WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Madagascar is an extraordinary and exotic island paradise. 165 million years of isolation have created a globally important biodiversity treasure with over 80% of species endemic to the island. But an increasing population is having a devastating impact, causing deforestation and erosion; the red soil running into the seas has led to the sadly evocative name of "the bleeding island".
The Malagasy government is now working with international conservation and aid agencies to halt this destruction and save the island's invaluable biodiversity, and Frontier volunteers are an integral part of this effort. As turtles are very understudied and often ignored as a conservation priority, Frontier is dedicated to playing a major role in the area of Nosy Be by assessing the impact of human disturbance, climate change, commercial fishing, ocean plastic and other anthropogenic pressures on turtle populations. By collecting data on species, sex, location and behaviour and compare the changes over time with water temperature, environmental disturbance and resident population Frontier aims to push towards the creation of regional conservation efforts as well as the creation of more MPAs (marine protected areas).
Record Marine Biodiversity
Through snorkelling surveys, you will photograph turtles found at our study sites around Nosy Be. This will help us to record data such as their gender, age and overall health. Because of the unique patterning of their face plates, you will be able to help identify individuals that visit us on a regular basis. If you discover a newcomer, you may even get the chance to name it!
Malagasy Culture & Communities
Working alongside the Malagasy people will give you an insight into their extraordinary culture. You may even be introduced to some of their more exotic customs such as the ‘Turning of the Bones' festival. Community work includes environmental education in local schools to explain Frontier's work, and interviewing local fishermen on their catches and opinions with regards to reef health. The data from your investigations will supply vital information on the coastline for the Madagascan National Programme.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
To gather the data needed you will undertake snorkel surveys (weather permitting) and then analyse the photos that you’ve taken back on land, with one day off each week. If you want to dive we will train you up on the Frontier camp at the start of the project. The number of dives completed each week on the project depend on the quarterly science plan and itinerary as set by the Frontier field staff.
On the survey swims, you will also be able to help us record and video the turtle’s behaviour. This will give us the opportunity to study the turtles and learn about their diet and movement around them in a non-invasive manner, while still giving you the chance to get close to these amazing creatures.
You will also conduct beach surveys seeking to find the location of nesting sites throughout the area. If any turtle nests are found, you will be able to help us protect them from predators by installing structures, made from natural and recycled resources that make it difficult to access the nest. Some beaches are heavily subjected to flow of debris and plastic carried in with the tide, reducing the chances that turtles will lay their eggs on the beach, therefore Frontier conducts weekly beach cleans in order to protect marine life and encourage environmentally friendly habits like recycling or reducing single-use plastic. While you may not find a turtle nest, beach cleans will enhance the probability that someone else will!
At Frontier, we are keen to get the communities from around our projects involved too. For our turtle project, you will be engaging with locals from neighbouring villages. This will help us to gain an understanding of their knowledge of the conservation issues surrounding turtles and help us to provide communication with information on turtles.
You'll also explore the luxuriant mangrove forests and record the rich variety of organisms living there and in the other intertidal zones. Whilst diving you will discover dense sea grass beds rich sources of nutrients for the marine communities. You will deploy a wide range of newly learned research skills and scientific techniques including: underwater visual census of reef and commercial fish such as trigger fish and parrot fish, assessment of algal and coral cover to determine the extent of coral bleaching and damage, and line intercept transects for benthic life and indicator invertebrate species such as nudibranchs. You will record observations of the feeding habits and behaviour patterns of a range of marine life. You may even get to study the impact of potentially destructive fishing methods on the coral’s reefs, study the effects of global warming on marine communities or note any indication of the impact of the marine-curio trade on endangered marine invertebrates.
Whilst diving and snorkelling, you'll see an extraordinary array of animals from colourful reef fish species to turtles, sea cucumbers to cushion stars and spiny urchins to octopuses. By the end of your project you will be capable of identifying a wide range of colourful and patterned reef organisms. Although the work is intense and challenging, you'll get immense satisfaction from having made a valuable contribution to the conservation of this marine environment. Volunteers who join the project for less than 4 weeks will may not be able to participate in the full range of project activities and surveys but will still be able to make a valuable contribution to the work. You will return home with vast numbers of photos, lots of new friends, a wealth of fascinating stories and extraordinary memories.
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and conserving nature. Your staff will be a friendly and welcoming group who are highly experienced in their research field and many of whom will have been Frontier volunteers at an earlier stage in their career.
For further information about Frontier marine conservation work please refer to the publications section of this website.