29 June 2011

Searching for freshwater fish in Mada - what it can say about forest conservation

In a new blog post from the field for The New York Times, John Sparks describes his search for an incredibly rare and recently discovered species (1990s) of Damba, a genus of fish endemic to Madagascar.

He highlights the plight of freshwater fish on the red island: 
“It should be painfully obvious to the reader from my earlier posts that Madagascar’s native freshwater fishes are in very serious trouble — narrow endemism and widespread habitat degradation are a dangerous combination. Throw in competition with an array of exotic species, and you have the ingredients for a full-blown disaster. Essentially, freshwater fishes are afforded little protection within the isolated patches of protected forest that remain throughout the country, and within which one can still find relatively healthy populations of lemurs, chameleons and other native vertebrates. Most of these forest reserves are at higher elevation, where there is little suitable habitat for fishes other than rheophilic gobioids (gobies and eleotrids). In addition, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a watershed that has not been affected to some degree by deforestation throughout its course — and obviously, the negative effects of siltation persist downstream to the sea.”
But its not just fish that are threatened in freshwater systems: The lac alaotran lemur is critically endangered and the Alaotra grebe has recently been declared extinct.

One thing in his post that intrigued me is his emphasis on tilapia and their importance to local livelihoods:

27 June 2011

....And the Wheel Turns: A year in review

Well... I’m back! Both to Madagascar and to this digital weblog of my exploits. As I continue my protracted transition from Peace Corps volunteer to academic / conservation professional I am reevaluating the purpose of this blog and its potential (more on that in a future post), I realize many of you may not quite know what I’ve been up to. That may be exacerbated by the fact of my signing off of here so abruptly and then disappearing from normal human reality into my own personal malarially-feverish year of grad school. So in lieu of the malagasy folk-tale about how the gecko got its spots (also in a future post, you better believe), I’ll just do a quick picture post of some of the highlights of my last year to get us all back up to speed. Then i’ll be free to focus on Madagascar and conservation.

After touring the North of the island with a bunch of amazing friends, going to places like this...

...and this...

...and then my 6 months were up and it was time to come on back to Fremont for a couple