Thursday, November 13, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Sampling for this trip was completed on Feb 10th and we have successfully collected over 500 samples for probiotics from over 90 species of frogs. I couldn’t be happier with the efforts of this trip!
Thanks to all that have made my trip possible: Faly Rabemananjara and the Cellule d'Urgence, Devin Edmonds and Association MITSINJO, Nirhy Rabibisia and Franco Andreone from ASG-Madagascar, DGF, MNP, ASA, Universite d' Antananarivo and our student assistant- Serge Ndriantsoa, Che Weldon from North-West University, Miguel Vences from TU-Braunschweig, Reid Harris from James Madison University, and
our grant supporters - Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation Fund and the Chester Zoo - and the private donors who have supported by FrogProbiotics.org.
While it is the end of quite an amazing field season, it is really only the beginning of our collaborative effort to develop effective frog probiotics!
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
|Rice fields of Fierenana|
Working to save the frogs,
Friday, January 31, 2014
|My battle wounds from the Ranomafana leeches|
We were scheduled to leave ValBio on the morning of the 19th with our photographer friends from Antoetra. Their vehicle arrived at the station, and they jumped out to meet us with some perplexed looks. Evidently the driver had decided our gear could not go on top of the car and also couldn’t block the back window. We relentlessly tried to fit all the gear in the vehicle. We stuffed as much gear as possible in the back below the window and figured we would put the rest on our laps, but then the driver said "no," that was not OK either. The driver claimed it was a police violation and despite our efforts it was a no go.
|Male Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis|
The music blared loudly and we were on our to be 12 hour ride to Tana. We tried to sleep but the pot holes and sharp turns made it nearly impossible. For some reason Taxi brousses are stopped at just about every checkpoint by the police. We would come to a screeching halt and the police would shine there lights through the rows of bodies and we would be on our way. We stopped for dinner around 9 in Ambositra and enjoy an extremely large bowl of soup. Within about 5 minutes it seemed like we were on the taxi brousse holding our breath that the car would start.
Some hours later my seat neighbor was kicked out of the taxi, and we were joined by 2 policemen was AK 47s… not exactly what I had in mind for the rest of our journey. In about an hour they left and we gained a few more passengers making it a bit crowded in our row. In Antsirabe, our taxi brousse was officially out of commission and we had to switch to a different vehicle. Luckily there was one waiting for us, making the 4 am switch quite smooth. This new taxi brousse was outfitted with much more comfortable seats so getting a little shut-eye was somewhat possible. However, this driver was a very aggressive driver whipping around every turn at at least 80 km/h if not more. Around 5, we started picking up people along the road and soon there were 6 people squeezed in our row meant for 4 people and one person sitting backwards against the front passenger seat. The last 2 hours I was squished unable to move in any direction. But by 7 we had finally reached Tana and grabbed a taxi to the hotel where we had hoped to spend the night. We had survived the taxi brousse and made it to Tana before our planned departure at 8 am for Ambohintantely… so I would call our adventure a success.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
|Mantidactylus cowani "small"|
Friday, January 10, 2014
The late night sampling made the 4:30 AM wake up for searching for Mantella a bit challenging, but the scenic views of waterfalls and the pinkish orange sunrise soon broke my tiredness. After about a 45 minute walk we arrived at the Farimazava site. The site looked somewhat deforested and I was a bit skeptical at first about whether there would be any frogs. But the locals know there stuff. Soon we found a rocky, fast flowing stream and just up the stream a 100 m or so we began to heard the chirps of the Mantella! The site was filled with M. baroni and a few putative baroni-cowani hybrids which was great for Karina’s work. We left empty handed for cowani but we would look again tomorrow at another site. The day felt so long after the early wake up but rewarding because we got to sample the first wild mantella of the trip. During the afternoon I showed the children around the house the frog ID book and they were mesmerized by the photos and would tell me the local names for the different herps in the book. We took the night off to rest and gear up for the early morning trek in search of the Sahona mana as the locals call M. cowani. We wandered the hillsides of a historic locality of cowani and ears and eyes open, but unfortunately no cowani. We did however, find some a few frogs that were either Mantidactylus lugubris or Mantidactylus cowan which was a new species for our project.
Set on finding Mantella cowani we decided to hike out of the village, Holoma Ambany Lalana, and search a site south of Antoetra called Soamazaka. We spend the night in Antoetra and headed to the site just after sunrise. Ranary, our driver was able to get us very close to the site which was much appreciated after our uphill hike the day before. We had two local guides with us and within seconds of arrival one was pointing at the side of the rocky stream and we all scrambled over. It was our first Mantella cowani! All of our faces lit up in excitement at the sight of our target species. Within 2 hours we had found 9 cowani and a few other species like Boophis goudoti and Mantidactylus curtus. Processing went quickly and smoothly. Our time in Antoetra was indeed a success!
We all stayed in Ambositra for the night, before our planned departure to Isalo the next day. Devin and Brian were headed back to Andasibe, and Karina, Richard, Serge and I left early expecting the long travel to Ranohira (near Isalo). Along the way I glanced over our permit localities and to my surprise Isalo was not listed as a sampling locality! In a slight panic, I showed the permit to Serge and asked him what we should do. Then we contacted our collaborator Faly Rabemananjara in Tana to see what he thought we should do. He said we had two options: drive to Isalo and talked with the forestry office there to see if they would let us sample in the Isalo area or go to our next site Ranomafana. We had a decision to make: continue on the long 10 hours car ride to Ranohira and hope the forestry office would grant us permission to sample or go to Ranomafana and do more extensive sampling of the forests there.
We decided to go to Ranomafana and then see if we could contact the office in Isalo by phone. A day past and we still could not find a number to call. We decided that it would be more productive and logistically easier for us to stay in Ranomafana. This park has one of the most diverse amphibian assemblages of Madagascar, with over 125 species. Mantella expectata, one our target species at Isalo will have to wait to be sampled on the next trip. We head into the forest in Ranomafana tomorrow to begin sampling in the park to determine the prevalence of Bd and collect probiotic samples. The rain is pouring down today and will hopefully bring out the frogs!
Working to save the frogs,
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
(Photo credit: Franco Andreone)
Meanwhile, the JMU crew is continuing to isolate and test bacterial isolates collected from Malagasy frogs during the August and September trip for effective anti-Bd probiotics.
Working to save the frogs!
Thursday, January 2, 2014
I arrived safe and sound in Madagascar after the long 30 plus hours of travel. Some fellow researchers, Karina and Richard Kloniski, arrived in Mada on the same flight so we tackled the baggage claim and customs together, and piled ourselves and our 10 bags into the taxi. I was quite amazed that we fit in, gear and all ( I think the taxi driver was too). The taxi brought us safely to our hotel in Tana, and we settled into our rooms exhausted from our travels.
|Mantella cowani ( courtesy of http://mantella.amphibiancare.com/|
Our next day was spent hopping from place to place around Tana in taxis gathering needed materials for field work, like bleach, bags, buckets, picking up permits and working out logistics for our trip. It was a long but successful day.
Tomorrow morning we head to our first site -- Antoetra -- to look for Mantella cowani as well as other species. This species is very rare and critically endangered and thus will need protection if and when Bd arrives in Madagascar. I can’t wait to be with the frogs and work to collect potential probiotics necessary for their survival!
Working to save the frogs,