Madagascar, Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction & Conservation

About the Program


How to Apply

Project Ideas



Dr. Laurie Godfrey

Dr. Godfrey is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on the ecology and evolution of Madagascar's lemurs, including both living lemurs and extinct lemurs. She has been conducting field work in Madagascar for 4 decades. Her work has included the recovery and description of extinct fossil lemurs, reconstruction of their lifestyles (ecology, life history, behavior, etc.) and documenting the ecological contraction of Madagascar's lemur communities resulting from recent lemur extinctions.

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Dr. Mitch Irwin

Dr. Irwin is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University. He has studied the ecology of living lemurs for more than 10 years, focusing on how habitat disturbance affects the ecology, behavior and health of individuals and populations. This work has included feeding ecology, nutrition, body mass and condition, and parasitology, mainly focusing on the diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema). He is also interested in how Madagascar’s abiotic and biotic environment has influenced the evolution of unusual lemur traits such as low activity levels, cathemerality and female dominance. Professor Irwin has been running a field project in Tsinjoarivo since 2000. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Irwin has also co-founded the NGO “SADABE” ( This organization is dedicated to promoting research, conservation, and development at Tsinjoarivo, in order to promote the healthy coexistence of humans and wildlife. SADABE’s activities have included reforestation, pisciculture, apiculture, dental clinics, and health workshops for women and children.

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Kristen Alldredge

Kristen Alldredge is a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Anthropology. She first traveled to Madagascar in 2009 as part of a team of researchers studying the behavior and diet of the critically endangered silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus) in Marojejy National Park. After 10 months of chasing lemurs up and down (but mostly up) mountains, she returned to the US to complete a Masters with Dr. Laurie Godfrey on body mass evolution in Malagasy mammals. Her current interests include lemur disease ecology and surveying bioecological health using DNA extracted from ectoparasites. She is planning to attend veterinary school in 2013 to study conservation medicine in the hopes of continuing health-focused conservation efforts in Madagascar. She has taught a stand-alone honors colloquium on Methods in Primate Behavior, TAed the 2012 UMass-SADABE Madagascar Field School, and currently TAs for Human Origins and Variation.



Dr. Karen Samonds

Karen Samonds received her PhD from Stony Brook University in 2006 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University. Her research integrates comparative anatomy, systematics, and biogeography with field paleontology to address topics in vertebrate evolution. Her primary research aim has been to shed light on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna, one of the most unique and endemic on the planet. How, when, and from where the island’s animals came from has remained largely unknown due to a 65 million year gap in the fossil record that occurs during the time when the modern animals are thought to have arrived. In addition to her research and teaching, she is one of the three co-founders of SADABE and acts as international coordinator for SADABE and for the women's group at Mahatsinjo, Taratra Reny sy Zaza.

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