Discoveries in Madagascar: Anthropology Major Kyle Murray Finds Rare Lemur and New Career Path

Posted on 10/3/2014 9:14:36 AM

Golden bamboo lemur

Spotted! A rare golden bamboo lemur

Kyle Murray at field school in MadagascarIn the wilds of Madagascar, Kyle Murray lags behind the other students in the field school. He just wants one more photo, one more minute to observe the group of ring-tailed lemurs they encountered.

The only anthropology major amidst biology majors, Murray, then a senior, was usually the last one to move on when they found lemurs. About 100 species of this primate live around Madagascar, and many of them are endangered.

“I had an interest in primates, but I hadn’t made that my career goal until I went to Madagascar. I’ve definitely gained a lot from it,” said Murray, who is from Douglassville, Pennsylvania and is a May 2015 graduate of IUP.

Anthropology professor Amanda Poole helped put Murray on the path to primatology. When he couldn’t find an internship that fit his interests, she found one that fit him perfectly: a five-week field school based in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar.

With the help of a grant from the Cook Honors College Achievement Fund, Murray made the leap to study abroad.

Each day, along with several hours of class time, Murray spent six or more hours in the rainforest doing research. 

He and his fellow students trapped small mammals, testing their blood and bodily fluids before marking and releasing them. His first night there, they handled about 70 small mammals.

Murray was part of the research team when a parasite was discovered on a small sampling of the subjects. This was a new finding in the research, which has been conducted every other summer for several years.

In his rainforest treks, Murray saw spiders that were bigger than his hand and a nine-foot tree boa, but one creature topped them all.

“We ran into a golden bamboo lemur unexpectedly,” he said. “There are only maybe a few hundred left.” 

“This moment was very special,” said Murray. “This was something so rare. There’s a feeling I get when I look into a primate’s eyes — I kind of feel a closeness, genetically and biologically.”

—Marilyn Kukula, IUP Communications and Marketing Office; photos courtesy of Kyle Murray