Meredith Semel

Biological Sciences

Meredith joined the Moore lab in the fall of 2016 as a PhD student. Her primary research focus is on the impact of habitat loss and human encroachment on the conservation of the critically endangered golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli). 

Prior to starting graduate school, Meredith received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Queens University of Charlotte in 2014. While at Queens, she sought opportunities to enhance her knowledge of field research and how cultural differences impact worldwide conservation successes. After graduating, Meredith gained additional knowledge of the amalgamation of wildlife conservation and indigenous people. 

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She worked as a research assistant at Lajuma Research Centre in South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains studying the behavioral ecology of leopard and baboon interactions. Meredith then went on to work in Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar to examine the feeding ecology of two rainforest lemur species. During her time at Tsinjoarivo, Meredith witnessed the necessity of compromise between local individuals, visiting and Malagasy scientists, and government officials to ensure the successful conservation of not only Madagascar’s wildlife but also its people. Her experiences inspired her to pursue research that provides insights into the way lemurs cope with the independent as well as synergistic effects of habitat fragmentation, resource limitation, and an ever-increasing human population.

Since arriving at VT, Meredith has conducted four field seasons in northeastern Madagascar focusing on the ranging behavior, diet, and stress physiology of golden-crowned sifaka. During these field seasons she has formed lasting relationships with Malagasy NGOs + local community members, collected a tent full of lemur poop, and recently received funding to construct the Fanilo Outreach Center in Daraina, Madagascar. Meredith has also been working with the Duke Lemur Center, which houses the largest colony of lemurs outside of Madagascar, to investigate the physiological health of their (~30) captive sifaka in regard to husbandry conditions. Lastly, Meredith works with a team of engineers, computer scientists, biologists, and industrial designers from VT and JMU to design and construct novel proximity collars to remotely study the social behavior of lemurs (and other wildlife).

Meredith enjoys the creative and collaborative environment of the IGC program and how the program fosters interdisciplinary protocols that incorporate ecological, economic, and political processes to maintain viable ecosystems and manage global threats. Being a fellow of the IGC program has been instrumental in helping Meredith learn about the intricacies of maintaining effective collaborations with diverse teams, working alongside stakeholders, and effectively communicating her work to a broad audience. Specifically, IGC training allows fellows to critically evaluate the policy implications of their research and understand the true importance of teamwork when it comes to solving complex issues.

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