Wednesday
Apr232014

Published!

Excellent work again from our old Terrestrial Research ARO and PI team of Charlotte and Sam who have published their study of "A rapid herpetofaunal assessment of Nosy Komba Island", in northwestern Madagascar with new locality records for seventeen species. Excellent work!

Read it here.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Easter egg hunt!

Being Easter, we had to have an egg hunt. Where better to do this than across our expansive camp! What fun was had by all.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Beach Olympics 

Grudge match -noun. In a competitive gaming environments, and two players are playing a match, when one player loses and percieves his loses to be a result of a whack event decides to rematch or rechallenge his opponent. The following match is called a grudge match. The player who lost in the previous game considers himself better and is deemed to have a grudge against the winning opponent. Is it the return of Forest or shall Marine keep their crown?

WIN FOR MARINE 6-5 and retaining their crown.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Camp life

Each week our research teams come together to discuss their findings from the week, general communications and plans for the surveying to come. Not only does this spread knowledge across the team but often encourages very lively debate. Strong work!

New blackboards!

New Terrestrial Research volunteer Mark has arrived and is delighted to be receiving his introductory presentation from our Terrestrial Research Principal Investigator Emily. Go TEAM! Learning one's fish can be an arduous process. However, here at Frontier Madagascar we can make it fun by learning in hammocks!

On our recent Beach Clean of the local area we invited our Teaching Coordinator along to attack the general debris and what a fine job he did too! Strong work! & Hair cuts on camp: potentially dangerous; always entertaining results.

Card games can become intensely competitive affairs on camp!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Volunteer of the week: Wouter van Vijfeijken

BREAKING NEWS: winner of the Honourary Alfred Hill Volunteer of the Week Award for a record breaking SECOND time goes to Wouter aka Steve Bacon for his domination of the terrestrial research project, harsh disciplinary tone and phenomenal general efforts. Strong work!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Walls of wisdom

Life lessons 8 - 11

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Forest sights

Epic Panther Chameleon who decided to perform the splits for our team whilst they did their washing recently. Show off - anyone can do that...

Always entertaining and never dull when Furcifer pardalis manage to get themselves into great acrobatic positions, as demonstrated by this example. Let's call him Dave. Good work Dave. & One of the wonderfully colourful (and increasingly large) Golden Orb spiders we seem to accrue on camp! Their webs can be so thick that running into one is not the brightest idea - imagine being an insect?!

Outstanding picture of a stunning Furcifer Pardalis (Panther Chameleon) seen recently at one of our survey sites.

Brookesia minima & Sportive Lemur!

A beautiful Phelsuma madagascariensis pictured on our science camp.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Marine project

In preparation for any night dive, it is important to perform a detailed dive briefing run by our indomitable Dive Officer Leo. Here he is explaining what not to do and what to do when in the water. Strong work!

Swimming with a turtle! One of the perks of being a mariner.

Ghost fishing. Divers completing a Reef Clean on home reef came across this freshly potted fish trap with lots of juvenile butterfly and even angelfish inside! Usually we would not interfere with local fishers equipment, however this pot had no buoy to be relocated by its owner. We consulted our skipper, Victor, another local fishermen who agreed we would take the pot and free the fish rather than letting them die a pointless death and continue to capture more fish!

Anyone who has been to Ambalahonko knows how manically unpredictable the tides can be here. Consequently, we have now designed a new posh tide times board with maximum heights etc! How delightful and educational. Go TEAM!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Thursday
Apr172014

Epic Beach Clean April 2014 

Frontier Madagascar - Assemble! Together come the marine and forest teams to form a throng of Frontier blue to attack the beach and forest between the local villages of Antafondro and Ambalahonko. Along the beach they scurried, through the forest they squirreled away picking up over 10 50kg bags of rubbish of all kinds which makes a huge difference the local area and the communities that live here whilst also spreading the impact and awareness of Frontier in the field. Strong work!

Leaving on time: important! & Team Australia - strong beach cleaners.

Never a dull moment on this hunt for rubbish with keen eyed Lisa Bennett noting down all debris whilst preparation key for these two.

Never leaving home without your medical kit is essential here!

Like bees around a honey pot - this litter didn't stand a chance.

Time for a well earned drink!

 

An amazing effort by the team and a huge sum of rubbish collected which has helped the local area enormously.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Thursday
Apr172014

Busy busy busy!

You know how some people dread Mondays and don't like coming off the weekend and into their day to day job? Well, we Mondays! Especially on the Terrestrial Research Programme where they had an epic day of surveying, lectures, tests and revision all lined up. STRONG. Next... cooking on camp is a bit like an audition for Masterchef. There are many tough judges, ingredients are not necessarily cohesive to produce a 'normal' dish and the conditions can be brutal over wood fire. However, ARO Lisa DOMINATED dinner with a cumin inspired beautiful red bean paradise. What a hero! And...she's through to the next round.

#LL7 & Batman and Robin?! Sadly no, it is just our Project Manager Chris and Terrestrial Assistant Research Officer Noel 'bonding' out the back of camp.

Training, training, training = Important, important, important. Here the marine team are receiving a lecture from intrepid ARO Lisa on their benthic species which is incredibly useful to enabling them to learn the different species and improve their general knowledge. Strong work! & Another week and another finished BTEC. This time it is the turn of formidable marine volunteer Ben to present his findings on his studies of anemone and the relationship with skunk and Madagascar fish, and what a great job he did as well. Strong work!

Our Terrestrial Research Principal Investigator has been referred to as many things - bold, brave, beautiful etc etc. However, yesterday the only words coming from our volunteers and staff members during the birds test are not repeatable in this pleasant company, such is her insatiable desire for 100% in all tests. Marvellous work! & Education of the local communities is vital to the improvement of their knowledge of the environment. Equally, however, is the impact we can make on our own staff and volunteers by encouraging them to learn about where all their rubbish and debris can end up. Motivational posters such as this are found across camp to encourage understanding and learning and are very well received!

Those crazy kids down on camp Frontier Madagascar are up to their usual tricks again - this time transforming an otherwise grey and boring metal hut wall into a beautiful mint green facade which is to become 'The Frontier Madagascar Ten Commandments', aimed at teaching the team classic Malagasy phrases to improve their language skills and community engagement. Excellent! Here's the First Commandment of our Malagasy Phrases! & Our WOW (words of wisdom) wall continues to go from strength to strength. Our recent post from outgoing Beach Conservation volunteer summed her up perfectly indicating how much she liked a party (and helping preserve the local mangroves - naturally).

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Wednesday
Apr162014

Volunteer blog: Tristan Dewick

Chytridiomycosis otherwise known as chytrid fungus is one of the biggest threats facing amphibian species and populations around the world. Chytridiomycosis is a disease caused by the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which little is known about the impacts to the host individual. Much research has determined that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis disrupts the individual’s osmoregulation or respiration across the skin of the individual it infects. The pathogen then releases toxins into the host which is detrimental to the individual’s health and can cause the death.

Chytrid fungus has been expected to be the cause of the decline of frog species and populations in the rainforests of Australia and Panama and has also been associated with the decline of frog populations in Ecuador, Venezuela, New Zealand and Spain. Madagascar rates 12th highest in the world with the most amphibian species richness. This figure is expected to increase as an additional 182 species have been identified since. 220 species of frogs found in Madagascar have been assessed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) 9 of which have been listed as critically endangered, 21 as endangered and 25 as vulnerable. These figures make for 25% of the species found in Madagascar as threatened which is much higher than the per country average of 12%. Of these species present in Madagascar 100% of the autochthonous species and 88% of the genera are endemic to Madagascar and the surrounding islands.

Historically, extinction of frog species in Madagascar have not been detected with many of the species present being discovered in the last 15 years. Over 500 frog specimens from around 80 species found in many different environments around Madagascar, have been tested for chytrid fungus and while the majority have tested negative, 3 species have indeed tested positive to the disease. These species include Heterixalus alboguttatus, Heterixalus betsileo, and Scaphiophryne spinosa. These positive tested species suggest that chytrid fungus could become well established in Madagascar, causing severe ecological consequences which may be irreparable. 

The discovery of chytrid fungus is very bad news as more and more stress is being applied to frog populations via habitat destruction, a changing climate as well international pet trade. Habitat destruction is believed to have already led to the removal of 90% of the original vegetation which has caused a major threat to a number of species present. Warming trends in Madagascar are expected to remain equal or increase compared to the world average causing more issues to frog species due to endemic species being restricted to a narrower home range. The international pet trade is becoming more and more popular which is applying more stress on particular frog species and communities across the country.

To address the conservation of frog species in Madagascar, in 2003 the president Marc Ravalomanana, announced an action plan to put into place. This action plan lead to the doubling of protected areas, allowing the opportunity to exist for the proposal of new protected areas as well as triggering more international awareness about the importance of the frog species present in Madagascar. These actions are very helpful to the conservation of frog species as it allows larger areas to be monitored frequently for any outbreaks of chytrid fungus. By creating more international awareness it may cause for more travellers to be conscious about travelling and spreading the infection. The spread of chytrid fungus can occur due to inadequate cleaning of boots and other items of clothing which may have come in to contact with the disease. Ensuring that items such as these have been cleaned will limit the areas where chytrid fungus can establish.

To ensure chytrid fungus does not impact other species and populations of frogs in Madagascar, surveillance and rapid responses to additional introduction events need to be prolific and efficient. Madagascar is an amphibian hot spot and may be the only one left which hasn’t been impacted significantly by the disease. We must ensure that this remains and the eradication of chytrid fungus is successful to allow future generations of people to experience the incredible frog biodiversity Madagascar has to offer.

By Tristan Dewick, Forest volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Principal Investigator Blog: Mega Map Puffer

This Thursday staff and the new volunteers were incredibly lucky to encounter an enormous adult Map Puffer (Acothron mappa) resting on the seabed at our dive site with the greatest fish diversity, Nosy Left. So far the dive had been going okay, the visibility wasn't exceptional like usual and there was a strong current coming from the east of the island which we had to swim against whilst finishing our Baseline Survey Protocol transect.

As we finished the survey and reeled the line in we all gave up swimming against the current and left it drift us back towards the boat was. As we did, marine Assistant Research Officer Lisa spotted   a beast down by the sea floor. Absolutely stunned by the size of the animal it took everyone a couple of seconds to register what it was.

Puffers are from the family Tetraontidae, relatives to porcupinefish, tobys and boxfish. Remarkably, these iconic fish of tropical seas are severely under-researched and there are few academic papers documenting their ecology, conservation status and biology.

The map puffer is a large solitary demersel fish (associated with the sea floor) reaching up to 65cm total length. It's range extends the tropical and subtropical coastal waters from the Western Indian Ocean to the western Pacific. Most typically it is found close to reef drop-offs and sheltered lagoons. Interestingly all of our reefs here in the Nosy Vorona Bight are shallow (max depth of 9m on the high tide at some sites) lacking a drop-off and although this is the largest individual anyone from Frontier Madagascar has encountered, they are relatively frequent visitors of our study area.

Unlike other teleosts (bony fish), the map puffer lacks scales. Other unusual features of puffer fish morphology are that they lack a pelvic fin and lateral line. The lateral line system in teleost fish and chondrichythans (sharks, skates, rays and chimeras) is used in mechanoreception – the ability to detect vibrations within the water column of prey or predators. Not only do puffers lack a pelvic fin, the dorsal and anal fins are small, symmetric and located at the end of the body. The swimming abilities of all Tetraondid fish is the way that they manoeuvre their fins, and highly comical to observe. Often described as “evolutionary rejects”, tetradondids have the most amusing locomotory system of any fish, often swimming around in circles and seemingly struggling to maintain a good sense of direction. 

Puffers generate thrust by use of their pectoral fins in addition to their dorsal and anal fins with their mouth titled upwards when going into a current or for any rapid movements. Whilst more relaxed swimming the pectoral fins undulate and move out of phase from one another while the dorsal and anal fins oscillate in phase with each other. It is not uncommon to watch them putting significant energy into the position of their dorsal fin to in an attempt to stabilise their position and direction in the water, and is particularly interesting to watch when they are moving very slowly.

Encountering a pufferfish on a dive is an extremely exciting experience, but what more interesting this time was the enormous size of this map puffer. Although we could not accurately measure the specimen, it was a full adult certainly close to the current maximum recorded size of puffers at 65cm TL. Not only was the body long, but the girth (width) was enormous. All staff and volunteers considered themselves extremely lucky, as to see an animal of this size is a rare phenomenon owing to the ubiquity of fishing activity throughout all the world’s coastal waters. Although puffers have toxic properties harmful to the point of fatal to humans to consume, they are regularly caught as bycatch in coastal artisanal and commercial fisheries.

Not only is it a pleasure for us to enjoy watching the clumsy, uncoordinated movements of fish from the family Tetradondidae but their abundance on our reefs is encouraging. Representatives of Puffers and Porcupine fish are one of the key grazers of the biological pest and outbreak echinoid Diadema setosum, commonly referred to as the Spiny Sea Urchin. These invertebrates are responsible for intensive coral erosion, exacerbated by the removal of their predators from fishing. We regularly sight these on snorkels and dives which can only mean good things for our reefs.

By Emma Dobinson, Marine Principal Investigator

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Camp life continues

Hang on - what's this? Lights in our RA Hut Sharon?! Shock horror. Frontier Madagascar is always moving with the times and providing light in the dark. Whatever next?!

Look how glorious our new Laundry Bidans sign is! It is the little things which make the difference after all, including the detail on the bubbles. Marvellous.

On camp Frontier Madagascar, we understand the value of good food. Hence, each Sunday we have a communal dinner and this week's winning dish was Zebu, Pork and Merguez Sausage Hot Dogs with fresh baguettes, caramelised onions and chips. Not too shabby. Sausage chef Noel loves his job!

Look who it is! Only new Research Assistant Annie all the way from the wild depths of Australia. Seen here with our Terrestrial Research Principal Investigator, she was 'stoked' to be on camp and has already been heard having the following conversation with our other Australian campers:
"G'day, cobber."
"G'day, mate. How're ye doin'?"
"Aw, been flat out like a lizard drinkin'. Hear the Sydney Swans hammered Collingwood on Saturday?"
"Ripper."

 

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Monday
Apr142014

Congratulations!

Amazing news for our old Terrestrial Research Principal Investigator and Assistant Research Officer who have had a paper published recently in Herpetology Notes on their first recording of the chameleon Furcifer petteri here in Nosy Be. Strong work!

http://www.herpetologynotes.seh-herpetology.org/contents7.html

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Monday
Apr142014

An exciting week

Frontier Madagascar Life Lessons continue with more being added to the wall with growing speed! Although... Bad news: Research Assistant Matthew Markham left us today after ten weeks on the Adventurer programme. Good news: He wrote on our Words of Wisdom Wall! Amazing.

What did you do on your day off this week? Frontier Madagascar went to a picture perfect 1.2km white sand bank which is only cross-able at low tide, which is also amazing for Scuba Diving and an important breeding site for Hawksbill Turtles. It is OK to be jealous...

BTEC Presentation from Research Assistant Brad who completed his study here on 'The Abundance of E. mathaei and the predators of E. mathaei'. Strong work! Our intrepid volunteer Brad is finishing up his CoPE qualification and as part of this he is expected to lead a discussion on an area of interest in the group. The debate on the role and point of captive animals centres proved quite lively!

BREAKING NEWS: 'Breadmond' has brought back the love for breakfast with fresh, hot bread now the order of the day for this camp's petit dejeuner. So long sabeda, it was good but this is so much better. Strong work team and Chef Edmond - what a hero!

Volunteer of the Week and winner of the Honourary Alfred Hill volunteer of the week award: Alice Parry. Winning for outstanding beach conservationist tekkers, a strong grasp of her bird identification already and a great assistance around camp and coping with her bag going missing for four days. Strong work!

Another group of new volunteers can only mean another bonding moment for the group with volunteers and staff randomly selected to be bound to another via industrial strength masking tape. A ferocious battle was had but there was only ever going to be one winning pair who could make it until morning!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Monday
Apr142014

Forest friends

Busy day in the Forest...

MGF found 17 Brookesia stumpffi on their active search in Site 1 primary forest last night setting a new Frontier Madagascar record. Strong work!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Friday
Apr112014

Marine team

The team love a group photo on the boat. Look how pretty they all are! Marvellous stuff.

Epic marine surveying photo of our Dive Officer Leo demonstrating perfect buoyancy to perform a key aspect of our baseline survey protocol. Strong work!

Dive Officer Leo Clarkson likes it out here. This photo was also taken on his birthday, which is lovely! Great day in the office. Assistant Research Officer Lisa Bennett and Research Assistant Ben Dalton cruise along our transect to quantify the different facets of coral reef community health.

Research Assistant Ben Dalton smashed his territorial fish scientific training and is now our territorial surveyor. Look at those fish counting skills.

We are extremely fortunate to be in Northwest Madagascar. In 2007 this part of the country revealed to have the greatest scleractinian coral (reef building) diversity! High diversity is widely accepted to increase an ecosystems resilience to natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

Where have all the fish gone? Overexploitation of fisheries is a global problem and the situation is the same for Madagascar. An impoverished country, they have sold many of their fishing rights to Asian and European countries.

Fortunately, we our located within the easterly flowing current that passes Nosy Tanikely Marine Protected Area. Such close proximity means that are reefs are benefited by biomass spillover of adult fish and larval replenishment from fish within the MPA. There has been a recent baby boom where each day we are lucky to see juvenile reef fish taking refuge between the branches of long and short branching corals. Here we can see some young Blue Damsels aggregating above the coral head.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Research Assistant Ben Dalton smashed his territorial fish scientific training and is now our territorial surveyor. Look at those fish counting skills.
Thursday
Apr102014

Life Lessons

And so it begins...the Frontier Madagascar Life Lessons Wall is underway.

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Thursday
Apr102014

Mixed Prints Party

Nothing mixed about the fun had at this party. Mixed prints = pure joy

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

Thursday
Apr102014

Beach clean!

Another monster beach clean by the Frontier Madagascar team collecting another huge sack of rubbish including the ever favourite plastic bags, shoes, diapers and general debris. Excellent work team!

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Madagascar.

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