analalava and Tampolo (with a relaxing day off at the beautiful beach site of Mahambo!), and a 3 day trip to the higher elevation wet forest at Perinet/Andasibe. Day trips included a visit to a local oil palm plantation which practices sustainable organic farming techniques with the palms and various other fruit products, and a day with two different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) doing humanitarian work in the Tamatave area.
In addition to the ASU and JMU students, the group was joined by 4 English capable Malagasy students from GRENE (environmental program) of the University of Tamatave. Their participation broadened the cross-cultural aspects of the experience for both the American and the Malagasy students.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a regular collaborative study abroad in Madagascar program, which can also in the future include Duke students.
Many thanks to the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) for hosting the study abroad at Ivoloina, and to MFG staff for sharing time and expertise with our students.