Endangered species as food; interdisciplinary approaches to stemming biodiversity loss and food insecurity

Project Details


The Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences offers postdoctoral research fellowships to provide opportunities for recent doctoral graduates to obtain additional training, to gain research experience under the sponsorship of established scientists, and to broaden their scientific horizons beyond their undergraduate and graduate training. Postdoctoral fellowships are further designed to assist new scientists to direct their research efforts across traditional disciplinary lines and to avail themselves of unique research resources, sites, and facilities, including at foreign locations. This postdoctoral fellowship supports a rising scientist in the interdisciplinary area of food security and biodiversity. Although biodiversity and poverty are intimately related, surprisingly few scientists have quantitatively investigated how ecosystem health and human health affect each other. An integrated approach to studying humans and their environment can strengthen both conservation and public health policy to align goals and create potential scenarios of co-benefits from interventions. This postdoctoral fellowship will provide funds to expand the disciplinary breadth of a trained anthropologist to explore interdisciplinary approaches to stem biodiversity loss and stabilize food security in a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to training a female scientist from the United States, this project creates educational opportunities for a doctoral student from Madagascar and several local Malagasy research assistants. This project has the potential to directly improve child health and the future of endangered species in one of the most threatened and food insecure habitats on earth. It advances the progress of science by informing the decision making of conservation and public health policy-makers by providing much needed information on the dynamic interactions between ecosystems and human health, and the human incentives that drive the illegal hunting of endangered species. Further, it translates these interdisciplinary scientific findings into applied integrated conservation and public health action on the Masoala to advance the health and welfare of both people and forests.

During this project, the research team is designing, applying, and testing the effects of an interdisciplinary conservation and human health action plan in on the Masoala Peninsula of Madagascar, a UNESCO world heritage site. The three-phase multi-disciplinary project aims specifically to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods from anthropology, political economy, conservation biology, ecology, and public health to complete a rigorous interdisciplinary study of human incentives, human health, hunting behavior (including illegal harvest), ecosystem characteristics, and wildlife population dynamics (including five endangered species). Over 24 months at 14 sites, this research team is quantifying the dynamic interactions between the health of forests, people, and endangered species by: interviewing members of over 400 households about their health, resource use, and livelihoods; measuring the health of over 2,000 people through anthropometry and hemoglobin sampling; monitoring the daily behavior of five focal hunters; monitoring forest ecology at 150 habitat plots; and surveying ten lemur species in 140 regional transects and across a trans-peninsula transect of over 110 aerial kilometers. Using these data the team is building a system dynamics model of human-forest-lemur interactions to design and simulate the effects of an integrated human-health and conservation action plan. This action plan is being implemented in 7 test communities to attempt to solve issues of increasing human-wildlife conflict and to determine whether there are possibilities for co-beneficial objectives of conservation and public health intervention.

Effective start/end date1/06/1531/05/17


  • National Science Foundation: $194,028.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.