International Research and Professional Development Experience for Students on the Ecology and Conservation of Wildlife in Nosy Be, MadagascarThe proposed research and professional development program will take place in Madagascar, one of the highest priority biodiversity hotspots in the world, with levels of endemism unmatched by any other country. The research goal of this program is to characterize the status of Nosy Be Island's endangered and charismatic terrestrial and marine species and identify the threats driving their declines. The research team of local and international researchers will train undergraduate students from the US and Madagascar to use a variety of wildlife research methods and social science surveys. Using these acquired skills, students will generate critical data on the conservation status of endangered marine and terrestrial species, including primates (lemurs), sea turtles, and dolphins. During this 3-year project students will, along with mentor, develop an understanding of the drivers of wildlife declines and design sustainable programs to protect them. Science-based management is particularly important in Madagascar because terrestrial and marine ecosystems are experiencing alarming rates of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction in the face of food security challenges to local human populations. This project will create opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from both countries to adapt field methods to research questions in the context of generating cost-effective data to achieve sustainable conservation goals. Most importantly, this program will produce cohorts of highly trained scientists in the field of conservation biology with a deep understanding of real-world challenges.Generating baseline ecological data on rare and charismatic endangered species is critical for conservation and wildlife management, particularly in data-poor areas where conflicts between human activities and biodiversity are acute. All research projects will address at least one of three objectives: (1) assess the critical habitats and density trends of six endangered flagship species, including three lemurs, one species of cetacean and one species of sea turtle, (2) investigate the environmental drivers of their abundance and their decline, and (3) assess the impact of potential mitigation measures. Each cohort of students (6 students per year) will base their research questions on the findings of previous cohorts, enabling us to develop a comprehensive understanding of the causes of decline and measures to preserve Nosy Be's wildlife. This research and professional development program has four stages: 1) pre-field training at Florida International University, 2) data collection in Madagascar, 3) data-analysis and reporting at FIU and 4) future-cohort input and supervision where students will share their experiences and support new cohorts. During field activities, students will be trained to 1) use standard methods to rapidly assess the conservation status of endangered species in the field and 2) use a combination of field and social science survey methods to conduct animal assessments. During class activities students will be trained to 1) write research proposals and field protocols, 2) use advanced statistical methods to analyze field data, 3) write technical and non-technical publications, 4) do oral presentations of their research, and 5) collaborate and mentor other students. Ultimately, this research program will provide critical data on the conservation status of endangered marine and terrestrial wildlife in Nosy Be, Madagascar, and will provide students with key research and conservation skills.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.