ASC Alumna Conducts Field Studies in Madagascar

Lindsey Campana in MadagascarThe afterword of the novel Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen pays homage to two famous circus elephants-Topsy and Old Mom for their intelligence and courage.

But long before the novel made its way up the bestseller list, Lindsey Campana, Centerville, ASC class of 2006, liberal arts and sciences/math and science, had a passion for elephants. 

She thinks this passion for pachyderms began when she was a child, watching a Fisher-Price video which followed the activities of a zoo keeper who cared for elephants.  From then on, she chose a path which would lead her to her life's dream.

After graduating from Alfred State College, Lindsey transferred to SUNY Geneseo where she's majoring in biology.  As part of her education in this area, Lindsey has spent time learning how to perform field research methods which, she believes, will benefit her future career.

Recently, (September through November 2007) Lindsey spent 2 ½ months on the island of Madagascar, off the southern tip of Africa, studying the native animals of that island.

"We arrived at the tail end of the dry season," Lindsey notes, "where the weather seemed to go in four-day cycles:  for four days it would be dry and sunny; then for four days it would be drizzling and foggy.  By the time we left in November, it was the beginning of the wet season when it would be sunny, hot, and dry until 2 p.m. and then there would be a downpour until 6 or 7 p.m.

"The people of Madagascar were genuine, hospitable, and friendly," Lindsey recalls of her time on the island. 

"We lived in tents, but had our meals communally" (there were 19 American students, three Malagasy students, four teaching assistants, and a residence coordinator).  The meals, cooked by native workers, were "mostly rice-based with cooked veggies and voanjobory beans, a native legume.  When we traveled to the west coast, there was a lot of fish in our meals as well."

Although Lindsey was mostly based in the eastern rainforest of Ranomafana National Park, the group took a 10-day cross-country tip to see all the ecosystems Madagascar had to offer:  rainforest, desert, and beaches.

Each participating student conducted a field research project while in Madagascar; Lindsey's was the effect of stream current on the species richness and abundance of frogs.  Because the species of frogs Lindsey studied are nocturnal, Lindsey and her guide needed to venture out at night to sample in two different stream locales. Lindsey found, based on her study of two types of streams, cascading and stagnant, that only some species were more abundant near the cascading waters. Her results show that frog distributions may be more dependent on egg-laying site preference than on predator avoidance.  

"I think I want to work with elephants before I begin my graduate studies," notes Lindsey, "just to make sure I really do love them as much as I think I do.  That's why I want to spend a month at the Riddles Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Arkansas, which houses Asian elephants and African elephants, both males and females."

The Riddles Web site notes that "Elephant care and elephant management are taught at this elephant haven in the peaceful Arkansas countryside. Programs include Elephant Experience Weekends and an annual International School for Elephant Management. Major goals of the sanctuary include the care of the resident elephant herd, but also elephant conservation in general, helping to ensure the long-term survival of these magnificent and highly endangered species."

Campana's frog researchWhatever species Lindsey decides to devote her career to, it's a sure bet that species will be better for having received her devotion.