Pfeiffer group studying endangered animal in Madagascar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pfeiffer University News Service
MISENHEIMER ó What began as a mere curiosity for a Pfeiffer University professor has quickly led to extraordinary advances in the fields of conservation and ecology.
Dr. Luke Dollar, assistant professor of biology at Pfeiffer and one of eight 2007 National Geographic “Emerging Explorers,” has returned to Madagascar this summer to continue conducting unique research that has garnered him international acclaim.
On a trip that began in mid-June and ends Tuesday, Dollar and his team have worked in Madagascar with two top priorities ó science and conservation. They are driven by their curiosity about the most unique, yet endangered animals and ecosystems on Earth. And they are rapidly expanding the knowledge base and natural history of Madagascar.
Accompanying Dollar is an extensive research team of nearly 20 people, including a New York veterinarian, an electrical engineering and computer science student from the University of California at Berkeley, two Pfeiffer biology students and one recent biology graduate.
Dollar’s research on the fossa (pronounced FOO-suh), a distant relative to the mongoose found only in the jungles of Madagascar, came about quite unintentionally.
His interest began on the African island while a Duke University undergraduate research assistant studying lemurs more than a decade ago. Dollar’s curiosity with the fossa was piqued when a lemur he was researching disappeared. Its radio collar and bits of fur were all that were found.
A Malagasy guide put Dollar on the trail of the fossa, which feeds on lemurs. Thus began tireless hours of tracking the unusual ó and virtually unknown ó creature in often-relentless conditions.
Through his extensive investigations, dozens of treks to Africa and his willingness to share his ever-growing knowledge on the subject, Dollar has helped to shine a light on an animal that very few even knew existed.
National Geographic and others recognize Dollar not only for his groundbreaking research on the rare and mysterious species, but also for his efforts to prevent the fossa from becoming extinct. Dollar and his teams also work diligently with the Malagasy people to educate them about the destruction of deforestation and ways to sustain their natural resources instead of destroying animal habitats.
For more information about Dollar’s research, visit the “Fate of the Fossa in Madagascar” blog written by the ecologist and his team at