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Madagascar Volunteer Forest Conservation Chameleon

Forest Conservation

Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute’s Forest Conservation Program involves constant monitoring of the forest and its endemic wildlife on Nosy Komba. The diversity and abundance of species needs to be studied in order to identify changes in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health and identify potential localised threats.

We use a variety of field survey techniques to assess the biodiversity of the following;

  • Lemurs – Species ID, behavioural monitoring and comparisons and population assessments carried out at designated observation sites.
  • Reptiles & Amphibians – Pitfall traps, transect surveys and active forest searches both during the day and at night.
  • Birds – Visual and vocal identification, potential for mist netting.
  • Invertebrates – Creating an inventory or species through observations and moth sheet surveys.

Forest volunteers will receive species identification training and learn how to conduct field surveys, set up equipment and collate their data.

Volunteering on the forest conservation project is a rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most unique ecosystems and encounter the iconic creatures for which Madagascar is famed.

Currently the following long term projects are being undertaken, however personal projects/university studies are welcomed:

  • Black Lemur ecology (Eulemur macaco macaco) – We are currently studying 3 groups of lemurs, all located in closed canopy forest but never far away from village and human presence. Our focus is on their relations with their habitat, their home range and group size. We also hope to be able to estimate their tolerance against habitat fragmentation and disturbance. In addition to this we are conducting behavioural comparisons between wild populations and those habituated with human presence and interaction at the local lemur park.
  • Reptile Survey – We survey reptile populations in the following 6 habitats:
    • open plantation
    • coffee plantationshrubby forest
    • closed canopy forest
    • primary forest

We use two different methods for this, each focuses on different niches. One is transect surveys, volunteers walk along set 250m transects identifying all reptiles and amphibians seen. The second is plot searches, during these volunteers actively search through a pre-defined plot looking for cryptic species.

In addition to the intensive transect and plot searches we are using pitfall traps to study ground dwelling reptiles and amphibians. Most surveys happen during the day however we carry out weekly night walks surveying for nocturnal species using the same methods.

  • Bird survey – We conduct bird population surveys on the coast, in plantations and in the forest. Point counts are conducted where birds are identified both visually and vocally. This survey allows us to study the seasonal occupancy, habitat preferences and provide updated data on the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba.

Our main surveying sites are located on Nosy Komba which is a volcanic island. There are no roads and the paths through the forest are not always well trodden, they can be steep, rocky and sometimes muddy depending on the season. A good level of physical fitness is required to reach the survey sites which involve climbing over rocks and up steep mountain trails.

Contact us today for more information on our Forest Conservation Programs.

Madagascar Volunteer Marine Conservation & Diving

Marine Conservation

Each volunteer on the Marine Conservation project has the opportunity to join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem in Madagascar.

Volunteers work in collaboration with and on behalf of a number of oceanographic organisations to gather vital raw data through a number of initiatives, including:

  • Nudibranch Research
    • Through surveys using scuba diving equipment we are able to provide data to determine the species density and biodiversity of nudibranchs in the area as well as associated substrates.
  • Turtle Monitoring
    • Identification – The main aim for our Turtle Identification & Monitoring Project is to establish an estimated inventory of turtles using the reef surrounding Nosy Komba. The identification of individuals within a population is the preliminary step in the ecological study of a species.
    • Census – Through snorkel surveys and visual monitoring we are able to establish an annual population census. Here we can determine the frequency and population strength of the varying species of turtle that visit the area.
    • Nesting – During the nesting season we keep watch for females laying eggs and hatchlings making their way to the sea. Our aim is to monitor breeding and protect nests from any disturbance.
  • Reef Surveying
    • Monitoring the biodiversity, health and growth of the reef system surrounding Nosy Komba, This is achieved through fish, invertebrate and coral surveys using scuba diving equipment.
  • Beach Clean Ups
    • Clean beaches help save the lives of marine animals that are caught in and/or eat marine litter as well as removing synthetic, damaging material from the ecosystem. This data is being collected for an international research project being run by University of Cape Town, monitoring ocean waste across the Indian Ocean.
  • Community
    • We work to provide education to the local community about environmental issues, conservation and the protection of biodiversity and marine resources such as food.
  • Artificial Reef
    • Through reef regeneration by coral propagation and litter removal on our artificial reef structures we can aim to increase the coral reef size and health in the area, thus providing more habitat space for reef fish.
  • Marine Protected Area
    • Turtle towers, the house reef at Turtle Cove, became a marine protected area in November 2016. Volunteers are working to monitor the impact of the protection on marine life.
    • We work to explain the importance of the protected area to local fishermen and stop them fishing on that area of reef.

Volunteers receive comprehensive training to prepare them to undertake research-based activities at sea. This involves identification training for marine wildlife, including turtles, fish, corals and invertebrates. Volunteers are also taught the methodology of coral baseline surveying, a key skill in marine conservation as a universal approach to monitoring the state of coral reefs.

Volunteers participating on the Marine Conservation project must have an Open Water Dive Certification as well as an Advanced Open Water Dive Certification to survey. If you are applying for the Marine Conservation project in Madagascar, please specify whether you require any dive training. PADI diving courses can be completed with us in Madagascar at our MRCI Diving School.

Please note, this project has a minimum duration of 4 weeks to allow sufficient time to complete the dive and marine research training required to participate on the project.

All marine conservation volunteers are required to bring the following items to Madagascar, as these are not available for purchase on the island of Nosy Komba:

  • PADI crew packs / Manuals for the relevant course(s)
  • Snorkel and mask (with tempered glass)
  • Fins (open heel with booties are more comfortable for frequent use)
  • Wetsuit (long or short, 3mm minimum)
  • Surface marker buoy (DSMB)
  • Reel (a small finger reel will be adequate)
  • Waterproof watch
  • Dive compass
  • Log book

Visit our MRCI Diving School page for more information on our PADI diving courses.

For more information on our Marine Conservation Programs, contact us today!

Madagascar Volunteer Teaching English


Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute’s Teaching Program places volunteer English grammar, and English conversational teachers within the local schools and communities.

As volunteers work with the support of MRCI’s local team, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate, just a good understanding of the English language is required.

Teaching English in underprivileged communities can be an exceptionally rewarding experience for a volunteer with many advantages for the community and students alike.

Due to the growing number of tourists in Madagascar, there is a great demand among the island communities of Nosy Komba and Nosy Be to learn English in order to enhance their future job prospects within the local area.

Tourism contributes significantly to the local economy and by developing their English, locals are able to access a wider range of employment opportunities within this field. Despite this enthusiasm towards learning English, opportunities to learn the language from native speakers on the islands are scarce.

Volunteers in Madagascar have the opportunity to fuel this interest, taking English grammar and conversational lessons within local schools and communities. Volunteers in Madagascar will have the chance to teach English classes to students in small village schools on the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba, alongside delivering classes to adults in the local communities too.

Volunteers will also be able to provide classes to the staff members at the Oceanographic Research Institute on Nosy Be, where they will assist in establishing a good working knowledge of English, enhancing their ability to communicate ideas and collaborate scientific research findings internationally.

Volunteers will be briefed on all of the teaching placements on arrival, and provided with basic training to help equip them for teaching in the local communities. Due to the demand for English teachers on the islands, volunteers may find themselves working in all locations during their volunteer week.

Contact us for more information about our Teaching Programs.