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C3 Internship review – Megan Disley – Madagascar 2011

October 4, 2011

It’s quite a conundrum, finishing your undergraduate degree and knowing conservation is the career path you want to go down but all the jobs you look at require field experience, and where do you find that experience without volunteering with a gap year company? This was my position after graduating from my undergraduate degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology in 2009. Whilst searching for a solution I came across C3 and applied for an internship with them working inMadagascarand was accepted.

I have been very fortunate during my time with C3 to have been involved in all the amazing projects that are currently running. After completing health and safety tests and briefings I was thrown into the field work on my third day with a trip toNosyHaraMarineParkfor sea turtle nesting survey work which C3 are currently conducting inNorthern Madagascar. Sites are monitored every quarter with a project aim of collecting information the endangered sea turtles’ nesting sites and to use this information to help establish community based monitoring programmes. The islands of Nosy Hara Marine Park are beautiful with the camp set up right on beach front at Ampasindava where I learnt to sahafa rice and grate a coconut (which apparently now makes me marriage material in Madagascar!) as the sun set.

When I first arrived in the Diego office the other interns were already out in the field traveling around theNorth East coastconducting surveys for the SocMon project. Towards the end of their time in the field I joined them in Ambolobozobe where I had my first experience of sleeping on concrete floors and collecting water from the village wells, and my first walk behind (and ride on) a zebu and cart. Getting involved in the interviews was fascinating, giving a real insight into how people live inMadagascar, and everyone was so friendly and happy to provide information.

When not in the field there was plenty of work to keep me going in the Diego office (work levels do vary depending on the number of interns) from data entry and analysis to writing lectures for the Marine Resource Centre which C3 runs at the University of Antsiranana on a Friday afternoon which interns are welcome to attend.

Not all my time was spent working, free weekends were spent exploring Diego and its local beaches and nature reserves (Ramena, Emerald Bay, and Montagne d’Ambre) where I saw countless amounts of Madagascan wildlife: birds, chameleons, geckos, lemurs, and even an elusive fossa!

My second turtle surveying trip to Ampisikina was an interesting experience traveling by a rather delayed taxi brousse and what seemed like endless hours on a vedette, which we dubbed as a floating gargotte dropping off biscuits and beer to every village along the way, followed by a walk behind a zebu and cart, the journey in total taking an epic 48 hours to travel 50km as the bird flies. But for all the frustration that local transport can involve there really is no better way to seeMadagascar, after all the experience is in the journey!

I was also fortunate enough to be involved in the recent month long field trip to Sahamalaza National Park, which C3 were invited to visit for surveying and staff training. Between four locations we were taught about the behaviour of the Blue-eye Black Lemur, and surveying techniques for Reef Check, Seagrass Watch, and Mangrove surveying. It was an incredible opportunity for us to survey an area of Madagascar where no NGO have previous explored, having some amazing experiences along the way including seeing a green turtle chomping on seagrass, watching some amazing sun sets and sunrises, washing under a waterfall, and clambering through a muddy mangrove forest.

Not only have I gained invaluable field experience during my time with C3 (even now in my final week I am about to embark on another turtle survey trip to Nosy Hara Marine Park) and seen first hand the challenges of running an NGO in a developing country, I have worked with some fantastic people and had the opportunity to really experience the true culture of Madagascar seeing some incredible sights along the way!


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