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USM Voices: Follow recent grad Sam Matey on his journey to Madagascar

Sam Matey and colleagues in Madagascar

Sam Matey '19, Environmental Science, was recently featured in a video for USM's Commencement this May as one of our youngest graduates ever (at 18 years old). He shared the news that he had been selected to be a volunteer research assistant for the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP) and will be spending the next three months studying the lemur population in Madagascar with four other volunteers from the U.S., France and Germany, and documenting his work and adventures in his blog The Weekly Anthropocene.

In 2017, Sam began his blog, so-named because “Anthropocene” means "Age of Humans” in Greek. The title references Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen’s theory that the age we are living in is a new geologic epoch, and that the primary force shaping the planet is now humanity. Sam's blog posts typically provide an overview and commentary on environmental news worldwide, so it was only natural for him to utilize the platform to share his exciting new adventure in Madagascar.

Follow along on his journey by going to The Weekly Anthropocene and signing up to receive email reminders for new posts as they are published.

In Sam's first post upon his arrival in Madagascar on July 23, he shared his observations about the excitement of settling in to a country new to him, with new languages to master (he already speaks French, and is learning phrases in Malagasy, such as Misaotra besaka - thank you very much), new currency (the Malagasy ariary), food and culture.

His subsequent posts have included a wealth of fascinating observations on the important research he is doing, helping to document various members of lemur groups. He shared names of some of the lemurs they were observing, including “Lando” (after Lando Calrissian of Star Wars) their follow individual, a radio-collared male; “Luna,” (after Luna Lovegood of Harry Potter) a female with a young child; and “Juno,” (after the Roman goddess). He's also describing the physical aspects of tracking wildlife in the jungle, as well as his interactions with his fellow researchers and guides, and people from the local community.

In an earlier post, Sam shared information about the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership and background on the country’s unique biogeography. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, a nation about the size of California lying off the eastern coast of Africa. It is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, described as a “biologist’s paradise,” and “the naturalist’s promised land.” The lemur population, which only exists in Madagascar, is critically endangered, which makes the Partnership's work so vitally important.

LemursThe Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP) is a conservation organization affiliated with Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (OHDZA) and led by renowned primate geneticist Dr. Edward Louis. Over the last decade, it has become one of the most focused, innovative and effective conservation organizations in the world. MBP was founded by Dr. Louis in 2010, as a natural extension of the lemur research he had been conducting since 1998. It has a dual focus on species research and conservation, and community-led ecosystem regeneration.

The Partnership is always looking for volunteers with at least a bachelors degree in the biological or environmental sciences, to work on projects including habitat restoration/forest replanting and lemur monitoring. Find out more information about participating in this once-in-a-lifetime environmental research experience by visiting their web page or contacting them at genetics@omahazoo.com