One Cubic Foot Madagascar

This month, the Zoo Society will continue its conservation science initiative One Cubic Foot in Madagascar, the large island nation off the coast of southeast Africa.

The team

The One Cubic Foot team is comprised of photographer and environmentalist David Liittschwager and his team; Zoo Society directors; and Smithsonian Institution scientists. They will begin arriving on the African island later this week, and most will stay for two weeks. This multi-discipline, collaborative team will document the unique biodiversity of Madagascar, an ecosystem home to thousands of animal species found nowhere else in the world, using the same technique Liittschwager has used everywhere from Costa Rica to Central Park during the last decade. Last summer, he replicated One Cubic Foot in Rochester’s Genesee River in partnership with the Zoo Society.

The privately funded trip to Madagascar will create a unique educational experience for students from Rochester’s Allendale Columbia School. 15 students selected through a rigorous application process will assist the One Cubic Foot team with field work, data collection, and research in an area of federally protected land in Ranomafana National Park.

The process

As featured in his book A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity and by National Geographic, Liittschwager records every plant and animal species that moves in and out of a one cubic foot frame set into nature throughout the course of a day. He then creates a photographic portrait of the rich biodiversity found there, highlighting the ecosystem’s resilience, challenges and beauty.

For two decades, the Zoo Society has supported the conservation work of Ranomafana’s Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments, led by world-renowned Madagascar conservation expert Dr. Patricia Wright. Dr. Wright has been a driving force of the conservation of many endangered species in Madagascar, including ring-tailed lemurs, a species currently represented at the Zoo.

The conservation science

Like One Cubic Foot in the Genesee River, which contributed meaningful data to the scientific record and 28 newly-documented species to an international DNA barcoding database, the project in Madagascar is expected to yield important insights about the biodiversity in Ranomafana National Park. An estimated 30% of the DNA barcodes collected could be new to the database.

Along with Chris Meyer, Research Zoologist and Curator at the Smithsonian Institution, Liittschwager, the Zoo Society’s Executive Director Pamela Reed Sanchez, and Director of Programming and Conservation Action Tom Snyder will monitor the primary cube while Allendale Columbia School students monitor their own supplemental cubes.

Connect with One Cubic Foot Madagascar

Read journal updates from the field.

Follow the Zoo and #OneCubicFoot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Follow the Zoo’s new conservation Twitter account for day-to-day updates from Madagascar.