This past week has been busy at Centre ValBio, with more researchers, students, and teachers joining the group here. Talking to each person reveals a wide variety of occupations and interests that have traveled from all over the world to pursue their goals in Madagascar. There are many students here from Stony Brook, starting out on the same program that I first did on my trip in 2014. Researchers here mostly focus on lemurs or other aspects of the biodiversity of Ranomafana National Park. There is also a number of people working on improving education for local children. A children’s radio show is being developed here, and CVB regularly hosts kids for group activities to teach them about the importance of preserving Madagascar’s unique environment from harmful practices that are too common in this region, such as slash and burn agriculture. I’ve really enjoyed interacting with all of these people and will continue to track the progress on various research and community outreach projects.
Last Sunday I was able to take the group of students from Stony Brook on a kayak tour. Together with our terrific Malagasy guides, we set off on a 4 mile paddle, beginning in the village of Ranomafana and being picked up by a car at the conclusion of our 2.5 hour tour. The kayaks travel only one direction, downstream in the river, so even novice kayakers were able to take some rests and still float towards our destination. The students had a great time taking a break from all of the lectures they’ve been enduring so far. I’m sure in their free time going forward many of them would like to try the other kayak circuit, which is more surrounded by rainforest (and animals) than the village route, which is more open, and provides wide-ranging views of Ranomafana and the mountains that surround us here.
This week I also took a car from CVB with Pascal, the national director of the facility to the east coast of Madagascar. The town we visited is called Mananjary, and is located about 100 miles from Ranomafana. On the roads in Madagascar, this drive took us about 3 hours each way. There is a long span of beachfront just behind the main road of Mananjary, though we didn’t go to play in the sand. Pascal and I arranged a meeting with the CEO of a local essential oils business to see what things are working for them and what is not. The man we met with, who is also named Pascal, was very accommodating and happy to show us around and speak with us for a few hours. We also brought two technicians who work on our steam distillation machine in Ranomafana. They were able to gain valuable insight into the process of extracting the oils from plants by assisting our host’s technicians during our meeting. After lunch and a very quick stop to take a look at the beach, we returned to the place of business, where Pascal and I were presented with a sample of essential oil produced from ginger. It was a great day and I gained a good connection for myself and my oils project.