Research in Kirindy focuses on multiple species, addresses a variety of topics and involves an international team of researchers, students and research assistants. This approach requires a broad palette of research methods.
The core of our research focuses on animal behavior. As such, observations of habituated animals that are individually marked with collars or tail shaves, sometimes assisted by radio-telemetry to follow them in the dense forest, constitute our main tools.
Specifically, we often conduct focal animal sampling to contribute to our growing understanding of how animals deal with their day-to-day problems.
We also record animal movements using GPS and radio-tracking, and we perform field experiments, for instance by confronting animals with new or specific situations, and observing their reactions to study their cognitive abilities.
We regularly capture our study subjects to monitor their growth, health and reproductive status, to mark them or to obtain biological samples (such as morphometric measurements, fur or tissue biopsies for DNA sampling.
To understand how animals cope with their environment, we further monitor the forest in Kirindy by conducting regular phenology surveys or by documenting the evolution of deforestation using satellite imaging.
Beyond examining how each individual deals with his conspecifics and environment on a daily basis, we also aim to understand processes occurring over generations and across species. Monitoring individual presence regularly in each group in group-living species, or trapping small nocturnal lemurs regularly in a given area over years allows us to document long-term demographic trends. Genetic analyses tell us how individuals transmit their genes from one generation to the next, or which species are most closely related. Long-term studies combining behavioral, ecological and genetic data represent unique and essential resources to address fundamental evolutionary questions at multiple scales, including the species, community, population, group or individual level. Thus, we are interested in why species have diverged, how species interact with each other, or how environmental and social influences shape animal behavior, physiology, and cognitive abilities.
It is an absolute priority rule that our research does not impact any aspect of the wellbeing of our study subjects, which are all species of high conservation concern. In this context, we take maximal care to ensure that our research is harmless to animals by using non-invasive methods wherever possible. Beyond this, we ensure that all our protocols comply with ethic requirements of authoritative organisms and associations, such as the Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Behavioural Research and Teaching (Animal Behaviour 2006, 71:245-253), the provisions of the German Animal Protection Law (Tierschutzgesetz) and the legal requirements of Madagascar. For these reasons, we have secured legal approval for conducting field research and obtaining CITES permits from Malagasy authorities (facilitated by cooperation treaties with the University of Antananarivo and the Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Eau et des Forêts, as well as from the Federal Nature Conservation Agency (Bundesamt für Naturschutz) in Germany. Finally, all conservation-related results of our research are shared with government agencies in Madagascar (e.g. MEEFT, CNFEREF) as well as with local NGOs (e.g. CNFEREF).