August 4, 2012 — For all of my work this summer, I worked with a student from the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. I asked him to write a short blog to tell a little about himself and to explain how he got involved working on field projects with us. – Jennifer Moore

My name is Manitra Fabien Rajaonarison. I am 28 years old, and I’m married with one daughter. I live in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, and I am a Master’s (or “DEA” as we call it here in Madagascar)student in the Biology, Ecology, Animal Conservation Department at the Antananarivo University.  My thesis title is “Behavioral, dietary, and ranging study of the silky sifaka in the low elevation Andaparaty forest, Makira, Maroantsetra, North-eastern of Madagascar.”

In May 2011, my department asked me if I was interested to be the research assistant for a project involving Duke Lemur Center veterinarian, Dr. Bobby Schopler and Duke Lemur Center Post-Doc, Dr. Erik Patel.  The goal was to capture 1 group of silky sifakas, conduct a biomedical health assessment, and then I would continue to follow this group for 5 months in order to collect behavioral and feeding data on this unique low elevation group inhabiting a disturbed forest.  I enjoyed my work in Makira and it was very good training for me.  We already identified some different foods that silky sifakas are eating in Makira compared to Marojejy.  Home range size was also larger in Makira than in Marojejy.

More recently, since May 2012 I have been working with Duke Master’s Student Jennifer Moore.  Jennifer’s project included lemur population surveys in two remote regions of Marojejy National Park as well as remote sensing of satellite photos to assess disturbance.  The project has lasted  three months, and we used in total 5 transects at different elevations in 2 camps.  Before starting data collection, Jennifer gave me and the local guides a training concerning data recording. I enjoyed particularly the night walk survey. We were in the park during the cold rainy season, which made the trip quite hard with the steep paths, the mud, and the leeches… But fortunately, I worked with a good team.