Research Projects

Mad Dog Initiative: Controlling feral dogs to conserve Madagascar's wildlife


Through a collaboration with Kim Valenta (McGill University), Sarah Zohdy (Auburn University), Zoavina Randriana (SOS Madagascar), and Tsiky Rajaonarivelo (SOS Madagascar) we are undertaking a capture, vaccinate, spay/neuter, and relocation project for feral dogs across Madagascar. We are investigating the impact of feral dogs on carnivore and lemur populations through photographic surveys, line transect sampling, and population modeling. In particular, we will look to see how the presence and removal of feral dogs impacts carnivore and lemur population parameters, as well as co-occurrence and activity patterns.

Effects of poaching, fragmentation, & exotic species on carnivore and lemur populations across Masoala-Makira landscape, Madagascar.

For the past seven years I have been using non-invasive methods to survey carnivore (camera trapping) and lemur (line-transect sampling) populations across a gradient of degraded and fragmented forests in Madagascar's largest protected area complex. My research has provided the first long-term assessment of carnivore populations and highlighted the growing threat posed to endemic wildlife in Madagascar as the result of an influx of exotic species. I am collaborating with Asia Murphy as we use these data to also look at fossa density, using mark-resight models, and changes in species richness across the landscape.Through a collaboration with Chris Golden (Harvard University) we are combining bushmeat data from his expansive surveys across Makira NP with my on-going surveys of carnivores and lemurs.

Wildlife interactions: Investigating spatial and temporal co-occurrence, activity

I have been using single and multi-season surveys to investigate the spatial and temporal overlap in species. In particular, I am interested in how exotic carnivores impact the activity patterns and ranging behavior of endemic species. Multi-season surveys of carnivores allow me to investigate the process that occurs as exotic carnivores are introducedand become more widespread.

IUCN Red List Contributions

Using our long-term data on Madagascar's native carnivore community I collaborated with researchers to update the IUCN conservation status of six of Madagascar's carnivores.

Fosa C. ferox,  Spotted fanaloka F. fossana, Fanaloka E. goudotii, Ring-tailed vontsira G. elegans, Broad-striped vontsira G. fasciata, and Brown-tailed vontsira Salanoia concolor

Eastern Shore barrier island predator project

In collaboration with researchers from the Nature Conservancy and Virginia Tech I am investigating invasive predator populations at Parramore Island on the Eastern Shore, VA. We are monitoring wildlife via camera traps to estimate population parameters and interactions so we can evaluate the effectiveness of a predator control program. This project has wide-ranging implications for managers working to protect threatened and endangered shorebirds along the Eastern Shore.


Multi-variate niche models to estimate co-occurrence between toxic toad and native carnivores 

I am collaborating with Kerry Brown and Steig Johnson using ecological niche modeling to investigate the incipient invasion of the Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) along Madagascar's eastern rainforest and investigate the level of co-occurrence with Madagascar's six eastern, native carnivores. We are using data across multiple eastern rainforest sites to evaluate the conservation risks posed to these endemic wildlife.



Davis C., Rich L., Farris Z.J., et al. (2018). Exploring variables driving global carnivore spatial co-occurrence patterns. Ecology Letters.

Murphy A., Gerber B., Kelly M.J., Karpanty S.,Ratelolahy F., and Farris Z.J. (2018). Making the most of sparse data to estimate density of a rare and threatened species: a case study with the fosa, a little-studied Malagasy carnivore. Animal Conservation.

Rasambainarivo F., Andrianalizah H., Farris Z.J, and Parker P. (2017). Interactions between carnivores in Madagascar and the risk of disease transmission. EcoHealth, 14(4): 691-703.


Farris Z.J., Gerber B., Valenta K., Rafaliarison R., Razafimahaimodison JC, Larney E., Hariniaina T., Randriana Z., Wright P.C., and Chapman C.A. (2017). Threats to a rainforest carnivore community: a multi-year assessment of occupancy and co-occurrence in Madagascar. Biological Conservation 210: 116-124.

Rich L., Davis C., Farris Z.J., et al. (2017). Assessing global patterns in carnivore occupancy and richness by integrating local camera trap surveys. Global Change Biology 26 (8): 918-929.

Murphy A., Farris Z.J., Karpanty S., Kelly M.J., Miles K., Ratelolahy F., Rahariniaina R., and Golden C. (2017). Using camera traps to examine distribution and occupancy trends of ground-dwelling rainforest birds in north-eastern Madagascar. Bird Conservation International 4:1-14.

Farris Z.J., Gerber B., Karpanty S., Kelly M.J., Ratelolahy F. (In press). Spatio-temporal interactions between a native and exotic carnivore in NE Madagascar: Evidence of spatial exclusion. In Small Carnivores: Evolution, Ecology, Behavior, and Conservation. Eds. E.D.L. San, J.J. Sato, J.L. Belant, & M.J. Somers. Wiley-Blackwell (Oxford).

Rasambainarivo F., Andrianalizah H., Farris Z.J, and Parker P. (In Press). Spatial and temporal interactions between native and exotic carnivores in Betampona Natural Reserve, Madagascar: implications for disease transmission. Submitted to EcoHealth.


Farris Z.J., Kelly M., Karpanty S., Murphy A., Andrianjakarivelo V.,Ratelolahy F., and Holmes C. (2016). The times are a changin': Native and exotic multi-season occupancy across Makira Natural Park, Madagascar. Biological Conservation 206: 320-328.

Valenta K., Gettinger-Larson J., Chapman C., and Z.J. Farris. (2016). Barking up the
right tree: Understanding local attitudes towards dogs in villages surrounding Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar can benefit applied conservation. Madagascar Conservation & Development

Murphy A., Farris Z.J., Karpanty S., Andrianjakarivelo V., and Kelly M.J. (2016). An unstable prey base: landscape and cross-year occupancy trends of three spiny tenrec (Lipotyphla: Tenrecidae: Tenrecinae) species in northeastern Madagascar. Journal of Mammalogy.

*Brown K., Farris Z.J., Yesuf G., Gerber B., Rasambainarivo F., Karpanty S., Kelly M., Razafimahaimodison J.C., Larney E., Wright P., Johnson S. (2016). Assessing the potential co-occurrence of the introduced Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) with endemic carnivores in Madagascar. Biodiversity and Conservation.

*Dual first author

Murphy A., Farris Z.J., Karpanty S., Andrianjakarivelo V., and Kelly M.J. (2016). Flagships in Peril: Habitat Degradation and Trends in Lemur Population Dynamics in Northeastern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology.


Farris Z.J., Golden, C., Kelly M.J., Karpanty S., Murphy, A., Andrianjakarivelo V.,Ratelolahy F., Holmes C., and Stauffer, D. (2015). Effects of hunting, exotic carnivores, micro-habitat, and landscape features on carnivore occupancy across the Masoala-Makira landscape, Madagascar. Plos One (Link)

Farris Z.J., Kelly M., Karpanty S., Ratelolahy F., and Holmes C. (2015). Patterns of spatial co-occurrence among native and exotic carnivores in Madagascar. Animal Conservation (Link)

Farris Z.J., Gerber B., Kelly M.J., Karpanty S., Murphy, F., and Andrianjakarivelo V., (2015). When carnivores roam: temporal patterns and partitioning among Madagascar’s native and exotic carnivores. Journal of Zoology (Link)

Farris Z.J., Boone H., Karpanty S., Kelly M., and Murphy A. (2015). Feral cats and the fitoaty: first population assessment of the black forest cat in Madagascar’s rainforests. Journal of Mammalogy. (Link)


Farris Z.J., Karpanty S., Ratelolahy F., and Kelly M.J. (2014). Predator-primate distribution, activity, and co-occurrence in relation to habitat and human activity across fragmented and contiguous forests in northeastern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology (Link)

Farris Z.J. (2014). Response of Madagascar's endemic carnivores to fragmentation, hunting, and exotic carnivores across the Masoala-Makira landscape, NE Madagascar. Doctoral Dissertation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. (Link)



Farris Z.J., Kelly M., Andrianjakarivelo V.,Ratelolahy F., Karpanty S., and Holmes C (2012). Confirmation of Brown-tailed mongoose (Salanoia concolor) across Makira Protected Area: Photographic evidence from camera trapping. Small Carnivore Conservation. Vol. 47: 82–86. (Link)


Farris Z.J. (2012). Keeping a Field Notebook: A Review of Canfield, Michael R., editor. Field notes on science & nature. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Journal of Ecology. (Link)

Sefczek, T.L., Farris, Z.J., and Wright, P. (2012). Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) feeding strategies at Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar: An indirect sampling method. Folia Primatologica 83(1):1-10. (Link)



Farris Z.J., T. Sefczek, T.L. Morelli, and P.C. Wright. (2011) Presence and Distribution of Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) within Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Folia Primatologica 82(2):94-106. (Link

Papers Under Review

Farris Z.J., Gerber B., Murphy A., Karpanty S., and M.J. Kelly. (In Review). The space-time continuum: Exploring and interpreting spatio-temporal patterns among native and exotic rainforest carnivores. Submitted to Behavioral Ecology.


Geider K., Geider T., Farris Z.J., and Karpanty S. (In Review) Using Unique Antler Characteristics to Estimate Population Density of the Non-native Sika Deer at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland. Submitted to Southeastern Naturalist.

Anderson C., Wang Z., and Farris Z.J. (In Review). Comparison of Scent Lures on Captive Fosa Cryptoprocta ferox. Submitted to Small Carnivore Conservation.

Farris Z.J., Chan S., Rafaliarison R., and Valenta K. (In Review). Occupancy modeling reveals inter-specific variation in habitat use and negative effects of dogs for lemur populations in Madagascar. Submitted to Animal Conservation.

Murphy A., Karpanty S., Kelly M., Ratelolahy F., and Farris Z.J. (In Review). Using camera traps to investigate spatial co-occurrence between exotic predators and native prey species: a case study from northeastern Madagascar. Submitted to Animal Conservation.

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