Written by and photos courtesy of Hannah Williams
I went to Madagascar for 6 weeks with Opwall to collect data for my undergraduate dissertation project. Using bird distribution and forestry data I am aiming to determine the forestry architecture factors which affect avifauna distribution within Mahamavo forest. Following this I will construct a plan to prioritise conservation areas in order to protect all endemic bird species found within the forest. I chose this project partly because bird identification is a useful, international skill which I can use in the UK and worldwide, but also because I am interested in forestry, bird ecology and conservation.
My field supervisor (Joseph Bailey) and all of the OpWall team have been incredibly supportive of my project. Joe explained how I can analyse my data using different techniques and provided me with a new type of analysis (rarity-weighted richness) in order to develop a more accurate conservation plan for Mahamavo.
In order to obtain my data, I worked with professional ornithologists to learn and record bird species, normally by their calls (occasionally by sight), on a daily basis along set transect routes. I assisted on bird point counts every morning for 4 weeks across the three different sites within Mahamavo.
I have now received the bird and forestry data sets for Mahamavo that have been collected over the past 6 years, including the data I contributed during my expedition. Following my arrival back in the UK I will analyse the data to determine the distribution of birds within Mahamavo and how the forest architecture affects their distribution. I plan to use species distribution models to map likely occurrence of each endemic species and determine a rarity-weighted richness score for each of the sites surveyed in order to develop a conservation plan, which will protect all of the endemic bird species recorded in Mahamavo.
The expedition to Madagascar was an incredible experience. The wildlife, the people, the culture and the glorious weather made for the best 6 weeks of my life. I cannot recommend this trip enough; I fell in love with Madagascar and would go back in a heart-beat. I cannot wait for the day I return to this magical island.