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Duke Engage
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The Duke Engage program is a unique opportunity for Duke undergraduates to acquire service project experience,
either in the US or abroad, with financial support from the university. The normally 8-week duration projects can be
undertaken either as a group or independently, but must be partnered with an NGO that is working on the ground lo-
cally. I think of the projects as a mini-Peace Corps experience – except that each student must file an application, not
unlike a grant proposal, with the Engage office. The proposals are carefully reviewed and evaluated and, if deemed
worthy, the student will receive complete funding from Engage to carry out their service adventure, some of which are
in remote corners of the world. Most students that take advantage of the program do so in the summer between their
sophomore and junior years.
SAVA Conservation accepted our first two Duke Engage students this past summer, Sophia Staal and Cameron Tripp.
Sophia worked with the fish farming initiative, and Cameron mapped Desiré Rabary’s Antanetiambo Reserve and ob-
served the bamboo lemurs there. We were pleasantly surprised at how productive both Cameron and Sophia were in
the short 8-week period that they spent on their individual projects. Volunteers can often be more of a hindrance than
truly helpful, but our two Engagers made very real contributions to the project. We are grateful to both Sophia and
Cameron for the tangible results they produced. Rather than continue on here about their projects, please read their
own accounts of the time they spent with us in Madagascar.
When I was told that the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) was looking to partner with
two Duke Engage students for a summer service project, I knew it was meant to
be. As an Evolutionary Anthropology-French double major, Madagascar was the
perfect location for me to complete my Duke Engage Independent Project – I
would be able to practice my French while also partnering with the DLC’s SAVA
Conservation Project. Of course, I wasted little time sending an email to Charlie
Welch and Dr. Erik Patel indicating my interest. When I was told that I had been
accepted into the project, I was ecstatic, but also so nervous. As you can imagine,
northeastern Madagascar isn’t your typical summer break destination.
My project took place in the heart of the SAVA region, in the rural town of
Andapa where much of the DLC’s SAVA Conservation Project’s work takes place.
The majority of my project took place in Antanetiambo Nature Reserve
where I developed several maps of the reserve,
from a detailed boundary map to several vegetation surveys, in which I mapped
areas of deforestation, eucalyptus, and bamboo forest. I was also able to take
GPS points at each of the small households in close proximity to the reserve, as
well as conduct interviews to establish a record of family names, occupancy
numbers, number of children, etc. These maps will be used in the future to
obtain legal title for the reserve and to establish whether the bamboo lemurs preferentially avoid certain high
deforested areas. I also helped train local guides in GPS use and helped to standardize data collection methods.
An Adventurous Summer of Service in Northeastern Madagascar!
By Cameron Tripp
Sophia and Cameron with their guide,
translator, and general
expert on everything, Jackson.