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I couldn't have asked for a better first week of fieldwork!

I couldn't have asked for a better first week of fieldwork!

I couldn’t have asked for a better first week of fieldwork. However, it sure has been a roller coaster of emotions. The landscape here is tough; by tough I’m talking a four hour hike through forest, over mountains and through more forest, to get to one transect. However, it is beautiful – a rolling landscape of savanna (photo below); likely not what one expects when they think of Madagascar.

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Transitioning to rice and beans three times a day hasn’t been easy; I was nearly gagging trying to eat rice at 5am for the first few days… now I’m devouring it. I’m even drinking rice tea – which is the burnt water at the bottom of the rice pan. And burnt it tastes! I’ve also had fried potato (chips) and zebu (the local cow) for breakfast. I thought I’d miss my Weetabix* more, I must admit.

I saw a chameleon on my first survey, and perhaps 25 since… I’ve actually lost count. I didn’t imagine they’d be so common – however every time I see one I get excited, and my guide Tovo loves to point them out, probably to see my geeky reaction (herpetology blog post to come). I’ve also been lucky to see two species of lemur. We were on our way back from a night survey and saw a pair of googly eyes reflecting back at us – it was a tiny mouse lemur. He didn’t know where to look with all of our head torches, but didn’t miss the chance to jump and catch a moth and chow down on it whilst we watched. It was adorable! The second was a crowned sifaka, which sun bathe in the evening sun opposite camp. That is a special sight, and one I’ll go look at when I can. Of course, there have been frogs. Many frogs! The first few surveys of trying to tell apart several species of brown frog were stressful, but me and my amazing assistants are getting there. There are the occasionally brightly coloured ones (inc. A green mantella!), the ones smaller than my fingernail, and the ones we have to coax out of tree-holes. They all look different in their own ways and we are slowly learning said ways (Pics show Mantella crocea and frog spawn on a leaf of an unknown species).

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Camp is quiet, my team are the only researchers here. But that makes it peaceful. I sit and listen to the locals chat in my guide’s hut whilst we eat by candlelight (when not doing night surveys). The stars here are phenomenal, a full milky way every night so far. We get up at about 05:30 so I haven’t struggled to adopt the Malagasy way and get to bed around 20:30 (when not doing night surveys – we sometimes do night surveys, sleeping at midnight, and up again for survey at 05:30 – killer!).

I lie here drafting my blog on my phone, and whilst I miss messaging it is nice to be living the more simple tropical fieldwork lifestyle once more.

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(Preparing the tent lab!)

*Weetabix – A brand of wholegrain breakfast cereal

Katherine Mullin (@KatRibbetsOn) is a PhD student at the University of Cardiff, UK. This story was published on April 25, 2019, on Katherine blog, Katribbetson (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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