Master’s degree candidate Brian Gerber has worked with Sarah Karpanty as a graduate teaching assistant and participated in her research, involving both Virginia Barrier Islands shorebirds and the Madagascar project, since he began his studies at Virginia Tech in fall 2007.
This work, along with his perfect grade point average, recently earned Gerber a grant from Virginia Tech’s chapter of the scientific research society Sigma Xi as well as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, which provides three years of funding for him to pursue his research interests.
These interests have already taken Gerber to research sites around the globe. He has worked as a wildlife research technician in places such as Thailand, Angola, and South Africa.
Research in such locales is expensive, however, so Gerber and his wife, Belita Marine, who is also a wildlife research technician, have confined most of their work to projects in the United States since Gerber received his bachelor’s degree in 2000.
The NSF Fellowship has given Gerber more freedom, enabling him to spend six months in Madagascar last year using trail cameras to research habitat preferences and estimate populations of fossa, Malagasy civet, ring-tailed mongoose, and broad-striped mongoose, which are predators of the lemur.
“Lemur research has spanned decades, but carnivores are more difficult,” Gerber said. “They are rare or elusive, or both. We don’t have good numbers, and if we are going to conserve these animals, we need the numbers. It’s time to go to the next level of research.”