Madagascar, Past and Present: Biodiversity, Extinction & Conservation

About the Program


How to Apply

Project Ideas



Dr. Mitch Irwin

Dr. Irwin is an Associate 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) and the brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus). 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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Dr. Karen Samonds

Karen Samonds received her PhD from Stony Brook University in 2006 and is currently an Associate 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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Jean-Luc Raharison

Mr. Raharison, the executive director of SADABE, earned his master’s degree in primatology from the University of Antananarivo in 2001, a study of bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur griseus) at Ranomafana National Park. He has worked with Dr. Irwin and Dr. Samonds at Tsinjoarivo since 2001, and is one of the three co-founders of SADABE. He is responsible for field research operations at Tsinjoarivo, as well as overseeing logistical functions needed to run the NGO.