Research Opportunity in Madagascar for Peterhouse Biologists

The summer vacation is a useful time for students interesting field biology to immerse themselves in a worthwhile project. Each year Peterhouse is able offer one student the opportunity to conduct research in Madagascar. This gives them the opportunity to put into practice some of the training and theoretical knowledge acquired over the previous years. The Anjajavy private reserve hosts visiting researchers and a research programme has been devised by Peterhouse's College Lecturer in Biology, Dr. Justin Gerlach, to assess the biodiversity of the reserve and to monitor the introductions of giant tortoises. Students participating in this project will carry out the monitoring and will have the opportunity to conduct a research project of their own choice. More details of these aspects are given below. Most of the cost of participating in this project will be covered by the reserve and the college.

Biodiversity assessment

Although there are good inventories of vertebrates for the reserve, little is known about the invertebrates. An important part of this research project is filling this gap. Standard methods of surveying invertebrates are used in each of the main habitats of the reserve. These include litter sampling and insect trapping for later identification. Each collection is likely to include many new species. Participating students can be given assistance to describe and publish some of these new species.

Giant tortoises

Aldabra giant tortoises are being introduced to the reserve as 'ecological replacements' for the species that used to live there until 750 years ago. It is hoped that these animals will fill the same ecological role as their extinct relatives, that of large grazers and seed dispersers. The impact of the introduction is monitored by recording the state of the vegetation at specific points in the release area.

Individual projects

There is great scope for individual research projects; very little is known about the vast majority of species in the reserve and their is almost endless scope for studies of the basic biology of many species. The lemurs are obviously tempting study subjects; Coquerel's sifakas and brown lemurs are relatively well studied, but still irresistible. There are much less well-known nocturnal dwarf lemurs, and a possible future reintrouction of aye-ayes.


Species recorded

Click the image for a list of animals recorded.

Other field projects


Justin Gerlach by e-mail