Sambirano Lemur Project

In the Sambirano region, along the northwestern coast of Madagascar, rainforest transitions into dry deciduous forest. This rainfall gradient, or ecotone, is remarkably biodiverse. There are two species of black lemur living on a climate gradient in northwestern Madagascar. The black lemur (Eulemur macaco; pictured above) lives in evergreen rainforest, which rapidly transitions into hotter, drier blue-eyed black lemur (E. flavifrons) habitat. I study how the blue-eyed black lemur adapted to this new environment at a genomic level.

Understanding what happens to lemur species when they shift to hotter and drier niches gives us a window onto how lemurs might respond to climate change. I look for changes in adaptive and neutral genes in both species as they relate to different climatic variables. I’m also interested in how these two species became distinct from one another – did a river separate them, or did adapting to different parts of the ecotone do so? In the course of this work, I'll assess genetic diversity and identify any isolated populations. Once I'm finished, I will share this information with Madagascar National Parks and local NGOs, who are working to conserve these Critically Endangered (E. flavifrons) and Endangered (E. macaco) species.

I also worked with the Tropical Conservation Institute at Florida International University to document the insular lemur populations on Nosy Be.

Ecological Niche Modeling

Madagascar has experienced extensive deforestation in the last century. I'm using ecological niche models to identify pockets of remaining lemur habitat throughout the island and to understand how climate change is going to impact this habitat. I'm also interested in whether lemurs will be able to disperse to to suitable climatic areas as they shift over time.